Song 228: Kermit the Frog, “The Rainbow Connection” (1979)

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I take a weird amount of pride for things that happened the year I was born, as if I had anything to do with them. London Calling. Life of Brian. Off the Wall. Apocalypse Now. The establishment of Micronesia as a self-governing nation.

Despite the greatness of those landmarks, I think I’m most excited about sharing a birth year with The Muppet Movie. My sister and I loved the Muppets when we were little, and we still do. The fact that the Muppets continue to appeal so strongly to both adults and kids is a testament to Jim Henson’s respect for his craft, and for everyone who got to experience it.

And The Muppet Movie, are you kidding me? It must have been incredibly scary for Henson to match the wit and chaos of The Muppet Show, but he pulled it off in spades. The movie is funny, heartfelt (no “felt” joke intended), and full of great music, and it features one of my favorite Steve Martin moments ever, which is saying something.

Allmusic points out that “The Rainbow Connection” serves the same purpose as “Over the Rainbow” does in The Wizard of Oz, “with nearly equal effectiveness: an opening establishment of the characters’ driving urge for something more in life.” That now seems so obvious that I can’t believe I never noticed it before. In addition to being a beautiful, sad, and hopeful song, it also perfectly sets up the film as a story about hope and sadness. Not bad for a movie featuring a bunch of puppets.

“The Rainbow Connection” was written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams, the latter of whom was basically Mr. Seventies Pop Music (so much so that he was featured on Daft Punk’s seventies pastiche Random Access Memories earlier this year). Because previous heartbreaking Muppet ballads were so consistent with this one, I assumed Ascher and Williams wrote them all, but they didn’t. Henson’s vision was just so consistent that he was able to get incredible songs from many talented people. And Muppets.

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