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This was written by songwriters Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher for The Muppet Movie
, which came out in 1979. In the film, it is sung by Kermit The Frog as the Muppets set out to find adventure. In our interview with Williams
, he said: "Rainbow Connection was the first number in The Muppet Movie
. It's the one that establishes the lead character. We find Kermit sitting in the middle of the swamp. Kenny Ascher and I sat down to write these songs, and we thought... Kermit, he's like 'every frog.' He's the Jimmy Stewart of frogs. So how do we show that he's a thinking frog, and that he has an introspective soul, and all that good stuff? We looked at his environment, and his environment is water and air - and light. And it just seemed like it would be a place where he would see a rainbow. But we also wanted to show that he would be on this spiritual path, examining life, and the meaning of life.
It tells you that he's been exposed to culture: 'Why are there so many songs about rainbows?' Which means, obviously, he's heard a lot of songs. This is a frog that's been exposed to culture, whether it's movies, or records, or whatever. And I also like the fact that it starts out with the negative: 'Rainbows are only illusions, rainbows have nothing to hide.' So the song actually starts out as if he's going to pooh-pooh the whole idea, and then it turns: 'So we've been told, and some choose to believe it. I know they're wrong, wait and see.' And again, he doesn't have the answer: 'Someday we'll find it.'"
Paul Williams has acted in many TV shows and movies, and had a regular role on the soap opera The Bold And The Beautiful
. He wrote several songs that were recorded by the Carpenters, as well as "Evergreen
," which won an Oscar when it was used in the 1976 movie A Star Is Born
. Says Williams: "The best part of being a songwriter - beyond being able to make a living at it - is what I call the 'heart payment' of a song. That's when somebody comes up after a concert and says, 'My mom was a single mom, and 'You And Me Against The World' was a really important song to us.' Or 'We got married to 'We've Only Just Begun'' or 'Evergreen.' Or 'I Won't Last A Day Without You' got me through some hard times.' That's heart payment for a songwriter."
Williams was a guest star on the first season of The Muppet Show, and Jim Henson asked him to write music for Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas, which they filmed in Canada where they had a Muppet workshop. Williams told us: "We tried a bunch of things that wound up in The Muppet Movie. You know, Kermit riding a bicycle. When they made The Muppet Movie in 1979, the Muppets were at the absolute peak of popularity. It was a really big deal. [Jim] asked me again if I would write the songs for it. I said yes, but I wanted to bring in Kenny Ascher, who I'd been working with, because his melodies are so classically beautiful. I brought Kenny in and we wrote the songs, and just had a ball. Jim Henson gave you more [creative] freedom than anybody I've ever worked with in my life. I said, 'You want to hear the songs as we're writing them?' He said, 'No. I'll hear them in the studio. I know I'm gonna love them.' You just don't get that kind of freedom on a project these days."
Sarah McLachlan sang a poignant version on the album For The Kids, proceeds of which are go to Canadian and American music education programs. Johnny Mathis, Phil Ramone and The Dixie Chicks recorded it, as did Williams in a duet with Willie Nelson. Says Williams, "Willie and I doing the duet of 'Rainbow Connection' is one of my favorite recordings ever in life. The two of us, like two old guys, just talking. It's very conversational. And to hear those lines come out of Willie... One of my favorite voices ever was the guy that did the voice of Jiminy Cricket, Ukelele Ike. 'A dream is a wish your heart makes.' Just this wonderful, sweet, sweet, sweet voice. It felt like mail from home. And Willie's voice is like that to me. There's such a warmth there, an authenticity, an intimacy. So to hear Willie Nelson singing those words was a real high for me."
Regarding the lyrics, "The sweet sound that calls the young sailors," Paul Williams explained in our interview: "I think that I've always had a fascination with the sea. It's a metaphor for the call to adventure, you know? That voice is something inside us that says you can do anything. There's a great mysterious world out there, let's go see it."
Jim Henson, who created The Muppets, was the voice of Kermit The Frog. He died of a sudden virus in 1990 at age 53.
The Carpenters recorded this in 1980, but decided not to release it. In 2001, Richard Carpenter included it on his album As Time Goes By. In the liner notes, he explained:
"As with 'Leave Yesterday Behind,' Karen's vocal on this track is a 'work lead'; the singers and orchestra were added in 1999. Fans, knowing of the track's existence, have been writing me for years, asking for it's release. I try to be accommodating."
This was used as the main theme for a Japanese TV show called Where Is Love?.
The Brothers Cazimero recorded a Hawaiian language version with the Honolulu Boys Choir in the 1980s. The final verse is in English as a final affirmation of the song's message. (thanks, Patrick - Wahiawa, HI, for above 2)
Justin Timberlake performed this on an episode of Saturday Night Live. In the skit, he sings it with a Kermit look-a-like puppet, who gets angry when Justin steps on him. Timberlake ends up attacking the puppeteer, who calls him a dirty name through the Kermit puppet. (thanks, Lauren - Coppell, TX)
Paul Williams performed this on a 2008 episode of the kids' TV show Yo Gabba Gabba!, where he ventured inside a rainbow, and found it quite trippy.
The "How Country Feels" singer talks Skynyrd and songwriting.
When Judd Apatow needed under-appreciated rockers for his Knocked Up
sequel, he immediately thought of Parker, who just happened to be getting his band The Rumour back together.