The best song ever performed by a frog in a major motion picture.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the Rainbow Connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

The song was performed in "The Muppet Movie" back in 1979 by Kermit the Frog, voiced, of course, by the man who created the Muppets, Jim Henson. The film opens with Kermit sitting in a swamp singing this song about his dreams of finding fame in Hollywood. The song was written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. It reached as high as #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in November of 1979 and stayed in the Top 40 for seven weeks. The song also received a nomination for Best Song at that year's Academy Awards.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it,
Look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the Rainbow Connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

This song speaks very strongly to, obviously, the dreamer in all of us, especially the dreamers who are dreaming the impossible dream -- that a frog in a swamp could become a famous actor, that a poor kid from the sticks could make it to Oxford, that the ugly duckling could grow up to be a swan. It's a beautiful, wistful song, and with the very first line, its lyrics consciously evoke "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz." Kermit's nasal twang just adds to the effect -- Henson's Kermit was always the most sensible of the Muppets (he ran the theater on "The Muppet Show" and was the roving reporter on "Sesame Street" -- both duties requiring a certain level of maturity and intelligence). But he's also been the voice of both discontent and hope. After all, he's the guy who sings "It's Not Easy Being Green" -- Kermit is the Muppets' hard worker and sober commentator, but he wants good things so very, very badly.

All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic...

But I do believe there's a darker edge to this song. Part of it is the feeling of sorrow that seems to permeate the song. We may wish that rainbows had magical qualities, but they are still "only illusions," with the hinted implication that our dreams, lofty and magical though they may be, are just as illusory. Other lines seem to reinforce the idea that dreams are empty ambitions easily crushed by the weight of reality.

And then there's that ominous line: "Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailor?" While there is a romantic image of ambitious sailors who feel a strong calling and love of the sea, I can't shake another image -- that of the sirens calling ships to their dooms in shipwrecks.

However, all of this may be just my natural pessimism painting my perceptions, as others consider this to be an entirely hopeful song. At any rate, it's far from the saddest song from that movie -- "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" is guaranteed to get all but the hardest-hearted listeners blubbering, even if the song is sung by Gonzo the Great...

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailor?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the Rainbow Connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

The song has been covered by a huge number of artists, including Willie Nelson, Jason Mraz, Judy Collins, Johnny Mathis, the Carpenters, Sarah McLachlan, Blondie, Kenny Loggins, Daniel Ahren, the Dixie Chicks, Less than Jake, Fifteen, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and many more. I've sung it in public just once, for a high school choir assignment to sing a song solo in front of an audience. It was a tough song to sing, mainly because I wasn't used to performing in front of crowds, and nervousness forced my voice up an octave. I'd like to think I'd do a better job nowadays, but I don't think I'd try it now -- the song's melody is so sad, it's not difficult to get my voice to crack and break down. So I try to limit my performances to my own house, quietly, when I'm feeling melancholy anyway...

Some research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) and the All Music Guide (www.allmusic.com)

shaogo says: "I'm so sorry you find the song somewhat melancholy. It's not, in my opinion. It's hopeful. (And certainly nowhere near as melancholy as Harold Arlen's 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.') The song has, indeed, a lot in common with 'It's Not Easy Bein' Green.' We in the jazz business find 'Rainbow Connection' a little cheesy; and most singers who tackle it are relegated to the 'Cabaret' genre. Personally, I like the 'Rainbow' song, but sadly, among music folks, it's been relegated to a place alongside 'Tomorrow' from 'Annie.' It's a tough song to sing. The octave jumps in the bridge and the need for perfect pitch because of the flats and sharps are what make it so."

E2's own Dizzy and Katyana had this song played at their wedding reception as their dollar dance.
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
-Kermit the Frog
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
-John Keats, Lamia

I find the premise of "The Rainbow Connection" to be completely disagreeable. Those who grew up loving this song, and spent their adult years swaying with the dulcet tones of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole mixing it with Somewhere over the Rainbow and finding it to generally fill them with happiness and hope, will probably think I am cold-hearted. However, I think it reveres something that would better be eradicated from the human psyche.

In particular, it says "I, the lovers, and the dreamers are all better than the rest of you because we think there is something unexplainable left in the universe!" Obviously, there are things that have not yet been explained. But this song celebrates the people that revere those things, unwilling to accept the idea that those things have perfectly natural explanations, even if we just don't know them yet.

Keats recognized that rainbows are a well-understood phenomenon (ever since Newton established the mathematics of optics and the diffractive properties of water were assessed), but he mostly likely did not understand that phenomenon himself. He preferred instead to be in awe of the beauty of the rainbow and the effect that such beauty had on his affect.

A scientist, on the other hand, would be much more interested in the conditions in which mankind evolved that lead him to create the concept of "beauty" and to put rainbows in the class of "beautiful things." Would not a scarab, asks the scientist, find a pile of dry dung as beautiful as we find the rainbow? Yet, Keats and Kermit would set themselves on a higher echelon than that scientist just because he accepts that the beauty of rainbows is more an artifact of human visual processing systems and evolutionary history than something mystical that happens when sunlight passes through water. They think that the scientist wouldn't know beauty if it beat him over the head with a baseball bat because beauty is in mystery, and mystery is in the unknown, and the scientist's life's work is to obliterate the unknown.

All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic...

Kermit would argue that he is in a class above because his thoughts are purely creative: he creates dreams and ideas while preserving the mysteries that the universe has presented mankind with. But this is far from true. Kermit also obliterates something: curiosity. By labeling anything as magic, one signals that this is something that can't be explained. And curiosity is the sure knowledge that everything has an explanation, and the relentless seeking of that explanation. Therefore, Kermit is declaring war on curiosity. Isn't it ironic, then, that Kermit claims to be curious about what he and the others who believe in magic and mystery have in common?

Now, don't get me wrong here. Just because I disagree with Kermit (and presumably Williams and Ascher, the songsmiths responsible for this song) doesn't mean I dislike the song itself. It's an enjoyable song, fun to sing along with, and very heartfully rendered by Mr. Henson. I don't have to agree with a song to like it. Another song I greatly enjoy is System of A Down's "Science," with which I vehemently disagree for exactly the same reasons.

Serj Tankian claims:

Science fails to recognize the single most
potent element of human existence.
Letting the reins go to the unfolding
is faith, faith, faith, faith.

But "letting go" is just another way of saying "feigning disinterest." However, people are naturally interested in how things work, especially in so much as having a good model of nature lets us make better decisions and predict the future more accurately. My only answer to Mssrs. Tankian, Malakian, Dolmayan, and Odadjian is: The most potent element of human existence is not faith; it's curiosity. Don't try to deny a part of your humanity: let the reins go to your own human urges, as long as doing so is not, in some other way, unethical.

"WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!" I can hear some of you saying. "You're intentionally ignoring all the symbolism in the song! It's not about rainbows or stars at all! It's about setting out after an impossible dream!" Okay, I must admit that that is a reasonable-sounding interpretation. However, I don't see the similarity between the stated message that it is a virtue to believe that good stuff happens when you wish really hard, and the supposed underlying message that anyone can achieve great things. Believing that your wish will be heard and answered when wished on the morning star has done absolutely nothing so far. Hard work has done everything, so where is the evidence in saying that believing really hard is the right kind of mental work to be doing? I would argue that being curious is the appropriate mental work to do. Knowing what you want to accomplish won't get you anywhere unless you know how to get from point A to point B. The only way to turn a desire into a road map is research, and it is the quantity and quality of that research that results in the most accurate road map. The strength of desire for the goal only correlates with the quality of the plan to the extent that it creates the motivation to do the research. And motivation to do research is just another name for curiosity.

P.C. Hodgell once said "That which can be destroyed by the truth should be." The truth might be that rainbows are only illusions in the eye of their beholder, or that people are motivated by their incentives and personal priorities, not magical voices, but why must the sheer mundanity of these explanations make them any less interesting? Isn't it far better to forgo these mysteries in exchange for an accurate model of the universe? Isn't it far better for the sweet sound that calls the young sailor to be one that will lead him to the greatest expectation of happiness, an expectation grounded in fact, and not to a surprise death smashed against the rocks that a better understanding of the refraction of light (cf. RADAR) could have told him were waiting there?

I don't think that Kermit should have given up his dreams. I just think he might have been able to do a little bit better than the Standard Rich and Famous Contract if he'd spent a little time gathering facts about where to gain leverage and Hollywood politics. But he'd probably rather believe those things are just magical mysteries.

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