Music

Willie Nelson Recorded 'The Rainbow Connection' At His Daughter Amy's Behest

Kacey Musgraves, left, and Willie Nelson perform "The Rainbow Connection" at the 53rd annual CMA Awards at Bridgestone Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz and "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Disney's Pinocchio, Kermit the Frog's signature song in 1979's The Muppet Movie, "The Rainbow Connection," has become an indelible part of popular culture.

Songwriter and Smokey and the Bandit co-star Paul Williams wrote the Oscar-nominated song with jazz and rock arranger Kenneth Ascher. Like most things associated with The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and other Jim Henson creations, it instantly appealed to the innocent dreams of both grown-ups and their kids.

Count Willie Nelson and his daughter Amy among the kinfolks connected by Williams and Ascher's musical magic.

Per her chat with Texas Monthly's One By Willie podcast, Amy spent years trying to get her dad to record a frog's shining moment as a banjo picker.

"It was such a beautiful song, and it never stopped being beautiful as I got older," Amy told Texas Monthly. "I kind of got out of The Smurfs when I got into junior high, but I never outgrew the Muppets. There was a timelessness, and about Paul Williams' song in particular, it just takes you to another place."

Amy's persistence finally paid off with Willie's kid-friendly country album, 2001's The Rainbow Connection.

"The Rainbow Connection" became cover material quickly, starting with its inclusion on Judy Collins' 1980 album Running For My Life. It's since been interpreted by everyone from punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and the team of Hayley Williams and Weezer to popular artists The Chicks, Gwen Stefani, Kenny Loggins, Jason Mraz and Sarah McLachlan.

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Kermit's original recording lost out on the Academy Awards' Song of the Year to something that didn't go on to become the title track of a Willie album: "It Goes Like It Goes" from the film Norma Rae.

Two duos performed the song on grand stages in 2019: Jim James and Kermit himself at the Newport Folk Festival and Kacey Musgraves and Willie at the CMA Awards.

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"The Rainbow Connection" Lyrics

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 every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

All of us under its spell,
we know 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 supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la, La, la la la, La Laa, la la, La, La la laaaaaaa

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Willie Nelson Recorded 'The Rainbow Connection' At His Daughter Amy's Behest