1 The Muppet Mindset: 120 Awesome Muppet Songs, Part 1

Feb 12, 2013

120 Awesome Muppet Songs, Part 1

Ryan Dosier - For a long while now I've wanted to write up an article celebrating Muppet music but I've always been held back by the enormous scope of the Muppets repertoire. From Sam and Friends to the present, the Muppets have performed countless songs. It's truly dumbfounding to think about how many musical performances have occurred on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and the many Muppet movies and specials in almost 60 years. How do you narrow it down? Where do you start? Can you even fathom ranking them? The answers I came up with: Slowly, the beginning of the alphabet, and no.

So I went through my iTunes library (which, admittedly, doesn't have everything the Muppets have ever sang) and picked out 120 of my personal favorite songs performed by the Muppets. I put them all into a playlist and shuffled it, to organize them completely randomly. And now I present, with my own added commentary, 120 Awesome Muppet Songs, presented in eight separate articles highlighting 15 songs at a time--in no specific and entirely random order.

1.   "Somebody Come and Play" from Sesame Street
It's hard to argue with a song as fun and happy as "Somebody Come and Play" being the first one on the list. A wonderful tune by Joe Raposo, this song as been performed multiple times in Sesame Street's 43 years. Some favorite versions of the song include Ernie (see link above), Elmo and Whoopi Goldberg, Bob from the album Bob's Favorite Street Songs, and, of course, Joe Raposo himself. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it would be Ernie's version. He sings with such longing for someone to play with but remains his perfectly goofy self. Who among us hasn't been there, just wanting someone to play with? Favorite lyrics: "Somebody come with me and see the pleasure in the wind/Somebody come before it gets too late to begin."
2.   "Can You Picture That?" from The Muppet Movie
Rock on, man! In my book, you absolutely, unequivocally cannot beat this Electric Mayhem staple. There will probably never be a song that rocks harder or better suits Dr. Teeth and the rest of the band. Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher outdid themselves with this number. Every line is perfectly suited to each member of the Electric Mayhem that sings it. And Animal's shouts and Zoot's silence fits them perfectly as well. They may not look like Presbyterians, but the Electric Mayhem proved that they sure can rock a church. Favorite lyrics: "I lost my heart in Texas, Northern Lights effect us/I keep it underneath my hat/Aurora Borealis shinin' down on Dallas/Can you picture that?"
3.   "Bein' Green" from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show
Is there any need for explanation on this one? "Bein' Green" is everything the Muppets represent: loving yourself and being yourself no matter what. How appropriate that Kermit, who also represents everything the Muppets are, sings this beautiful Joe Raposo tune. Of course, Kermit isn't the only one to tackle the song. Ray Charles' version (as seen in Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting) is exceptionally beautiful as well and Big Bird's version (from Jim Henson's memorial service) is unbelievably sad and perfect. But, c'mon, no one does it better than Kermit... and Jim Henson, of course. Jim sang the song like no one ever will. It is straight from the soul. There was no distinction between Jim and Kermit when "Bein' Green" was performed. It was just naturally beautiful perfection. Favorite lyrics: "I'm green, and it'll do fine/It's beautiful and I think it's what I wanna be."
4.   "Mahna Mahna" from The Muppet Show
Doo do doo do doo! Sorry... force of habit. Really, though, anytime someone says the words "Mahna Mahna" and I hear it, I have to respond in the only logical way. First performed by the Muppets on The Ed Sullivan Show and later on Sesame Street, the greatest version by far (in my opinion at least) was performed on the first episode of The Muppet Show. It is an enduring and undying classic performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. What Jim did with this odd little song is unbelievable and shows, once again, how he could take something weird and make it perfect. The character of Mahna Mahna also speaks to Jim's personality. The character's sense of pure joy when scatting is a thing of true beauty. Favorite lyrics: "Mahna Mahna!!"
5.   "I'm Gonna Always Love You" from The Muppets Take Manhattan
Ah, the first appearance of the Muppet Babies. This appearance alone would spawn the Muppet Babies TV series, tons of merchandise, and loads of casual-fan confusion about the characters. But that's okay, because it's a fantastic song. Jeff Moss (known mostly for his Sesame Street songs) scribed this fun little ditty. You've gotta love the baby voices Jim, Frank, Richard, and Dave created for the Muppets. It's really, really hard not to love this song. It's also really, really hard (maybe impossible) not to find it cute when a little boy sings it while playing ukulele at a school talent show. Favorite lyrics: "Gonna be a movie star, and I'm gonna learn to drive a car/Gonna be a veterinarian too, and I'm gonna always love you!"
6.   "Keep Christmas With You (All Through the Year)" from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
The first of two Christmas Eve on Sesame Street songs in this week's list (blame iTunes), and my favorite Christmas song of all time. I can't get enough of this gorgeous song written by Sam Pottle and David Axlerod for the special. Olivia and Bob hit all the right notes but everyone sings gorgeously--which isn't a surprise at all. It's a crying shame that this isn't a perennial classic for the rest of the (non-Muppet obsessed) world at Christmas time, because it absolutely should be. My favorite version of the song comes from the album Merry Christmas from Sesame Street!, which features the entire cast, including Muppets. It's gorgeous and if you don't already have a downloaded version... find one and thank me later. Favorite lyrics: "Christmas means the season of giving/Peace and joy to you/The goodness of loving, the gladness of living/These are Christmas, too."
7.   "Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear" from The Muppet Show
Originally seeming like the punchline to a bad joke on the first episode of The Muppet Show, this song by Randy Newman (of all people) has fantastic lasting appeal. Richard Hunt's dynamic vocals as Scooter are perfect in this snappy, funny song. Fozzie's interjections throughout the song (and hysterical interpretation of what a dancing bear does) make it a true Muppet classic, however. Without Frank Oz's knack for hilarious line-delivery, this song would not be nearly as great. I also adore the version that Frank and Richard performed at Jim Henson's memorial service. It showcases the love and friendship between them that we rarely get to see. Favorite lyrics: "I may go out tomorrow if I can borrow a coat to wear/Oh, I'd step out in style with my sincere smile and my dancing bear!"
8.   "The Magic Store" from The Muppet Movie
Another obvious inclusion in the list. The finale from The Muppet Movie features some of the most quotable lyrics about entertainment and working your way to the top. The film could have easily ended with Orson Welles signing Kermit the Frog and Company to the standard rich and famous contract, but the inclusion of this song makes the movie perfect. Everyone comes together to make a movie about the movie we just saw... and sing this great song My favorite lyrics are probably everyone's favorite lyrics... "Life's like a movie, write your own ending/Keep believing, keep pretending."
9.   "The Rhyming Song" from The Muppet Show
Oh my gosh I love this song. Performed by Fozzie, Scooter, Link Hogthrob, and Annie Sue, this complete nonsense song is hilarious and perfectly weird. Did you know that it was written by Frank Oz? Because it was! What a perfect selection of characters to sing this as well. Scooter is usually so organized but now he can't even keep the rhyming lyrics together. Fozzie gets frustrated with everyone. Link whines and moans. Annie Sue tries to keeep things positive. It's wonderful. Favorite lyrics: "The stars are twinkling in the sky/The rhyming song, the rhyming song/There's no hot water in my hotel/The rhyming song."
10. "True Blue Miracle" from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
The second Christmas Eve on Sesame Street song on today's list is this truly marvelous piece written by Carol hall. The song speaks of the wonder of the Christmas season and how everything and everyone seems to come together in beauty and joy. The song represents Sesame Street Christmases perfectly. And if that isn't a true blue miracle, I don't know what one is. Favorite lyrics: "But the greatest wonder of them all is not what's happening around you, it's the way you start to lead/Yes, the greatest wonder of them all is how your heart is filled with love, you start to light up like a Christmas tree."

11. "Never Before, Never Again" from The Muppet Movie
Miss Piggy's greatest number is written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher. It not only speaks true to her unbridled passion for Kermit, but it is also just a fantastic love song. The subsequent fantasy sequence starring Kermit and Piggy features some of the greatest puppetry and funniest visuals that the couple has ever experienced. But the reason these things work is because of the fantastic lyrics and music placed on top of them. Miss Piggy deserves another song this great soon... and not another "Me Party." Favorite lyrics: "And where to find the words to sing its worth?/This love was bound for heaven, not for earth/This love was meant to light the stars/But when we touched, we made it ours."
12. "It Feels Good When You Sing a Song" from Sesame Street
This may not be Sesame Street's most well known song (or even in the top 20), but it is one of my personal favorites, again by Sam Pottle. Originally performed by Olivia and David back in the early days of the show, my favorite version of the song is the one linked to above featuring Hoots the Owl and John Legend from Season 37. They jazz it up and make the song even more exciting and fun. Favorite lyrics: "It can't be bad, even if it's sad/Sing it loud, sing it strong/It feels good when you sing a song."
13. "Wonderful Me" from Sesame Street
Written by Sam Pottle and Tony Geiss, "Wonderful Me" is a fantastic anthem sung by Big Bird explaining how much he loves being himself. He sings about all the wonderful things about him--his feathers, his ability to read, etc. It's a great declaration of happiness for kids (and kids at heart) everywhere. Oddly enough, there's also an Oscar the Grouch song called "Wonderful Me"... but it isn't as well written as this one. Favorite lyrics: "Who is at home when I sit in my nest? Me!/Who wears no clothes but is beautifully dressed? Me!" (Forgive the weird video above. Just listen to the song.)
14. "Perfect Harmony" from Fraggle Rock
One of Marjory the Trash Heap's best numbers (And our only Fraggle Rock song in today's list? Dumb iTunes.), "Perfect Harmony" is a wonderful blend of Jerry Nelson's amazing vocals and music and lyrics by Phil Balsam and Dennis Lee. Marjory sings of her dream of a world where Fraggles, Doozers, and Gorgs can get along in perfect harmony. The song is from the episode "The Great Radish Famine" and also features a few lyrics by Mokey Fraggle, Junior Gorg, and Flange Doozer. Favorite lyrics: "I can almost see a world of harmony/Music in the air, friendship everywhere/Ties of love uniting you and me." (Again, excuse the weird video.)
15. "Share it Maybe" from YouTube
Cookie Monster's summer 2012 classic parodying the ear-candy tune "Call Me Maybe" quickly became one of my favorite Cookie Monster songs. David Rudman's vocals are fantastic here, making me think that he really needs more opportunity to sing as Cookie. I adore the goofy lyric parodies (written by Joey Mazzarino) that Cookie sings, referencing snickerdoodles, Girl Scouts, and Betty Crocker. The video is awesome, the song is great, and the parody aspect is perfection. Favorite lyrics: "You took you time with the bite/Me trying to stay polite/Me start to really freak out/Please someone call the Girl Scout/Me no grumble or grouse/This take its toll on me house/Me going off me rocker/Please feed me Betty Crocker!"

Well, there you have it! Our first 15 of 120 Awesome Muppet Songs! What is your favorite one from this list, Muppet fans? Tune in next week for 15 more songs and get ready to jam!





The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

3 comments:

  1. What an excellent idea for a series of posts! There really is SO MUCH excellent Muppet music to choose from. Imagine my excitement when I saw it started off with the amazing "Somebody Come and Play" which is one of my all-time favorites. I never found it a happy song though. maybe it was the video it was paired with on Sesame Street. I always remember that little boy spinning around on the playground, his knit hat falling over his eyes.

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  2. Cool list! I can't wait to see what else comes up.

    You forgot to mention this version of Bein' Green http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECtmncm4dZ4 - it's one of my favourites!

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  3. I always found Somebody Come and Play to be kind of a sad song, at least in the lyrics. Especially after reading Street Gang and the supposed story behind it. Still, it's one of my favorites from the Street.

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