This hopeful, aspirational song is the first musical number in The Muppet Movie (1979), the first and best of the Muppet films. I chose it because I figure we could all use a little hope.
Written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, “Rainbow Connection,” is one of two songs most closely associated with Kermit the Frog. The other, of course, is “Bein’ Green” (written by Joe Raposo).
“Rainbow Connection” was nominated for an Academy Award in the “Best Original Song” category. It lost, though the soundtrack (all of which was written by Williams and Ascher) did win a Grammy Award for “Best Album for Children.” Like The Muppet Movie, The Muppet Show (1976-1981), and nearly all of the projects the Muppets did, the soundtrack operates on many levels. Though the expression “for kids for all ages” may be a bit over-used, it’s also accurate here.
You don’t need to know “the sweet sound that calls the young sailor” is a reference to the Sirens in The Odyssey, nor any of the other “songs about rainbows.” And should you have questions, the song welcomes your inquiries. Its first two lines each ask a question, and by song’s end it has asked a total of eight questions.
The questions are deeply personal ones. There’s no one right answer to “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” nor to “what do we think we might see?” nor “Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?” You will have your answers, and I, mine.
I watched the film again on Sunday night, and I had forgotten how delightfully meta it is. Its metafictional playfulness sustain that questioning spirit in a comedic mode, but this song – like “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday,” sung by Gonzo late in the film – is one of sincerity and yearning. When I began to rehearse it, I at first found myself quite choked with emotion. So powerful is the song’s mixture of longing and optimism that I needed to pause amidst tears before proceeding. It truly believes we’ll find that “rainbow connection” out there, somewhere … even though (or perhaps especially because) it never specifies what a “rainbow connection” is.
When Kermit sings, “Someday we’ll find it,” I believe him.
Here’s Kermit, singing the song in the title sequence of The Muppet Movie.
And here’s Kermit and Debbie Harry, performing the song as a duet on a 1981 episode of The Muppet Show.
Here’s Willie Nelson’s version (2001) – his performance begins at about 1 minute, 50 seconds into the video.
Sara McLachlan (2002).
Weezer and Hayley Williams (2011).
Bon Bon Vivant recorded this in March (2020) because, as they say: “In this time of limitations and disconnections we wanted to play a song about hope and connectivity. Recorded in a tunnel at a park, observing social distancing…except from eachother.”
There are many other versions of the song. I’ll leave you the pleasure of discovering them for yourself.
To learn more about Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets and the voice of Kermit, Rowlf, Ernie, Dr. Teeth…), I highly recommend Brian Jay Jones‘ Jim Henson: The Biography (2013).
Why not sing a #PlagueSong? If you need ideas, I continue to compile this expanding playlist. And should you have a song in mind that I don’t know, that would be welcome!
- Plague Songs
- Sing. Sing a Song. #PlagueSongs, no. 1 (17 Mar. 2020)
- Do Not Touch Your Face. #PlagueSongs, no. 2 (24 Mar. 2020)
- The Bright Side. #PlagueSongs, no. 3 (31 Mar. 2020)
- It’s later than you think. #PlagueSongs, no. 4 (7 Apr. 2020)
- There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. #PlagueSongs, no. 5 (14 Apr. 2020)
- Be an optimist instead. #PlagueSongs, no. 6 (21 Apr. 2020)
- Kick at the darkness. #PlagueSongs, no. 7 (28 Apr. 2020)
- So far away, but still so near. #PlagueSongs, no. 8 (5 May 2020)
- If you just call me. #PlagueSongs, no. 9 (12 May 2020)
- In the end, they’ll be the only ones there. #PlagueSongs, no. 10 (19 May 2020)
- No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11 (25 May 2020)
- Love. #PlagueSongs, no. 12 (1 June 2020)
- This is the time. #PlagueSongs, no. 13 (9 June 2020)
- My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14 (16 June 2020)
- If you’re lost, I’m right behind. #PlagueSongs, no. 15 (23 June 2020)
- Live to see another day. #PlagueSongs, no. 16 (30 June 2020)
- Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline. #PlagueSongs, no. 17 (7 July 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine?
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? (22 Mar. 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 2 (5 Apr. 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 3 (19 Apr. 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 4 (16 May 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine? Part 5 (29 June 2020)