There’s one song that makes me cry every time I hear it – Rainbow Connection. Yes, yes, a song made to pretty much sell movie tickets and further the Muppet franchise makes me sob – pretty much as soon as the lyric “Someday we’ll find it” plays. This actuality used to embarrass me, but recently, I’ve made peace with this personal fact. Rainbow Connection tells us we need to keep in touch with our imagination; the song encourages us to never give up on our dreams. As someone who dreams, I have to respect this message. I also must point out that, considering I was 4 years old when “The Muppet Movie” came out, I certainly fit the “target audience” of the song and movie – so…message received, Jim Henson, message received.
What is that message?
The lyrics seem a bit weird from an “adult” perspective. Maybe that’s the point. Certainly, the lyrics are unscientific. In the first verse, we are blatantly reminded what we’re supposed to believe and know, “Rainbows are visions / they’re only illusions / and rainbows have nothing to hide.”
By this lyric alone, we are told there is nothing special about a rainbow, for it is nothing but a scientifically explained optical effect. However, the song rejects this scientific definition immediately after this lyric. The song goes on to say that rainbows are mystical, special, and point to a different world which seems impossible for those of us in the adult world. Then again – our dreams seem impossible as well. That does not stop us from reaching for them.
This is far from the first song about Rainbows.
Rainbow Connection starts by asking “why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?” This lyric alludes to the fact that rainbows have been in our mythos for a very long time, and continue to be included in our culture. The Biblical story of “The Great Flood” ends with God himself giving humanity the rainbow as a promise and a symbol of his covenant. There’s the fable of the Leprechauns, with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Even a few years ago, we had the double rainbow guy. Sure, the guy was high at the time, but he saw something special! Of course, the rainbow has also become a symbol of LGBTQ pride.
Beyond rainbows in our culture, Rainbow Connection points out that, pretty much every song about dreams – from Fleetwood Mac to John Lennon to the Cranberries to Tom Petty – is a song about what’s on the other side of a rainbow. Dreams are what one finds when one looks past the illusion and the science of rainbows.
And it’s more than just rainbows.
The last verse of Rainbow Connection stresses the point – this is more than just rainbows, this is more than just dreams. This is about imagination, about a world we, as adults, should not believe is there. This same voice we hear as we drift between sleep and awake, might just be the song the sailors hear as they go out to sea. There might not be a logical reason – but there’s a reason.
Sure – Kermit would agree that we need a little pragmatism in our life. He’s certainly demonstrated that again and again backstage on the set of the Muppets. He might even say there’s a balance. Kermit would not say, though, that pragmatism is the only answer. Kermit would say one’s dreams are just as important as anything else in your life. Sometimes we just need to get into a car, and drive to California because that’s what our dreams say.
Back to the crying.
As mentioned before – I cry during this song. Give me any rendition, and I will cry through Rainbow Connection. I cried when they sang it in The Muppets (2011). The other day, my girlfriend and I went toAmerican Idol Live, and Maddie Poppe sang her rendition – Guess what? I cried. I sent my girlfriend a punk cover of the song, saying I finally found a version that won’t make me cry …and then came the waterworks. Heck, I’m fighting the tears off right now as I write this!
These are not, however, tears of sadness, In all honesty, I can’t describe the emotions that pop up when I hear “Rainbow Connection.” I just know that the song fills me with an intense feeling that expresses itself with tears. However, this is a good thing. I’m ok crying with this song. Maybe these are tears of joy, maybe they’re tears of , I don’t know. I do know that my dreams are important to me. Maybe I cry because this song tells me I am not alone, nor crazy in chasing my dreams. Maybe I am actually just normal.
There’s also the possibility that I get a “whiff” of childhood. Again, the movie came out when I was 4. I don’t remember too much about seeing it the first time in theaters, but I do remember seeing Kermit sitting on that log, strutting a banjo and playing Rainbow Connection. I do know that I did not used to cry when hearing the song – it’s really only been the last ten or so years. Perhaps as I get older, the little boy in me longs to come out more and more. Rainbow Connection not only gives that little boy an excuse to come out, but even more so, permission.
Someday we’ll find it – the Rainbow Connection.
Perhaps Rainbow Connection’s greatest gift to humanity is hope. Maybe that’s why I cry now when I hear the song – I know the importance of hope, and long for a world that has more hope. We live in a world that seems to grow colder and colder by the minute. We let politics rip apart friendships, and we let greed ruin the lives of others. The older I get, the older I know that something has to change and soon. Somehow we need to put away our petty differences, and freaking grow up. The more I think about the problems of this “adult” world – the more I wonder if perhaps the answer is a “children’s” song.
We need more lovers and dreamers in this world. We need people to go chase rainbows – to look up at the beautiful colors in the sky and marvel. Jim Henson knew this. Noah knew this. That dude who did too many drugs in the woods knew this. Now you know this too, as do I. Let’s chase our dreams. Let’s chase our rainbows. I leave you with my favorite version of the song – sung by the band Trespassers William.