Kieran Moore – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go (or at the least on this very site) so I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled charts to get festive and celebrate the season.
To do this I’m going right back to basics and presenting a few seasonal charts based on the Christmas songs of some of our favorite Muppet performers. This week is Jim Henson. As the man who started it all, Jim was present for a lot of the Muppets’ Christmas output and really paved the way for things to come. Since his death the gang have become synonymous with the holidays, but without Jim’s love of the season I don’t know if they’d have been quite as prolific at this time of year as they have become.
Let’s start off with some Jingle Bell “Rock”!
10 – There’s a Promise – Fraggle Rock
Psst! You over there! Yes, you. I know you’re a long time reader of my charts so I’m going to share something with you that I’m not going to tell everyone. Can you keep a secret? These Muppet performer charts are as much of an excuse for me to highlight some of my favorite Muppet Christmas tracks as they are to honor the amazing work of the performer in question. Don’t worry; every song here will feature Jim, just not necessarily in a large role. Take this Fraggle Rock song for example – it’s an fun holiday number that reminds us of how Christmas is only really where it is in the calendar because of the winter solstice and how the world takes this opportunity to be renewed for the coming year. It’s also a fabulous Fraggle group number, but that’s just it – it’s a group number. Jim Henson, though present, doesn’t really have any solo lines or standout moments so although it’s credited in his chart, it’s really just here because I love it (and because Jim is awesome as Cantus). Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’m bending the rules a bit. Don’t tell anyone or I’ll be in trouble with the boss!
9 – Christmas Pageant – Merry Christmas from Sesame Street
We’ve discussed before what does and doesn’t constitute a song and you could argue that this is just a poem set to music, but it’s done in such a sing-song way that as far as I’m concerned this counts a song. It’s simply hilarious with so many classic Sesame Street performers present, including Jerry Nelson, Fran Brill and, of course, Jim Henson as Ernie. I guess the real star of this track though is Frank Oz who is perfection as Bert, Cookie Monster and Grover. It’s a great, multi-charactered performance from him. As much as I love Steve Whitmire and Billy Barkhurt there’s something special about old school Ernie – Jim really brings some magic to the part. I guess as the originator of the character, his sense of playful fun was really what gave Ernie his essence. This piece deserves to be played every Christmas Eve in every household as far as I’m concerned. You better not be the one to let the world down this year…
8 – Jingle Bells/Jingle Bell Rock – Muppet Family Christm
This is a double hitter with Jim playing both Kermit the Frog and Dr. Teeth. To start this number off he harmonizes beautifully with Jerry Nelson as Robin before the track really kicks it into gear. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem perform a gusto-filled version of Jingle Bell Rock that wouldn’t look out of place on a Phil Spector Christmas album. Any festive song with a horn section is instantly evocative of that pre-Christmas party and shopping season where lights twinkle brightly as people wrapped up like hot water tanks struggle to buy perfume from expensive department stores. It really captures the urgency and excitement of those last few days before Christmas. Jim, Jerry and Richard Hunt are, by this stage, well-versed in performing Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper and Janice respectively and their harmonies at the end are every bit as good as Kermit and Robin’s at the start.
7 – The Pleasure of You Company – A Christmas Together
Although I’m here today to talk about this song you really should treat yourself and watch the scenes before and after as well as a minimum. They are perfectly Muppety and warm my heart. This song appears only on the television special of A Christmas Together and isn’t on the album. A Muppety friend of mine who I’ve since lost contact with once told me that as far as he was concerned the album of songs was far superior to the special. I don’t really agree with that I’m afraid. I do prefer the recordings, but this special is still very, very good as far as I’m concerned and this is a fun number. Speaking of my old friend, as this is Christmas I’d like to wish him a very merry one and hope that he is well. We crossed paths purely by accident on two different discussion boards (one Muppet and one Disney) and had a ton of stuff in common. He was an awesome guy and sent me Muppety gifts and we had a lot of fun conversing, but he decided the internet wasn’t for him at that time and we lost touch. I still miss him. Probably some of you guys know him too, but I won’t name him in case he doesn’t want to be found. I do sure wish I had the pleasure of his company though.
6 – Annual Carol Sing – Muppet Family Christmas
This medley (and the whole special in fact) is an annual tradition for me. I’ve already listened to it several times. Almost every classic Christmas song is presented here and just about every lead character gets at least a line or two to themselves making it a great showcase for the Muppets and Muppet performers. Speaking of which Jim Henson is all over this as Kermit, Rowlf, Waldorf, Ernie and countless others. I don’t know about you, but I’d gladly join in a real life version of this track. Wouldn’t it be cool to get a whole bunch of people together to recreate this? There’s no need to go full on cosplay or anything, but just to perform the songs as presented here. Maybe next year we should set up a global link up as Muppet fans and do it. I think that would be very special indeed. In the meantime, we’ll just enjoy the experts doing what they do best…
5 – Silver Bells – Sesame Street Christmas Sing-Along
Bert and Ernie have a handful of gentler numbers in their repertoire, but they’re not what they’re necessarily known for so this makes a nice change of pace. I guess the holidays make them mellow out a bit. In a similar way to the other Sesame Street track, their voices ring out loud and clear here (a bit like bells I suppose). I don’t know why, but Muppet audio releases always get the best out of the performers in terms of the purity of the characters voices. Most Muppet songs are pre-recorded and then lip synched so there’s no real reason why audio tracks should be any different, but somehow they almost always are. The video linked to above is from prolific YouTuber tjrsmc who has posted an incredible range of rare and unusual Muppet songs over the years, all acted out with soft toys or puppets. I don’t generally feature his videos as the audio isn’t always great, but as it’s Christmas I thought I’d shine a light on this Muppet super fan’s work.
4 – The Christmas Song – Muppet Family Christmas
It doesn’t seem to matter when or where – The Swedish Chef singing will always be hilarious. The joke wouldn’t work nearly as well if he sang in an actual language, but because he is borking gibberish and everyone carries on as if they know exactly what he’s saying it’s made much, much funnier. Of course, in this instance we do actually know what he’s singing because the song is so well known. Did you know? (and this is true): The Christmas Song is actually one of the top 10 highest earning songs of all time. If you haven’t heard it at least a bazillion times by Christmas day you’re probably living on Mars. The story of how Jim came up with Chef’s voice is now legendary, but it basically came from a tape of “How to Speak Mock Swedish”. I think if such a thing were to be created now The Swedish Chef would probably be the one to record it! This is a lovely song with a great sentiment and it warms my heart to listen to it.
3 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
Having said Bert and Ernie aren’t known for gentle songs I now present another one almost instantly. This is one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs ever from one of the best ever Muppet Christmas productions (ever). I can’t think of two better Sesame Street characters to sing this – a song all about being together at Christmastime sung by two of the world’s most famous friends. Watching this now I find it particularly touching that neither Bert nor Ernie look at each other very much through the song. It makes it seem more like a silent prayer than an outpouring of love and that makes it extra special as it’s not flashy or trying to garner a response. This is simple, quiet and brilliant. In stark contrast to something like Jingle Bell Rock, this reminds us of family, togetherness and the more reflective element of the Christmas season.
2 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – A Christmas Together
I did say this was one of my favorite songs ever and this is undeniably my favorite version. I love the way Rowlf and John’s voices work together. Rowlf is gruff and growly and John sounds clear, crisp and light. Both of them have the reverence to pull of such an emotional song and this really is about as good as Christmas songs get in my book. I can’t say enough nice things about it. My singing group perform this track also and (unknowingly to my band mates) I would count this version as a direct influence on how we sing it. It’s very similar in tone and arrangement. For all its sentimentality, there’s a bitter-sweet edge to this song as we remember those who can’t be with us for whatever reason at this most special time of year. As much as I celebrate the joy of the season, it’s important to acknowledge the more sombre elements too. Either way, this is truly something special.
1 – The Christmas Wish – A Christmas Together
This song has been featured twice very recently so I won’t write reams about it again now. Instead, I thought I’d share the song’s lyrics as my Christmas Wish to you – my readers. I truly mean every word.
I don’t know if you believe in Christmas,
or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree.
But if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for you to come and celebrate with me.
For I have held the precious gift that love brings
even though I’ve never saw a Christmas star.
But I know there is a light, I have felt it burn inside,
and I can see it shining from afar.
Christmas is a time to come together,
a time to put all differences aside.
And I reach out my hand to the family of man
to share the joy I feel at Christmas time.
For the truth that binds us all together,
I would like to say a simple prayer,
That at this special time, you will have true peace of mind
and love to last throughout the coming year.
And if you believe in love, that will be more than enough
for peace to last throughout the coming year.
And peace on earth will last throughout the year.
I think that says it all really.
As I approach the bottom of this page (I hear there’s a monster at the end of this website), I must give special thanks Jim Henson for providing so much incredible Christmas material for us Muppet fans. Jim, you’ve supplied us with festive favorites and started traditions that will no doubt last generations. I think you made the world a “bit better” at this time of year. Thank you and Merry Christmas.