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The Rainbow Connection

     A couple of weeks ago we saw the new Muppet Movie in order to keep up our standing in the cultural avant garde.  The movie’s most emotionally poignant moment, certainly, was Kermit gently plucking his banjo and singing The Rainbow Connection. It’s a song I’ve always liked and so I thought I’d reprise it here for old time’s sake.

     It was written by Paul Williams and Ken Ascher. Williams wrote many notable pop songs including Rainy Days and Mondays and We’ve Only Just Begun. The less famous Ascher was once the pianist for Woody Herman and later a composer and busy arranger.  I don’t know how the two collaborated, though I’m guessing Ascher’s contributions may have been more on the music side, Williams on the lyrics.  The song was nominated for an Academy Award but lost out to something from Norma Rae which I’d bet was inferior.

     The Rainbow Connection is a  touching but simple little waltz until you get to the line “so we’ve been told and some choose to believe it” where, oddly, the same two notes toggle back and forth over four measures.  The two notes played alternately over the three beats of each measure gives each note its turn to be stressed – MI ti mi, TI mi ti, Mi ti mi etc – a clever and unusual choice that saves the repetition from monotony, especially played over a major 7th chord, the sort of mellow jazz chord that is not commonly used in children’s fare.

     Going back to this song I realized too how intelligent and sophisticated the lyrics are.  Again, this is work that is better than the typical kids’ stuff.  This profundity no doubt owes to the Muppets’ long-standing generational bipartisanship, where there always seems to be an adult edge.

     When I play The Rainbow Connection I always think of a certain Elizabeth, my god daughter, who as a young girl would sit on the piano bench next to me. (For an idea of how time flies between Muppet movies, Elizabeth is now nearly out of college!)  Anyway, I’d take her finger in hand and plunk out the melody.  So that’s just how this version starts out, with a simple, tentative single-note melody on the piano.  Modern technology has allowed me to add Kermit’s banjo playing this time.  There is some lusher piano playing later which I’m sure must be Rowlf.  Click on the title in red to hear it and check out the lyrics below. 

The Rainbow Connection 

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.

Who said that ev’ry 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 star gazing,

And what do  we think we might see?

Someday we’ll find it,

The rainbow connection,

The lovers, the dreamers and me

.

Interlude,

All of us under its spell:

We think that it’s probably magic.

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 sailors?

The voice might be one and the same.

I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it,

It’s something that I’m s’posed to be.

Someday we’ll find it,

The rainbow connection,

The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

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