In Which I Ponder The Lyrics To “The Rainbow Connection”

I am, of course a Muppets fan.

Who isn’t? Al Qaeda. The Manson Family. Rick Santorum.

But everybody else — Muppets fan.

Having a Tiny Human in the house (now ten months old!), I’m slowly steeping him in the warm waters of approved pop culture goodness, which means it is time for a slow but ever-increasing dose of things like The Muppets. Yes to Kermit! No to Barney the Dinosaur. Stuff like that.

In the process, I’ve got a few mix CDs I play in the car with kid-friendly tunes (They Might Be Giants is particularly delightful in this regard). One such track: “The Rainbow Connection.” As sung by The Muppets.

And, as sung by me. Singing along in the car.

Thing is, as you start to sing songs to your kids, you start listening to the lyrics. I mean — Rockabye Baby? In the tree-tops? Wind blows, cradle rocks, baby falls out of tree? Why was the baby in the tree in the first place? Who puts a cradle up there? Ben Franklin? Nikola Tesla? And why are we singing songs about babies falling out of trees as a means to get babies to sleep? Is there a subtle threat in there? “You don’t fall asleep, I’m going to stick your bediapered ass in a tree and you better hope the wind doesn’t knock your chubby cheeks to the forest floor, kid. Now shut up and slumber.”

Anyway. So. Rainbow Connection.

I sing along and now I’m forced to ask:

What the hell is going on in this song?

Let us examine.

Why are there so many

Songs about rainbows

And what’s on the other side?

Right up front I’m forced to ask: are there that many songs about rainbows? I can think of… mmm, one other one. “Over the Rainbow.” Do we possess a secret canon of rainbow songs? More specifically, how many songs about rainbows do we have where the song ponders what’s on the other side of said rainbow? (We know what’s on the other side, by the way: goddamn leprechauns. A whole bloody cabal of ‘em. Wizard of Oz had Munchkins, a thinly-veiled metaphor for an unruly host of leprechauns hoarding gold in the form of a “yellow brick road.” Filthy little fair folk! Greedy little Rumpleforeskins.)

Rainbows are visions

Only illusions

And rainbows have nothing to hide

Except leprechauns. Rainbows are hiding the shit out of leprechauns.

So we’ve been told and some choose

To believe it

But I know they’re wrong wait and see

Wait. What? What’s happening? Rainbows aren’t just illusions? This is starting to sound like a crazy person’s conspiracy theory about rainbows. “Hey, man. HEY. BUDDY. Psst. All that shit you thought you know about rainbows? LIES TOLD BY BRAINWASHED SCIENTISTS. You think rainbows aren’t real but I’m here to tell you they’re real as you and me, man. It’s a ploy by Homeland Security. I’m stocking up on ammo and so should you. Because one day the rainbows are coming to come for us all. And then what happens, man? THEN WHAT HAPPENS.”

Ahem.

Okay, onto the chorus.

Someday we’ll find it

The Rainbow Connection

The lovers, the dreamers and me

Someday we’ll find “it.” Find what? What the fuck is a rainbow connection? What does it connect? Is it a bridge? A Delta flight? A drug connection? “Yo, you wanna get high, you gotta see my man Jimmy the Skeev down under the overpass. He’ll hook you up with the real rainbow connection, if you know what I mean. Right? Right? I mean drugs. He’s going to give you drugs for money. In case that wasn’t entirely clear.”

Also: saying, “The lovers, the dreamers, and me,” indicates that these are three distinct entities. Lovers cannot be dreamers and vice versa, and further, the singer identifies as neither of those things.

Now, given that the singer is generally a frog made of felt, I’m comfortable not imagining him as a lover. Because then he’s going to be (alert, incoming pun) porking Miss Piggy, and I don’t need to see that outside of an early Peter Jackson film. But Kermit isn’t a dreamer? Really? How sad for the gangly frog.

Who said that every wish

Would be heard and answered

When wished on the morning star

Okay, I don’t know that anybody ever said that. Is that a thing? “Sure. You want something, you gotta wish on the morning star. Someone will hear it. And that someone will answer it. No, I don’t know who the fuck it is. Could be a giant Space Manatee for all I know. Just shut up and get to wishing already.”

Though, now that I re-read it — “morning star?” Morningstar? Isn’t that a title of…

LUCIFER? Morningstar and Lightbringer? Is this song advocating Satanism? Or is it trying to teach us to turn away from the Devil’s wiles? “Oh, sure, Old Scratch will tell you that he’ll listen to and answer your every wish, but then he’ll stick a trident up your butt and remove your soul through your anus. That’s a true story. That’s in the Bible. It’s in… uhh, Mordecai 7:11. I dunno, shut up and just don’t worship the Devil.”

Somebody thought of that

And someone believed it

And look what it’s done so far

Who? Who thought of that? Who believed it? And what has it done?

I’m asking. Seriously, song. I’m asking. Because now it sounds like you’re just making shit up. Are we supposed to wish for things? Or not wish for things? Is this a war between the Morning Star and the Rainbow? Are we trying to get those two to connect? Come together, like the Beatles sang?

What’s so amazing

That keeps us stargazing

What do we think we might see

I’m getting a real mixed message here. Stargazing is cool? Stargazing is stupid? Wishing is for assholes? What’s so amazing that keeps us star-gazing…? Can’t it just be like, y’know, stars? Stars are cool.

Someday we’ll find it

That Rainbow Connection

The lovers the dreamers and me

Back to the chorus again. Still don’t know what we’re hoping to find. But, okay. I’m listening.

Have you been half-asleep?

And have you heard voices?

I’ve heard them calling my name

This sounds like a nightmare I had.

That’s some hypnagogic hallucination type of shit right there. “I was half asleep. Then… I heard voices. I heard them… calling my name.” That’s fucking creepy is what it is. Is it the rainbow? Is the rainbow calling you? Why? What does it want? Or maybe it’s the Devil? What’s happening? Am I high right now?

Are these the sweet sounds

That called the young sailors?

I think they’re one and the same

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Are we talking about the sirens? The freaky shipwrecking seductresses calling to sailors? This is getting terrifying. You’re saying that the voice I’m hearing while half-asleep, the voice that’s calling my name, is actually the same song that calls to sailors? To crash them against rocks? There’s a whole Christian analog here to when sirens were used to represent not a literal song toward deadly rocks but as a metaphorical representation toward worldly sins. And given earlier lyrics talking about dreaming and wishing and what might be a reference to the Devil…

What the hell is going on in this song?

I’ve heard it too many

Times to ignore it

There’s something that I’m supposed to be

If you’re hearing this with some frequency — these name-calling siren song voices — I’m maybe thinking you need to get jacked up on a Thorazine drip. Like, ASAFP.

And are the voices telling him what he’s supposed to be? Which is… what, exactly? Lover, dreamer, rainbow hunter, Satanist, non-Satanist, leprechaun felcher, what? What’s happening? Why my pants undone? How did I get here? Why am I surrounded by monster puppets in a swamp? Why does my anus hurt?

Someday we’ll find it

The Rainbow Connection

The lovers, the dreamers and me

THE RAINBOWS

THEY HAVE ME

THEY WANT ME TO KILL

TO DESTROY

SWEET SONG SINGING

THE FROG KNOWS THE FROG KNOWS

IA IA RAINBOW FTHAGN

I AM THE LEPRECHAUN KING, DREAM LORD, LOVER OF LUCIFER

AAAAGHAGHAGHA

*sob*

37 comments

  • That’s ridicul-

    Huh. You know what? It does make more sense as a drug-addled fever-prayer to the King in Yellow.

    (Like all the best kid songs, come to think of it.)

    Nice detective work, Chuck. Thanks for exposing the corrupt canker at the hearts of our collective childhood. But if some effete artist-types wearing tatters and looking sleep-deprived show up at your front door, maybe you should head out the back.

  • The first time I started paying more attention to the lyrics was when I was singing along. Then I realized, wait, what did the lyrics even mean? Whatever, I still loved it.

  • My little man is 17 months and prefers “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin. When he was teenie-tiny it was the best, most sure-fire way to get him to sleep. Actually, he likes anything where John Bonham got to really cut loose.

    He’s also a fan of the Barenaked Ladies album “Snacktime” – a kid’s album that doesn’t equate “children” with “moron”.

  • When you wish upon a star
    Makes no difference who you are
    When you wish upon a star
    Your dreams come true…

    So that bit is ok. Not sure about the rest. Maybe the lepracauns wrote the rest.

  • Calm down Chuck, calm down. Here, have a Lemmon. ;-)

    When my children were young, esepcially my daughter, I bet I had every Disney song known to mankind completely memeorized, after repeatedly (repeatedly) watching their videos

    One particularly insidious bit of media was a yellow (see!!) cassette tape named “Disney Sing Along Songs”, which featured your favorite Disney chraceters singing your favorite (ahem) childrens’ songs.

    Well, at least that was what the package said.

    But while Goofy did indeed sing :”There’s a hole in my bucket”, most of it was sung by this sappy, always happy guy with a guitar and who knew what else lurking behind the curtain.

    We actaully listened to that tape so much it broke (yay!!), and amid wilting wails of woe had to go and instantly buy another.

    I learned back then, man, the key is to not dwell on the lyrics. Just chant it out there like some sort of Mini-Me mantra. and then all your dreams will …

    0.o

  • From a father of wee ones myself, I say yes, to Muppets, and a big fat gagging NO to Barney. Barney is evil, vile, and despicable–and those are his good qualities. And yes to They Might Be Giants. You might also check out Trout Fishing In America. I can tolerate Raffi.

    And, Chuck, don’t worry too much about those lyrics. English has a long tradition of nonsense rhymes in children’s poems and the lyrics of music for children and Paul McCartney fans–light, fun, meaningless fluffs. English is a difficult language for making rhymes and one of the strategies to deal with this is jettison meaning and concentrate on the rhyming. It’s children’s entertainment fer crisesakes, not Emily Dickinson.

  • Okay, picture this: (my son) Lucas and classmates, at end-of-grade-one party, all standing in semi-circle rows, like a rainbow, holding rainbow-coloured balloons, singing this song, and filing up to their beloved teacher (she was awesome) one-by-one to hand her their balloon, in thanks and goodbye. It was so beautiful the memory still brings a tear to my eye, *even if* the lyrics don’t really make sense. Keep the song. Anything the green frog sings *has* to be okay.

  • I can support the Muppets, but post Elmo Sesame Street is unacceptable. Also, nothing from the Disney Channel. It’s an entire network dedicated to poor story structure and inappropriate child behavior.

    Except Phineas and Ferb. That’s some quality cartoonsmanship there.

    Of course, now that I’ve read this, the Sad Kermit version seems even more horrifying.

  • It’s no wonder some of us grow up to write horror/paranormal, whatever.

    The Rainbow Song – I think someone dropped the brown acid instead of the red one… just sayin’

    Has anyone ever notice how entirely messed up children’s songs are? Humpty Dumpty meets his death. A woman in a shoe whips her kids before sending them to bed. A cute little lady bug’s house is on fire. Some crazy chick with a knife chops off the tails of blind mice. It’s unclear if they are chasing her for revenge, or to get their tails back, or what.

    No wonder kids have nightmares.

  • Michelle, Humpty Dumpty just reminded me of something:

    Nobody ever said Humpty was an egg! We just assumed.

    (sci-fi/horror writer speaking)

  • *snorting coffee out of my nose*

    Ring Around the Rosie … a kid’s rhyme about the black plague!

    Most kids tunes are scary shit. And Barney? The Teletubbies? Thomas the Tank Engine? The stuff of nightmares.

    Try Raffi. Torturous but happy.

  • Besides the lovely memory my mom pointed out above (hi, Mom), in the last few years I’ve decided this song is all about being gay (because you know, everything is secretly about being gay–the first lines even admit it! “Why are there so many / Songs about rainbows…”). Or maybe it’s about REALIZING that everything is secretly about being gay (“nothing to hide…but I know they’re wrong…”).

    See, the so-called “rainbow connection” is the seductive call of the rainbows that make people gay. (You didn’t know rainbows were what made you gay? Come on.) “Have you been half-asleep? / And have you heard voices? / I’ve heard them calling my name
    Are these the sweet sounds / That called the young sailors? / I think they’re one and the same” Sailors? Really? See what I mean?

    On a more serious note, “I’ve heard it too many / Times to ignore it / There’s something that I’m supposed to be” I think is a lovely aspirational refrain–don’t closet yourself, don’t pretend you’re something you’re not; accept it and embrace it. With all of us loving and dreaming fags.

  • Brilliant analysis. We also know, of course, that the Muppets ma-na-ma-na song is an insidious brain-paralyzer. The tune sticks in your head. The phrase, oresamanlt is a code
    Bit for what, I ask. For WHAT!?!?

  • Lucas —

    I am oddly thrilled that both you and your mother come here.

    RAINBOWS 4EVA

    Sidenote: Once met someone in Charlotte, NC, who was “totally okay” with gay people but was very upset that they “stole the triangles and rainbows and color pink.” Apparently he, with his lawn mower business, really wanted those things for himself.

    — c.

  • As to Rock a bye baby… My mother changed all the lyrics to any nursery song she didn’t like and I didn’t know it till I was an adult. She made the last line – And Momma catch baby cradle and all.

    And the Ladybug rhyme? Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire your children will burn? She changed that to Your children will roam, because I guess they ran out of the burning house.

    Says a lot about my mother, I guess.

  • Thanks for the laugh.

    I now have a new hobby to enjoy with my kids! Since they’re getting older we can still silly kids songs together then engage an exercise in deconstruction to sharpen our critical thinking skills together. Win-win.

  • So good to know that I’m not the only one who thinks about shit like this. I don’t think about it in nearly as entertaining a manner as you, however.

    More disturbing children’s songs:
    Ring Around The Rosy = we’ve all got the plague so let’s set ourselves on fire!
    Go Tell Aunt Rhody = there’s a dead goose in the pond, possible suicide.

    And, kinda unrelated – I used to sort of like the song Paralyzer by Finger Eleven until I actually listened to the lyrics. That song is painfully incomprehensible to me.

  • I have a horrible memory and usually end up making up lyrics to songs anyway. They end up like Weirder Al perversions of your favorite tunes. My kids always loved it.
    Anyway, your interpretation of the real lyrics are hysterical.

  • You are way overthinking it, man. You have to step back, and take the song as a whole. Dividing up the lyrics into pieces is just doing violence to the beauty, and to your soul.

    The Rainbow Connection is pretty obviously the Jungian collective subconscious, from whence we derive mythic archetypes. The Australian aboriginal tribes, who were very influential on the Muppets as you can see in many examples, referred to this as the Dreamtime.

    I also have to take issue with your statement that uniting the lovers and the dreamers together necessarily implies that lovers are not dreamers and vice versa. If I say, “this issue brings together the communities of blacks and Muslims,” does that imply that there are no black Muslims? I don’t think so. And I’m pretty sure Malcolm X would object if you said so.

    Of course, I’m right there with you in wondering where all the other rainbow songs are…

  • you are sadly mistaken, satan is everywhere including your kids cartoons I have kids, I know symbolism and I know what makes sense. In fact it is quite easy to create a rhyme for any ocassion using english you are brain dead and if you think it’s hard maybe you just might have to consideryourself among the brain dead and among the ranks in satan’s army.

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