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8:41 AM Fri, Nov. 16th

Column: A radio station, a bomb and Kermit the Frog — why belief matters

The original cover art of the Grammy winning 1979 soundtrack for "The Muppet Movie." The album was produced by Paul Williams and executive produced by Muppet creator Jim Henson. It was just re-released in Aug. 2013.

The original cover art of the Grammy winning 1979 soundtrack for "The Muppet Movie." The album was produced by Paul Williams and executive produced by Muppet creator Jim Henson. It was just re-released in Aug. 2013.

On Friday March 22, 1996 a young man walked into a radio station in Wanganui, New Zealand and claimed to be carrying a bomb.

He held the manager hostage and made a very unusual demand. He wanted the station to broadcast the original Kermit the Frog Muppet Movie version of the song "Rainbow Connection" nonstop for 12 hours.

There was a major rugby match taking place in Wanganui that very day between police officers from Australia and New Zealand. Wanganui was teeming with police personnel who came to participate in or watch the annual matchup.

Officers quickly cordoned off the town center and evacuated several nearby buildings after the young man barricaded himself and the manager of Star FM inside the station.

The 21-year-old man explained that he was demanding the marathon playing of the Muppet record to "tell people how he felt."

A few tense hours after the hostage-taking began, police stormed the station and were able to grab the suspect when he opened the door of the manager's office. Some reports indicate that the young man had opened the door with the intent of releasing his hostage.

WHY THE RAINBOW CONNECTION?

No one was injured and the bomb was determined to be fake. The man was charged with kidnapping.

The original version of "Rainbow Connection" was written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher and performed by Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) in The Muppet Movie in 1979.

In November of that same year the song became an unexpected hit on the radio, remaining on the Billboard Top 40 for seven weeks. Nothing like this had ever happened before in the music industry. A small green frog somehow had touched the hearts of millions of people.

"Rainbow Connection" was the first number in The Muppet Movie. As the movie opens Kermit is seen sitting in the middle of a swamp looking up at the sky. (To film this scene Jim Henson wore underwater breathing equipment to operate Kermit.)

Paul Williams explained in an interview many years later that he and Kenny Ascher wanted to show that Kermit was on a spiritual path, examining life, and the meaning of life.

When asked why he thought the song has endured so well Williams said, "I think the song works because it's more about questions than answers....I also like the fact that it starts out with the negative. 'Rainbows are only illusions, rainbows have nothing to hide.' So the song actually starts out as if he's going to pooh-pooh the whole idea, and then it turns. 'So we've been told, and some choose to believe it. I know they're wrong, wait and see.' And again, he doesn't have the answer. 'Someday we'll find it.'"

To this day, more than 35 years later, the song continues to be recorded by stars in the music industry.

BELIEVING WE HAVE A PURPOSE

The last verse is what I think sparks the magic in the song's popularity. Kermit says, "I've heard it too many times to ignore it. It's something that I'm supposed to be."

I think deep in every human being's heart they know they are supposed to "be something." But we live in a world that tells us faith is an illusion and that there is nothing magical or wondrous about rainbows so why bother in believing that there is anything glorious to be hoped for. Or so the world tells us and some choose to believe it.

There may be times in our lives when we feel desperate for a blessing or an answer to a prayer, but these voices of doubt stop us from seeking or asking.

I believe in a God who has a plan for us. I believe that prayers are answered and miracles still happen.

Or as Kermit so eloquently sings in dreamy wistfulness, "I know they're wrong, wait and see...Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me."

Click to see song lyrics



Richard Haddad is Director of News & Digital Content for Western News&Info, Inc., the parent company of The Daily Courier. This column originally appeared as a blog entry on dCourier.com.