BY DONALD LIEBENSON

Oscar and Grammy winner Paul Williams has cowritten classic songs for the Carpenters (“Rainy Days and Mondays”), Three Dog Night (“Out in the Country”), and Barbra Streisand (the Oscar-winning “Evergreen”).

He cowrote the lyrics to The Love Boat’s unforgettable theme song (“Love, exciting and new!”). But his legacy song is one about spiritual search, higher callings, and the power of faith. It was written for a frog.

Not just any frog, of course—show business’s most beloved amphibian, Kermit the Frog

© WALT DISNEY PICTURES/PHOTOFEST.

Seeing Kermit on that log in the swamp (with Jim Henson hiding behind it submerged in water), it was as if the little puppet was truly alive and singing for all of us. It’s an absolutely magical scene. Adding to the magic, is the discovery that not only did Kermit perform the song in the movie, he also recorded the song in the studio himself…with Jim Henson’s help, of course.

A new interview with Paul Williams, the writer of “Rainbow Connection.” reveals that when the song was being recorded in the studio, Jim Henson started by simply performing the song himself in Kermit’s voice. However, there was a feeling that something was missing.

Williams tells Vanity Fair that somebody, he doesn’t recall who, suggested that Kermit should give the song a try. Henson then took the Kermit the Frog puppet into the recording booth with him and performed the song with the world’s most famous piece of green felt. According to Williams…

Kermit sang it brilliantly.

One can only imagine what this looked like to the people working on recording the song. Kermit the Frog himself, with Jim Henson standing behind him, really did sing “Rainbow Connection.” Clearly, this was the thing that was missing. The recording would then be perfect, and would go on to inspire millions in The Muppet Movie.

The song has become a classic in its own right. The song has been covered by everybody from Willie Nelson to Sarah McLachlan to Gwen Stefani. However, there’s really nothing quite like the original version.

His most cherished connection to the song, he said, comes when parents tell him that their child is learning it on the piano, or that their child’s graduation class sang it at the ceremony. Williams calls that “a heart payment.”

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