Kermit the Frog’s ‘Rainbow Connection’ is Country. Don’t Come At Me
There are a lot of pressing issues and controversies at the moment that are tearing apart the very fabric of society. But none may be more pertinent than the controversy on whether Kermit the Frog and his iconic song “Rainbow Connection” is a country song or not that I have chosen to ignite right here and now.
Last week the Library of Congress announced it’s latest annual inductees into the National Recording Registry, which recognizes songs they believe are so culturally significant, they deserve to be set aside for all time in the annals of American history. 25 songs total were selected this year, including Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” and from the country music world, “Once A Day” written by Bill Anderson, and recorded and released by Connie Smith in 1964.
According to The Library of Congress and others, “Once A Day” is the only selection from this year’s crop of songs that is country. But I protest this characterization, and would like to bring to the table a debate about Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection” that was also designated for the National Recording Registry, and is being sold to us as a pop song or a show tune.
Listen, I’m not saying this is a slam dunk case, and that there aren’t counterpoints that can be made in opposition. But after staring long in the mirror, meditating on the subject, counseling with mentors, and rewatching the introduction to The Muppet Movie from 1979, I have resolved in my heart that yes, this a hill I am willing to die on.
First off, Kermit The Frog is playing a banjo in the song. I mean, come on! What’s more country than that? His girlfriend Miss Piggy has big hair for crying out loud, and he met her at a county fair. Oh, let’s not forget, let’s NOT forget to mention, that in the opening moments of The Muppet Movie when we’re first introduced to “Rainbow Connection” as Kermit is croaking it out so eloquently, he’s sitting among the Cypress trees of a Florida bog where he’s originally from. Yes that’s right, Kermit is a certified Southern boy from the cracker swamp.
Granted, I’ll give you that the instrumentation of the song beyond the banjo veers slightly away from what some may consider a country song should sound like with the strings and chimes. But remember, this was 1979, and one of the biggest influences in country music at that time was the Countrypolitan, or “Nashville Sound,” which utilized strings and more genteel production and arrangements. If anything, the strings certify “Rainbow Connection” as country.
I know some will say that the biggest issue is that Kermit The Frog’s voice just doesn’t hold the twang you would expect from a country song. But he’s a frog Muppet! Of course he’ll have a croaking affect to his voice. Who actually sang “Rainbow Connection” in real life, and played the Muppet character? Well that was none other than Kermit creator Jim Henson himself. In fact many consider Kermit to be the Muppet extension of Jim Henson’s persona. And where was Jim Henson from originally? He was born in Greenville, Mississippi ladies and gentlemen, and raised in nearby Leland. Doesn’t get more country than that.
Who were the writers of “Rainbow Connection”? Well I’m glad you asked. That would be Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. Who is Paul Williams? Along with writing many American song standards and being the president and chairman of ASCAP, Paul Williams also played the role of Little Enos Burdette in the Smoky and the Bandit movies. Yeah, he’s this guy:
I rest my case. Doesn’t get more country than Little Enos Burdette.
And Willie Nelson was also one of the first artists to cover the song when he made it the title track to his 2001 album, which went on to be nominated for a Grammy Award. Willie also performed the song with Kacey Musgraves on the 2019 CMA Awards, and The Dixie Chicks performed it when they still had “Dixie” in their name.
So yeah, I’m willing to puff my chest out, speak loudly, and proclaim “Rainbow Connection” as a selection from the country music catalog.
At the least, it’s a hell of a lot more country than Sam Hunt. Que no?
March 31, 2021 @ 8:50 am
Without doubt its not only one of the greatest songs ever written, it is also definitely a country song.
March 31, 2021 @ 8:54 am
Good feature on Willie’s version on a recent episode of the “One By Willie” Texas Monthly podcast.
He made a children’s album but still threw “33rd of August” and a few others on there.
The whole series is really strong.
March 31, 2021 @ 8:54 am
Let’s be honest: it’s just a really awesome song, period. Pretty cool about “Once A Day”, too. 🙂👍🏼👏🏼
March 31, 2021 @ 8:58 am
Decent argument for sure, but I’m curious what a certain, recently quiet, self proclaimed king of crackers has to say about all this.
March 31, 2021 @ 9:12 am
I would add , trigger, the kermit song is in 3/4 time ….its a WALTZ . what genre has cranked out more waltzes than all of the other genres combined ? when was the last time you hear kanye , post malone or dua lipa sing you a waltz ? i’m pretty sure the last hit pop waltz was in 1968? when tom jones gave us delilah…and hell …even tom did his share of country music .
for me KERMIT’S WALTZ=COUNTRY …..TRAD COUNTRY .
besides ..where do you find frogs ? times square ??
March 31, 2021 @ 9:16 am
March 31, 2021 @ 10:09 am
Sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year.
Robert's Country Blog
March 31, 2021 @ 10:27 am
“Froggy Went A-Courtin'” traces back to 16th century Scotland.
In the 1920s, Vernon Dalhart and Adelyne Hood recorded “The Frog Song.”
Gene Autry’s sidekick Smiley Burnette played a character named “Frog Millhouse,” known for his throat-singing “frog voice.”
March 31, 2021 @ 10:42 am
Probably the last 3/4 song to see real pop success was “Perfect” from Ed Sheeran, and that’s more of a Viennese waltz than a regular waltz.
March 31, 2021 @ 4:22 pm
Olivia Newton-John had “Sam” in 1977. Hit #40 on the Country chart, though like most of her mid-’70s hits it was more soft rock than country. (#20 Pop, #1 Adult Contemporary.)
April 1, 2021 @ 5:14 am
My first thought exactly Albert! 3/4 time. Perfect. What a beautiful song it is . What we need right now.
April 2, 2021 @ 4:53 am
Lover (song, 2019) by Swift is waltz-y
March 31, 2021 @ 9:29 am
For some reason whenever this song comes on, whatever room I am in suddenly gets very dusty and I know that becauseit makes my eyes water a bit. Not sure why that happens.
March 31, 2021 @ 9:32 am
What a FUN article Trig!
Johnny Cash singing with Miss Piggy.
He could hardly keep a straight face.
Watch “Johnny Cash @ the Muppets singing with Miss Piggy” on YouTube
December 24, 2022 @ 12:39 am
With the Confederate flag in the background.
Cancel Cash and the Muppets. /s
March 31, 2021 @ 9:41 am
This article coming the day before April Fool’s Day made me wonder if Trigger was a day early!!
This is the complete list of recordings over the years:
Some really interesting items including the classic baseball clips included.
Let’s face it, Kermit is just cool. I remember in college, our group of guys and women watching “The Muppet Movie” singing along to every song! They even showed it outside one night on a big screen at the U of Dayton!
Country? Well maybe, but then maybe that would make it that Kermit was country when country wasn’t cool!
March 31, 2021 @ 10:09 am
I guess a legend and an out-of-work bum look a lot alike, daddy.
March 31, 2021 @ 10:17 am
Hell yes this is country. The 3/4 country waltz time is just icing on the cake. Further more Kermit is from the south. he know a thing or two about country.
March 31, 2021 @ 10:20 am
Absolutely no argument here. Kermit’s Rainbow Connection has been on my country playlist from the beginning!
March 31, 2021 @ 10:32 am
I agree this is really a country song, and as a result of this article and the fact it was a #25 hit on the Hot 100, I added it to my radio station library. Trigger, thanks for giving me another song to add to the library and the CD I have the song on is “The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More! – The 25th Anniversary Collection” on Rhino.
March 31, 2021 @ 10:38 am
I liked the Willie Nelson version, used on a commercial a few months back.
March 31, 2021 @ 11:00 am
This was apparently nowhere nearly as controversial as you had hoped, Trigger. And I hope it gets lots of clicks.
March 31, 2021 @ 11:28 am
That’s kind of a weird list. In multiple cases, they have a song and its equally popular or even more popular cover version. In at least 2 cases, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Hound Dog”, they make an exception, and only include the originals without including the Elvis covers. You might say, “Well sure, but the Elvis versions are in no danger of being lost.” Well, is Thriller? Is Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Is Songs in the Key of Life? In fact, only one Elvis recording or album is included, and that was waaaaay back in 2002, I believe: The Sun Sessions. Only one Hank Williams song is included: “Lovesick Blues”. Only one Sinatra. Only one Ray Charles. Weird list.
March 31, 2021 @ 11:51 am
Trigger, you chose an honorable hill on which to die. This is country or at least country-ish enough to count. While I dislike the countrypolitan era tunes, they are still county. (That is why I just can’t get behind that Mike & The Moonpies record that everyone here loves). The Rainbow Connection is also obviously about LGBTQ so it is timely now and forever.
March 31, 2021 @ 12:42 pm
Which one? Cheap Silver & Solid Country Gold? I’m just acquainted with them. So far, this one sounds kind of like a T.G. Sheppard album.
March 31, 2021 @ 4:56 pm
Robb, Yes. That record. Like everything else by them but the strings and production ruin that one for me.
March 31, 2021 @ 9:26 pm
I actually love the old Nashville Sound with the strings, along with the honky tonk and hillbilly stuff. I could spend an afternoon with Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Glen Campbell, Eddy Arnold, Ray Price, and Charlie Rich, and still hang out with Ronnie Milsap and his synth afterwards, and then still hang out with Merle, Buck, Willie, Waylon, etc. It’s the stuff nowadays that gets me down. Typical old man complaints, I guess.
March 31, 2021 @ 12:13 pm
Good column, and I have to agree. That being said, Kermit could be the original bro-country singer, since bro country vocals have a frog like quality. That was pointed out by Canadian songwriter and performer Dave Carroll in this wonderful satire of a bro country song
March 31, 2021 @ 12:21 pm
I think it is BroFrog country. Kermit with tire tracks on his back in the middle of the Florida/Georgia Line
March 31, 2021 @ 12:22 pm
Quite a few country stars appeared as guests on The Muppet Show. Roy Clark, Mac Davis, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Roger Miller and Anne Murray come to mind. Loretta and Crystal also appeared on the “Sesame Street Country” album released in 1981, which was one of my childhood favorites. And there were quite a few good country songs on “Fraggle Rock” too (which incorporated just about every musical style you can think of).
Also, the late Jerry Nelson (who gave life to legendary characters such as the Count, Camilla the Chicken, and Gobo Fraggle to name a few), apparently tried to make it as a country singer at one point. Some of the sides he recorded are posted on YouTube. He also did an album in 2009 (three years before his passing), although that falls more in the category of folk-rock than country.
The takeaway: Jim Henson had more country cred in one fingernail than Sam Hunt, Niko Moon or Thomas Kane Dustin Jordan Dylan Rice have in their entire bodies.
March 31, 2021 @ 12:26 pm
Also, The Carpenters (who had a Top 10 country hit with Juice Newton’s “Sweet, Sweet Smile” and whose “Top of the World” was a country smash for Lynn Anderson) did a nice cover of “The Rainbow Connection.” Karen Carpenter’s voice had some twangy qualities at times, and I think she could have pulled off a country career if she had chosen or if A&M had let her.
March 31, 2021 @ 1:06 pm
Once I realized Cory Morrow sounds exactly like Paul Williams, it somehow ruined both artists for me.
March 31, 2021 @ 1:14 pm
Only other genre that would really fit, IMO, would be folk which shares a fair bit with country.
March 31, 2021 @ 1:38 pm
i love the muppets and I love this song. watching the old muppet show again . you could tell Jim Henson was a country fan. Johnny Cash. Loretta lynn. Crystal Gayle. Kenny Rogers. and others. were on the original show from the 70s. so yeah. I can believe it is a country song.
March 31, 2021 @ 2:38 pm
Best moment ever was when Jim James and Kermit sang ramble connection
March 31, 2021 @ 3:08 pm
It’s folk 🙂
March 31, 2021 @ 4:14 pm
I bet it’s a bitch to get matching suits in a 68 extra fat. And a 12 dwarf.
April 8, 2021 @ 6:55 am
A legend and an out of work bum look a lot alike, daddy.
March 31, 2021 @ 4:24 pm
Cant forget Kermit’s biggest hits, “Seminole Wind”, and “Swingin”
March 31, 2021 @ 4:45 pm
Nope. It’s totally bluegrass.
April 1, 2021 @ 12:32 am
It ain’t easy being GREEN
The grass ain’t blue, Johnny
March 31, 2021 @ 6:03 pm
Where do frogs live?
I rest my case.
March 31, 2021 @ 7:15 pm
Trig, on the Today show this morning, Hoda interviewed Blake Shelton. & basically it sounded like Blake plans to slow down with touring, music, & tv gigs in the near future.
Hoda asked him “like in 10 years or so?”
Blake answered, “That sounds too far away. Hopefully sooner.”
Interesting revelation… especially since Blake pre-covid only toured for 6 weeks a year & hasn’t released a new album in 4 years…
If that’s the case, his radio career might dwindle in the next few years.
* This will leave us only with Kenny Chesney as one of the “old timers” still cranking out radio hits.
March 31, 2021 @ 11:40 pm
I remember owning the single when I was a boy – in green vinyl, of course! So the seeds were sown by Kermit. Figures!
April 1, 2021 @ 3:52 am
Atchafalayapolitan all the way.
April 1, 2021 @ 4:35 am
Also, Kermit was a tadpole once.
And who is singing about tadpoles?
Sturgill! As in “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)”
Couldn’t possibly get more Country than that.
April 1, 2021 @ 6:49 am
Jim Henson worked with Jimmy Dean in his early days on TV here in Washington, DC, and later when Dean’s show was nationally syndicated. Kermit’s country.
April 1, 2021 @ 12:03 pm
Great feel good article. Truly classic song.
April 1, 2021 @ 5:57 pm
Kermit needs to buy a house in the burbs, listen to a lot of EDM, and start rapping about hopping down the old swamp road.
You know. “Evolve.”
April 10, 2021 @ 3:27 pm
This is my all-time favorite song in any genre, and yes, I agree there’s a lot of country in it.
April 11, 2021 @ 4:14 am
Yes! “Rainbow Connection” is indeed a country song! I’m a huge fan of the Muppets, and I think Kermit would probably write better songs than Kane Brown or any of the other stars catering to Trashville! He’d probably be recording songs influenced by Ray Price, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, or Glen Campbell! On a completely unrelated side note I realized that John Anderson and Charlie Rich sound a little like Kermit but I don’t think Kermit would sing Anderson or Rich songs.