In Tributes, we spotlight a musical group or artist of particular merit who has received the a cappella treatment on more than one occasion. In this edition, in honor of their film that opens later this week, we recognize The Muppets.
In the 1950s, Jim Henson unleashed a merry band of anthropomorphized animal puppets on the world. No one could have predicted the brand's popularity, nor its longevity, but, over a span of decades, the crew has starred in shows like Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and, of course, The Muppet Show. They’ve been the subject of six major motion pictures date, and will add a seventh volume to the catalog on Thanksgiving eve.
So what’s the appeal of The Muppets? It’s not hard to identify why young people and families love them. Particularly via Sesame Street, they make learning fun, setting a standard long before the days of Blues Clues or Dora the Explorer with entertaining television designed to teach the fundamentals of reading, arithmetic and other disciplines. Of comparable importance, they don’t leave parents out in the cold. Through a layered approach to humor and frequent celebrity guests, they often, quite literally, offer something for the whole family.
But moving away from Big Bird and Elmo’s stomping ground, to the primetime ensemble, The Muppets represent some of what’s best and most universal in all of us. Fozzy Bear is the most loyal of friends, chasing a dream of show biz glamour against all odds. Gonzo is the wild card buddy who’s just as likely to come through in a jam as he is to (unwittingly) cause said jam. Miss Piggy may be a prima donna, but at the end of the day, she’s passionate about what she does and good-hearted. And then there’s Kermit the Frog—an idealist whose ethics never falter; a kind uncle who serves a mentor and role model; a leader. Kermit is perhaps best defined by one of his most famous quotes in The Muppet Movie, negating the claims of the self-absorbed and destructive villain of the film, Doc Hopper, and representing a stance with which many a cappella musicians may identify: “I've got a dream too, but it's about singing and dancing and making people happy. That's the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with.”
Yes, Kermit has been sharing his dream of music with generations of fans, more than a few of whom are a part of the a cappella community (as the videos below attest!). To the entire Muppet gang, we take our hats off to you, and can’t wait to get reacquainted in the theater this week.
The Yale Whiffenpoofs’ version of “The Rainbow Connection.”
UC Irvine Circle of Fifth’s take on “The Rainbow Connection.”
Dan Wright’s one-man a cappella group rendition of The Muppet Show theme.