Monday, January 5, 2009

Star Wars, Muppets, Weddings

At the wedding I went to on Saturday, the processional (isn't that what they call the music played while the bridal party exits?) was, with perhaps some irony but much more glory and happiness, the "Star Wars" theme. The couple are in their late 20's I think. It really was a great way to send them off, I have to admit. If I'd had a hat, I would have thrown it in the air with excitement.

Lewis Hyde, author of "The Gift", (more about that lovely book later,) pointed out in an essay called "Frames from the Framers" that we are all flooded and soaked in a language of imagery and words which are owned by the entertainment and media industry. These phrases and pictures and ideas have now been woven into our consciousness and identity, but they are illegal for us to use for our own purposes. They're copyrighted and the companies that control them are very aggressive in protecting them. I'm not sure but my guess is that the church I was at on Saturday owes the writers of the "Star Wars" theme a royalty for the use of the song.

I guess that's why copyrights expire - a song or book or image belongs to the author at first, but after years pass and it has entered into myth, or in the case of "Star Wars" - religion - it becomes everyone's. (Yes, I like Wilco's "What Light.")

The night before the wedding, I was playing the piano in the living room of the big rental house where my extended family was staying, all 25 of us representing ages from 1 to 82. I was practicing my wedding reception number "You're Still the One," (which is the greatest 10th anniversary song ever written and that's good because the couple were actually celebrating the 10th anniversary of their somewhat private first wedding, this time with family included.)

After I'd run through the Shania Twain song a few times (despite my practicing, I still forgot a few words at the ceremony but that's another story,) I was kind of noodling around on the keys and ended up playing "Rainbow Connection" (from the Muppet Movie, yes, but written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams: "We've Only Just Begun," "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song," etc.). By the time I was into the second verse, all of the generation Y-ers in the house had gathered around the piano and were singing along, through the (great, short) bridge and thence to the unbelievably moving last verse (only slightly less unbelievably moving than the faith-defining, -destroying, -and-then-reconstructing second verse) all the way to the end.

I enjoyed the fact that some of them sang in their regular singing voices, but maybe half of them sang in partial or full Kermit the Frog voices.

Now, it isn't news that "Rainbow Connection" is one of the best songs of the past 40 years. But when the night ended and I opened up my computer to say good night to my e-mail, I noticed a window open to an article about Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and I decided to read it. I turned to the second page of the interview, where he was asked who his influences as a singer are. The first singer he names: Kermit the Frog. I think in all seriousness. Or at least as much seriousness as "Star Wars" at a wedding.

"Star Wars" and Kermit are getting more and more substantial as time goes on.


Jim Lippard said...

Dan: Found this post via Mike Haubrich...

You make an excellent point about copyright expiration, and you might enjoy reading Spider Robinson's "Melancholy Elephants" which makes a similar point. I link to that story and a bunch of other cases for the importance and significance of derivative works to the larger culture here.

The processional is when the bridal party (or graduating class) *enters*--it's the recessional when they exit.

Mike said...

I would pay money to hear a Dan Wilson version of "Rainbow Connection", although I don't think I'd be able to listen to it live and in person because that song makes me weep like a woman.

--Mike (from RED)

Joanne said...

A friend of mine was married on the the shores of Lake Superior while another friend sat on a rock, banjo in hand, singing Rainbow Connection. It's perfect.

Elis said...

My name is Elis and Im from Brazil. I was looking for something new about you, and then I discovered your blog. I´m kinda shocked that all your work after Semisonic is unknow here in Brazil, but I´m glad for the internet!
Man, you sound as good as it gets!
Many cheers from Brazil, to you!

Jason said...

I saw Jim James play Rainbow Connection on the Kid-palooza stage at Lollapalooza in '07.

Incredible. I was surprised at how moving it was.