my reflections on Rainbow Connection
Imagine if you will a little green frog on a log. This log is settled deep within a colorful, beautiful swamp, and the sky above is serene, bright and blue, fluffy white clouds drifting through the sky on there way to nowhere. I realize that swamps are rarely described as colorful and beautiful, but this is Hollywood folks, and anything goes. The little green frog is sitting upright on this log, and he is playing the banjo. Yes, a banjo. You don't see too many frogs playing banjos these days. Oh, and he sings too. Hey, as I said, this is Hollywood folks. The camera drifts across the swamp lazily, making its way in for a close up of the frog in question. You hear two simple chords plucked accurately and smoothly come out of the distance - and you are hooked. Hollywood history is made, and the song that you will hear over the next three and a half minutes of your life, give or take a few seconds, will be in your heart forever.
Of course, the song in question is "Rainbow Connection," and our little green friend is the one and only Kermit The Frog from Muppets's fame. The Muppets were the brainchild of the late and brilliant Jim Henson. There has been nothing like The Muppets before or since, and they are an extraordinary part of American entertainment history. The magic of the Muppets is so great that they grow to feel like real people almost from the first time you see them. I have adored them since I was a small boy, and I still do.
So with a little history out of the way, let us go back to the frog. A frog on a log with a banjo and a peculiar singing voice is not much more than that unless he has a song. Enter the iconic songwriter Paul Williams and musical composer Kenny Ascher.
Paul Williams was a massive star throughout the 1970s. His songwriting genius paved the way for him to be almost everywhere throughout that decade and to do just about whatever he wanted to do. He achieved fame quickly at the start of the decade by penning some of the most beautiful songs ever written. "We've Only Just Begun," I Won't Last A Day Without You," "Rainy Days and Mondays," as sung by The Carpenters, and two early 70's hits by Three Dog Night, "An Old Fashioned Love Song," and "Family of Man," secured his place in history as a brilliant and very gifted songwriter. He wrote many other successful and popular songs that still stand the test of time. "Evergreen," "With One More Look At You," "You and Me Against The World, "Where Do I Go From Here, "Ordinary Fool," and, of course, "Rainbow Connection."
As we all know, there is more than one color in a rainbow, and sometimes it takes two. To add the necessary color to his lyrics, Paul Williams enlisted musical composer and arranger Mr. Kenny Ascher. Mr. Ascher's credits and accomplishments are a lot like Pauls's. There are just way too many to mention here. But to name a few, Kenny has worked with John Lennon, Meat Loaf, Barbara Streisand, Todd Rundgren, and of course, Kermit The Frog and the Muppets. The beautiful melody and simplistic chord changes with which Kenny graced Paul's sentimental lyrics gave birth to a song that will forever be in the hearts of those who take the time to listen.
"Rainbow Connection" was extremely successful and has gone on to become an American Standard. The great Johnny Mathis recorded the song on his album, "Isn't It Romantic - The Standards Album," which came out in 2005. Johnny is only one of the dozens of other successful artists who have recorded their version since it was initially released in 1979. Willie Nelson, The Carpenters, Kenny Loggins, Judy Collins, Sarah McLachlan, Jim Brickman, and Jason Mraz are a small number of legendary musicians who have given us their own version of "Rainbow Connection." On April 25, 2020, Kermit released a new performance of the song (recorded by Matt Vogel) on social media to lift spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Allmusic," an online music database, described "Rainbow Connection" "as an "unlikely radio hit ... which Kermit the Frog sings with all the dreamy wistfulness of a short, green Judy Garland." They went on to add that "'Rainbow Connection' serves the same purpose in "The Muppet Movie" that "Over The Rainbow" served in "The Wizard of Oz," with nearly equal effectiveness: an opening establishment of the characters' driving urge for something more in life." Others have similarly referred to "Rainbow Connection" as the film's "I Want" song."
Rainbow Connection has been very close to my heart since I first heard it many years ago back in May of 1979. Oddly enough, I have only performed it a handful of times throughout my career. I have a strange habit of keeping the songs that touch me the most kind of at bay. Being an entertainer all my life, I have discovered first hand that if you play some songs countless times, they can fade in importance in your heart and become just another song you sing at work. Rainbow Connection is a song that I would never let that happen too, so I have rarely performed it.
In the late spring of 2020, I started doing Facebook Live streaming performances to earn some money and keep in touch with my audience. I had several ongoing requests for Rainbow Connection and quickly discovered that I would not be able to skirt the issue. So I learned it and performed it one time. It was challenging to get through emotionally, but I was glad that I did. As Paul Williams's 80th birthday started approaching, I decided to record my version in tribute to a man who gave the world some of it's most beautiful songs. I hope that you enjoy my heartfelt rendition of this timeless classic.
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"Ramblings From Jeff" - is a dedicated personal blog page within JeffPike.com written and posted by Jeff Pike.