It is easy to be dismissive of this song. After all, most of us were introduced to it by a muppet frog gravelly singing it in a fake muppet infested swamp (better version at the end of this article).
But a serious look at the lyrics finds some beautiful poetry with some pretty profound thoughts behind it. This song arguably deserves a better vehicle than a fake amphibian animated by a hand up his ass. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s talk about how those who made this brilliant movie managed to convert a frog into all of us. Diving right into the lyrics . . .
Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?
As a rhetorical technique, it’s an old but effective one to start by asking the question. It immediately engages the listener. This one makes you immediately think of other songs about rainbows asking what’s on the other side, such as The Wizard of Oz’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow. If you don’t love that song, you aren’t human and there really is no point to you reading any further in this article.
Of course, the question triggers in me, a guy oriented towards science, a scientific answer rooted in rainbows being nothing more than the prismatic effect reflected by rain droplets off the Sun. Honestly, that scientific answer is pretty cool when you think about it and understand it, but let’s move on. The song then directly addresses that, presenting the scientific answer.
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So there you have it. Science tells us there is nothing to these things. They are well understood, nothing to see here.
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong wait and see.
Ah! The singer rejects the scientific answer, believing there is more to rainbows than drops of water splitting light beams. Here we see the rhetorical technique of the tease. “Wait and see” for the song to very soon bring it all home.
Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it.
Look what it’s done so far.
These simple lines are the heart and soul of the meaning of the song. It’s a different myth than rainbows, but that does not matter. What matters is what gave that myth power.
Someone thought there might be something awesome on the other side of rainbows, and someone believed it. That is what gave it power. People gave it power, through their beliefs.
In “look what it’s done so far” we have another tease line. What has it done?
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing and what do we think we might see?
These dreams, these myths, these endless “what ifs” keep making us want to see what is beyond what we see. We are compelled to search for what is on the other side, whether the other side be rainbows, the mountain or river near our home, the great impassable sea, or beyond the Moon. The question of what is on the other side, of whatever, has taken us far, very far.
Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.
Who among us in that twilight state between falling asleep and being asleep, or being asleep and waking up, has not heard the voices of our dreams? All of us have. Some listen to those voices more than others . . .
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.
Sailors are among the most ancient of explorers, going to what at their time were strange and exotic places. The point here is that the sweet sound of these voices call any kind of explorer. Whether they explore outer space, inner space, the oceans, the increasingly bizarre world of mathematics, the always bizarre world of quantum physics, the enriching world of arts, theater and music, does not matter. What matters is that you follow the journey your dreams drive you to. Hell it may not even matter if that dream takes you into exploring the nuances of something as mundane as the laws of mankind. There is no realm that cannot be explored.
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.
Find out what you are supposed to be in life, and be it. The rainbow connection is as real as you believe it to be.
Well because this is, after all, just a silly song sung by a frog, right?
Thinking of all this made me realize this song would be perfect as a lullaby. I had not heard it done as such and what a beautiful message from mother to baby. So I suggested to my professional singer, and brand new Mom, daughter that she do it as such. She obliged. Here is the better version promised early in this article (note: rhetorical technique of the tease).