Kieran Moore – My favourite non-Muppet bear song has the following chorus:
“Oh boy, do I love bears, you can bet your life that I do
There ain’t nothin’ anywhere like a big, black bear
As long as he’s a mile away from you!”
And I think in general that’s probably a good philosophy to live by – especially if you’re suddenly confronted by a scary looking bear in the wilderness, Arctic Circle or 100 Acre Wood, but I can’t see any reason why you’d want to be a mile away from a Muppet bear as they’re some of the sweetest, kindest guys around.
There are a lot of Muppet bears. As part of the trinity that is “Pigs and bears and chickens” they are some of the most prominent guys around. Just about every Henson show has a bear tucked away somewhere. From Jake in “The Animal Show” to DJs 1 and 2 in “Animal Jam” through to Basil and Samson in international Sesame projects, when it comes to bears there are some “Ursa Major” stars!
10 – I’m a Believer – Muppets Tonight
Bobo’s blossomed from being a sweet, but fairly minor character into one of the current roster’s biggest names. Sure, he’s never going to be the biggest bear in the “Muppet” canon, but break-out appearances as a henchman in “Muppets from Space” “A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa” and “The Muppets (2011)” have made him stand out from the crowd. A starring role in “The Muppets (2015)” followed and expanding on my “Ursa Major” analogy from earlier I think Bobo is a definite rising star. Brilliantly played by Bill Barretta, he is one of the Muppets’ more realistic looking bears and I love that his gruff appearance and voice belie the fact that he’s such a sweetie. Muppets Tonight hasn’t had much love on these charts, but this is actually the second time this song has appeared. It’s such a lot of fun I wouldn’t be surprised to see it back again someday!
9 – Five Bears in the Bed – Sesame Street
I will admit that this song is slight and short and not the “beariest” piece that I’ll list, but I still enjoy it a whole lot for its Americana/Bluegrass stylin’. I love Bluegrass music and I really do attribute that appreciation to the Muppets. Listening to songs like this and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and even “Rainbow Connection” at an early age obviously tuned my ear in that direction and I would say have had a direct influence on my singing style today. The pencil line animation in this clip reminds me of Raymond Briggs’ “Snowman” movies and I grew up watching those too so this is a double whammy for me. It might be short and slight, but this piece has charm to spare!
8 – Bear Rap (Roar) – Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs
Muppet Wiki calls this song “Bear Rap”, but the video seems to suggest the official title might be “Roar” so I’ve combined the two. If I thought I stood a chance of finding my VHS copy I’d check the cover to see what it says as I think there’s a track listing. It might be aimed at youngsters, but I really enjoy “Billy Bunny…” I guess it was produced before Disney really got involved in the “Direct to Video” game (which is when quality plummeted across the board) because actually this is pretty decent. It’s well performed and written and the songs are very catchy. It’s also one of the last things Richard Hunt did so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. This was one of the first bear songs I thought of for this list and I guess it’s only really so low because the early 90s rap style hasn’t aged well. It’s funny because the song in ninth place is older and yet feels much more timeless and even (dare I say it) current. It’s fun to hear Richard and David Rudman perform together considering their later connection through recasts. It’s kind of sentimental, but you could almost see this as the start of the handing over of the baton.
7- A Bear Eats Bear Food – Sesame Street
This song has very little to do with bears other than the title and the first line, but it’s too cool to not list. One day I’m sure this will score higher, but for now it has to settle for seventh place. Roosevelt Franklin was a controversial character who, until I researched Sesame Street further, had mostly passed me by. Back in the early days of the show it was only shown regionally in the UK and even then not consistently so Roosevelt quietly slipped into history over here. As I mentioned he was controversial and received criticism from some for being a stereotype, but I can’t see why all these years later he couldn’t be refreshed and come back. This song has a great laid back vibe to go with its great message. In fact it’s kind of funny that this song about stereotypes comes from a character criticized for being one. I’m not sure some of these lyrics would fly now so let’s enjoy it as intended in 1971.
6 – The Bear – Sesame Street
I must admit I can’t find a listing for this song on Muppet Wiki which seems a shame and somewhat surprising considering this video has received over 2 million views. It’s probably there somewhere – maybe it’s hibernating! Because I tend to focus on the Muppets in these charts the human cast of shows like Sesame Street don’t get featured as much as they probably should. As such the chances of seeing a character like Gabi appear should have been slim to nil, but here we are. Gabi was the daughter of Maria and Luis so I think it’s fair to say she grew up on the show. Despite being played by several actors (including Sonia Manzano’s real life daughter), it’s Desiree Casado that made the part her own. There’s something about her voice that I can’t put my finger on, but it draws me in every time I play this. I think it’s her youthfulness and the fact that it sounds authentic. Yeah, I think authentic is definitely the word (on the street).
5 – Being a Bear – Sesame Street (Song starts at 7:30)
Baby Bear is undoubtedly Sesame Street’s most famous bear and as such he’s one of the best known Muppet bears also. He’s been on the show since 1991, which is a fair old chunk of time, but if you’d asked me (and I’m not sure why you would) I’d have said he’s been around longer than that. He’s another character that seems to have hovered around the peripheries, but some reason never quite hit the heights of some of the Street’s biggest stars. I often think nostalgia has a lot to do with a Sesame character’s success so maybe his time is yet to come. He’s certainly cute and cuddly enough to feature more in merchandise than he does at present. David Rudman is storming this chart and that’s fine by me. I feel like David is only just now getting the credit he deserves for his years in service with the Muppets so I’m glad I can add my voice to the roar of the ever-expanding crowd.
4 – Bears, Bears, Bears – Sesame Street
Our trinity of Baby Bear songs ends appropriately enough with a trio sung by “The Three Bears” which uses the word “Bears” three times as its title! I guess by rights this should have scooped third place, but you can’t have everything… Joining David on this track are Joey Mazzarino and Camille Bonora, and while their voices as Daddy and Mommy Bear are a little “cartoonish” (for want of a better word) as a whole with Baby Bear they really work well together on this song. I love the way Baby Bear sounds really concerned at the start of this sketch. Along with his cute speech impediment, it really helps to emphasize his age. I guess thematically this is similar to “A Bear Eats Bear Food” in that it’s explaining that just because you don’t conform to preconceived notions of the “norm” you can still live life in a way that makes you happy and have a right to your heritage. That’s pretty deep for a bear song!
3 – Shape of a Bear – Bear in the Big Blue House
This is a two for one as this video includes not just Bear’s solo version but also the later reprise! I love Bear and I love the music of Bear in the Big Blue House. My biggest regret with these charts was that Noel MacNeal didn’t receive his own performer’s list – I just couldn’t fit it in and keep to a round number. Maybe one day I’ll right that wrong. Noel has a phenomenal voice that I enjoy listening to so much. He always gives a clean, crisp vocal that is well enunciated and easy to listen to. Noel currently has just a few days left on his current Kickstarter campaign to get “The Show Me Show” up and running so I urge everyone to go take a look. The show will be aimed at children with autism and special needs and is definitely worthy of support. Joining Noel (and Bear) on this song is another Muppet bear in the form of Ojo. She’s played by Vicki Eibner (who also has a great singing voice) and is a fantastic role model for little girls as she’s focussed and driven, yet vulnerable too.
2 – Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear – The Muppet Show
Obviously there was no way that I could produce a list of bear songs without featuring Fozzie – I could pretty much have just copied last month’s Fozzie Bear chart if I’d wanted to and the list would have been just as valid. However, I think the fact that that chart was so recent might have influenced the decision to make this his only appearance on today’s rundown (just for the sake of not repeating myself really). I guess it’s kind of ironic in that case that this song is mostly sung by Scooter, but it is about a bear and I took theme into account as much as who was singing. This is a classic piece from the very first episode of The Muppet Show and in some ways its vaudeville style became a blueprint for what followed. A Muppet or gang thereof singing to Rowlf’s onstage piano is probably the most seen thing on the show after the opening sequence and Statler and Waldorf’s complaining. Richard Hunt and Frank Oz are brilliantly funny and if this is how they started with Fozzie and Scooter you can see why they’ve became just as big as they have.
1 – The Bear Cha-Cha-Cha – Bear in the Big Blue House
I had no great expectations for this song to be number one, but once I combined song, singer, theme and cultural significance there really was no other choice! If you, or a person in your life, are the right age for this song/show there is no way you haven’t heard this before. In fact, I’d go as far as to say even if you don’t have much knowledge of the show there’s a fair chance you’ll have heard this somewhere. My nephew was born in 1996 and loved both Bear and this song so I always think of him when it comes on. It’s impossible to listen to this song without moving. It’s infectious! I’m so pleased that Noel MacNeal finally scored a number one song – he missed out on the Bear in the Big Blue House Chart as “Shadow’s Lullaby” pipped him into second place. Now he, and this song, can take their rightful place at the top. This is truly the most bear-ific song I know!
So now it just remains for me to wrap this chart up. Please bear with me while I do so. Things could get grizzly. (It should be noted that these bear puns are purely to make it harder for Jarrod to come up with some of his own when he posts this on Facebook – ain’t I a stinker?) (Note from Jarrod: Or I can just steal them! Thanks for doing my job for me!)
Bears are truly wonderful creatures. They sing, dance, tell jokes and eat bear food; but if there’s one thing we Muppet fans know above all else it’s that bears wear hats. That’s a fact you can take to the bank. This chart has shown that when it comes to Muppets, bears have the biggest hearts. They might be cute and cuddly or gruff and grizzly, but either way they are always warm-hearted and that’s the sign of a real Muppet. Thank you guys for truly being “care” bears. Thank You!