Critical reception and legacy
Kenneth Ascher and Paul Williams received Oscar nominations at the 52nd Academy Awards for the score of The Muppet Movie and for "Rainbow Connection," which Allmusic described as an "unlikely radio hit ... which Kermit the Frog sings with all the dreamy wistfulness of a short, green Judy Garland" and went on to add that "Rainbow Connection" serves the same purpose in The Muppet Movie that "Over the Rainbow" serves in The Wizard of Oz, with nearly equal effectiveness: an opening establishment of the characters' driving urge for something more in life." The song lost the Oscar to "It Goes Like It Goes" from Norma Rae, a win that some critics decried.
The song's name has been used by a number of charitable organizations wishing to evoke its message, including a children's charity similar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a summer camp for seriously ill children, and a horseriding camp for people with disabilities. The name's influence can also be seen throughout culture-from business names to artificial Christmas tree products.
Kermit the Frog reprised the song on The Muppet Show in 1980 as a duet with Debbie Harry when she was a guest star. The song is also reprised by a large group of The Muppets as the closing number in the 1986 special The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years. Kermit the Frog also reprises the song in The Muppets, this time as a duet with Miss Piggy that leads into the entire Muppet group singing together. A shorter version of the song performed by The Moopets tribute band is also used in the film. The iTunes release of The Muppets soundtrack includes a new version of the song as an exclusive bonus track, recorded by Steve Whitmire, the current performer of Kermit the Frog.
Kermit the Frog's original version of "Rainbow Connection" reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1979; the song remained in the Top 40 for seven weeks total. Artists who have covered "Rainbow Connection" include Judy Collins, The Carpenters, Dana Valery, Sarah McLachlan, DAT Politics, Aaron Lewis, Kenny Loggins, The Dixie Chicks, Priscilla Hernandez, Justin Timberlake, Kiki and Herb, Jason Mraz (both as a solo and in a duet with Paul Williams), The Pussycat Dolls, Tay Zonday, Jim Brickman, Caroline's Spine, Estradasphere, Leftöver Crack (with dramatically different lyrics), Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The Dresden Dolls, Willie Nelson, Peter Cincotti, Jane Monheit, pop-punk band Fifteen, Lea Salonga, Andy Bernard (played by Ed Helms) in The Office, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, The Loves, Trespassers William and Tara Jane O'Neil. It was sung by Blondie's Debbie Harry in a duet with Kermit on The Muppet Show in 1981 (Season 5) and implied that Kermit is well known for the song in the Muppet universe. Free Wild performs a rendition of the song on their 2010 Spin Dry tour. Also sung by Vonda Shepard in Ally McBeal (Season 2, episode "Angels and Blimps")
In 2007, a new recording of the song appeared on the Klone Records and EQ Music dance album, "Forever Carpenters", a tribute to The Carpenters by singer Jenny Sinclair. The album was essentially a dance remake of Carpenters hits; however, the "Rainbow Connection" is featured as stripped back (piano, strings and vocals only) ballad.
"Rainbow Connection" is the title song on Jane Monheit's 2009 album The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me (the album title being a line from "Rainbow Connection"). Prior to this album, Jane Monheit's closing song in her concerts had usually been "Over the Rainbow". In her 2009 tour, she usually closed with "Rainbow Connection" followed by a direct segue into "Over the Rainbow".
Weezer and Hayley Williams, joined by harpist Allison Allport, recorded the song for the tribute album, Muppets: The Green Album, released in 2011. The cover peaked at No. 23 on Billboard's Rock Digital Songs chart.
In 2012, West End performer Meredith Braun recorded "Rainbow Connection" in both English and French ("L'Arc En Ciel") for her debut solo album "Someone Else's Story".
- Cater, Darryl. "Muppet Movie Original Soundtrack Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 9 May 2007.
- Tom Shales. "Kramer vs. Everybody," The Washington Post (DC), April 15, 1980, page B1: "The already forgotten ballad 'It Goes Like It Goes,' from 'Norma Rae,' won the Oscar as best song over competitions that included 'The Rainbow Connection' ..."
- Rich Copley. "'The 75th annual Academy Awards' – trophy date on your night with unpredictable Oscar. Will he be a dream—or a dud?", Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), March 21, 2003, Weekender section, page 18: "Sometimes, old baldy leaves us scratching our skulls: ... the 1979 Oscar for best original song goes to It Goes Like It Goes from Norma Rae instead of Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie ..."
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