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Rainbow Connection

by

The Muppets



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

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.
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Comments (19):

It is a wonderful song but I don't think the opening lyrics start out negative there is a double entendre at work. Rainbows have nothing to hide can be interpreted that they are open and truthful in a world full of deception. Also the fact that they are both Illusion and truth shows a wonderful duality.
- Kevin, Grapevine, TX
This song was nominated for Best Song at the 1979 Academy Awards {Lost to "It Goes Like Iy Goes" from the movie "Norma Rae"}!!!
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Jim Henson sang this as Kermit the Frog. Who played the banjo as Kermit the Frog?
- Richard, Seattle, WA
I used to have music time every night with my little girl. We used to play her favorite songs, dance around and laugh like crazy. This song (Kenny Loggin's version) always ended with her throwing her arms around my neck, squeezing tight and kissing my cheek. I'd forgotten how special those moments were until I recently listened to the song again. Now that she's 19 and expressing her independence, I hope she lives with the sense of hope and adventure expressed in this song. And I hope I get to dance at her wedding to this special song.
- Richard, New York, NY
My niece got married in Oct. 2009 in Ft. Collins, Colorado. My beloved brother passed away 7 years ago and loved the Muppets. Her "Father/Daughter" dance was Rainbow Connection and she danced with the younger of her brothers then the older brother. It was a very poignant moment. We all cried. It was the best part of the wedding reception.
- Joy, Springfield, MO
I really like Paul Williams. I saw him with Melissa Manchester in NYC a few years ago and he sounded great.
- Madison, Norway, ME
oh my, this song has actually been playing in my head the last two weeks! i'd suddenly blurt out loud "someday we'll find it... the rainbow connection... the lovers, the dreamers and MEEEEE!" i never fully appreciated this song's wonder til now. me and my friend likes what it conveys. thank you for all the trivia. =)
- joycemorrison, PH
Paul Williams himself sang this song on an episode of "Picket Fences" where he played the younger brother of the Zelda Rubenstein character. She had died and he sang it at her funeral.
- wayne, billerica, MA
Kenny Loggins sings this on his Return to Pooh Corner record. Of course no one sings like Kermit
(why the heck did the Carpenters even sing it?)
- Sara, Silver Spring, MD
When Deborah Harry appeared on the Muppet Show she sang this song with Kermit. There's a clip of it on Youtube.
- K, Toronto, Canada
My Drama Club has Kermit the Frog as our mascot. Before everyone of our performances, everyone included in the performance (cast, stage crew, director, coreographer, etc.) gather in a big circle backstage. We all sing this song. It is very special to me because of this. I love every version of it, but since the one we sing before our shows is by Kermit, that one has to be my favorite. <33
- Jenni, Detroit, MI
This is such a great song. There are so many good versions of it; each one special. Of course, my favorite has to be the version that Judy Collins puts out.
- Lisa, Flower Mound, TX
Some years ago, this song was used in a commercial. I do not remember what the commercial was for, but it showed old films of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. Even though "Rainbow Connection" is not intentionally about immigration, it is an appropriate interpretation. Immigrants came and come to this country to follow their dreams, to follow the rainbow to the country "where the streets are paved with gold".
- Jay, Brooklyn, NY
Jim Henson sang this as Kermit. He also was the voice for Ernie on Sesame Street, who sang Rubber Duckie, which was actually a charting hit in about 1969 (maybe 1970). Henson is in the trivia books for having two hits with two different names not his own.
- Dennis, Anchorage, AK
The song is (atleast to me) about human curiosity.
- River, sdfa, Iceland
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, the kings of punk covers, recorded a version of "Rainbow Connection" for their album Are A Drag.
- Rin, Chattanooga, TN
With the help of John Denver, Paul Williams wrote "When The River Meets The Sea" in 1977 for Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas, a TV special that featured some of the rare Muppet Characters.
- Annabelle, Eugene, OR
It was fascinating to watch Kermit play the banjo, ride a bicycle and tap dance, but the best part of the movie was the reprise of this song at the end. Paul Williams also wrote "Old Fashioned Love Song" and all the music for a gangster movie with an all kid cast, "Bugsy Malone". He was a talented writer, singer, and actor. And who else could have written the song Miss Piggy sang when she first saw Kermit?
- Jude, Thomasville, GA
I saw many businessmen singing the first verse of it in a TV ad by probably IBM once.
- Tiffany, Dover, FL
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