Why Is There Only One Song About Rainbows?

Published: May 23, 2018
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Hi there, fellow Muppet fans! Quick question: Do any of you have experience with breaking and entering? I’m working on a little caper and I could use a hand.

Here’s the idea: We break into the Walt Disney Corporation’s house late at night when they’re asleep, and take all their copies of the sheet music for the song “Rainbow Connection.”

Now hold on, before you report me to the Rescue Rangers — hear me out! I’m not going to get rid of them, or even keep them forever. I’m just going to hold onto them for a little while. I have a very good reason for doing this, and that reason is: I’m ready for the Muppets to take a break from “Rainbow Connection.” That’s right – a break. I’m not suggesting they should split up permanently. Just that the Muppets should consider seeing other songs. I made this decision after seeing Kermit and American Idol finalist Maddie Poppe perform the song on the season finale of that show.

Lest I be misunderstood, allow me to state for the record that I like “Rainbow Connection” a lot. Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher crafted a beautiful song that stirs the emotions and speaks to people on a near-spiritual level. The melody perfectly complements the contemplative lyrics, and singing along with Kermit the Frog’s rendition of the song from The Muppet Movie is one of the great pleasures in life. It definitely should have won the Oscar it was nominated for. And furthermore, I like that part where he goes “la da-da dee da-da doo.”

The song is so good and so memorable, in fact, that it is and will always be a huge component of the Muppets’ cultural presence. And that’s where we arrive at my problem. The song is so indelibly, inextricably, and interplanetarily linked to the Muppets, and especially Kermit, that people want and expect to hear the characters sing it anytime and every time the characters do anything.

That’s pretty much how it works with artists and their signature songs. If the special guest on next season’s American Idol finale is Lou Bega, you know they’re going to pair him with one of the finalists for a moving duet of “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of…).” If the season finale after that features Ethel Merman, you can be sure they’ll have her sing “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” And if the season finale after that includes an appearance by Red Saunders and His Orchestra with Dolores Hawkins and the Hambone Kids, they’re obviously going to perform “Hambone.” It’s just how the music industry works. For the Muppets, the most obvious song for them to do is “Rainbow Connection.”

I understand why the Muppets keep getting requests to perform it. In an episode of our Tough Pigs podcast, Movin’ Right Along: A Muppet Movie Podcast (which you’re listening to… RIGHT?!?), my co-host Anthony Strand rightly pointed out that most humans are not like us Muppet fans, which means they don’t watch every Muppet guest appearance on a TV show, and even when they do, they don’t remember it for the rest of their lives. Many of the folks watching American Idol probably saw Kermit sing the song with Darren Criss on the E! Oscars pre-show in 2012, but they almost certainly have no memory of it.

It’s a blessing and a curse, then, to be a Muppet fan. To be the kind of person who hears Kermit make a joke about eating flies in an interview, and immediately thinks, Aww, he made that exact same joke on The Tonight Show in 1996! Most people in the television audience aren’t like that. Most people see Kermit perform “Rainbow Connection” on American Idol and think, Oh, I love when Kermit the Frog sings that song!

And it’s not that I dislike when Kermit the Frog sings that song. But as a Muppet fan, my first thought is, Wait, didn’t they JUST do this on that Netflix special? Like, a few weeks ago?

Here are some statistics: According to the information available to us on Muppet Wiki, Jim Henson sang “Rainbow Connection” as Kermit 7 times during the 12 years of his tenure that the song existed. Steve Whitmire sang it 22 times in his 27 years. So far, Matt Vogel has already done it 3 times since his official debut as Kermit nine months ago. If this keeps up, Matt Vogel’s Kermit will sing it 48 times in 12 years, and 108 times in 27 years! And 300 times in 75 years!

Even the most beautiful song would start to lose some of its effectiveness if it were trotted out so often. Think of it like Play-Doh. It’s fun and pleasant and reminds us of childhood, but if you leave it out of the can too long, it starts to dry out and fall apart, and then your mom throws it away while you’re at school. I sure would hate to come from school to find that my mom had thrown away “Rainbow Connection.”

I wouldn’t feel so strongly about it if not for the fact that “Rainbow Connection” has already lost some of its effectiveness on me. When it came up at the climax of 2011’s The Muppets, I didn’t have the overwhelming emotional response the filmmakers were going for. I just felt like they were leaning on the audience’s nostalgic affection for the song to make people cry. (Reminder: I really like the song. I really, really do. No, really.) With few exceptions, the fifteen(!) performances that have come since then haven’t moved me much either.

So, back to my caper. Once I locate those copies of “Rainbow Connection” at Disney’s house — I’m guessing they’re in a drawer marked “THE ONLY SONGS WE CAN EVER DO” — I’ll remove them all. Then I’ll replace them with copies of other songs that the Muppets could do for appearances: “Our World,” “Movin’ Right Along,” “The Magic Store,” “The First Time It Happens,” “Couldn’t We Ride,” “Together Again,” and “Life’s a Happy Song.” I’ll also throw in some copies of songs that weren’t originally performed by the Muppets, but that would be good for them. Pop hits, Broadway showtunes, my own original composition about how good Cheetos are. There are hundreds of great tunes they’ve never performed before, so it’s hard to even know where to start.

Once I have all the copies of “Rainbow Connection” in my hands, I’ll put them in storage. It’ll either be in a climate-controlled, airtight, moisture-free vault, or under my bed. And then, after a few years have gone by with the Muppets doing different songs, I’ll take them out and return them to Disney, on the condition that the Muppets continue to do a variety of different numbers. I’ve thought it through down to the last detail, and I believe it to be a foolproof plan. Who’s with me?

Special thanks to the aforementioned Anthony Strand! Click here to report me to the Rescue Rangers on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com


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