“The Rainbow Connection”

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I saw a rainbow early this morning.  That’s the only reason for this.

Well that, and maybe I just happen to believe this song.  Maybe.

“Ode to Joy” (sort of)

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Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is one of the single most incredible musical achievements.  Ever.  It is the crowning moment of the Ninth Symphony, and possibly of his entire career.  It is stirring and inspirational and utterly breathtaking.  This is not that version.

I was thinking that it was time to post a little Muppet music, and did a search on YouTube for something fun.  I had originally wanted something from one of the classic Sesame Street albums I’d had as a kid, Bert & Ernie Sing-Along, and there were a couple of good moments from that.  But honestly, that’s an album that actually needs to be heard as a whole; if someone had posted it in its entirety, then I never would’ve done a search.  Which would’ve been a shame, because then I wouldn’t have seen this little comic wonder featuring everyone’s favorite lab assistant, Beaker.

This made me smile like not many things do, a smile of pure uncomplicated joy.  Innocence and happiness.  The fun of being a kid, or a kid at heart.  That’s what Muppets will do to you.  It’s also what “Ode to Joy” will do to you, except for maybe the kid part.  It is music that means to uplift your soul, and Beethoven accomplished that quite nicely, thank you very much.  But this version also makes it something that makes you laugh.  And there’s nothing more uplifting than a laugh just when you need one.

 

Repost: “Can You Picture That?”

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Today, I am nine again.

That’s how old I was when The Muppet Movie came out, and it is still one of my favorites.  For a kids’ movie, the jokes a pretty sophisticated, but then again, the Muppets weren’t really just for kids.  Sesame Street is for children, and The Muppet Show was designed as wholesome family entertainment.  But like all the best programs for kids, there was an adult sensibility built into it so that their parents would have something to laugh at, too.  The Muppet Movie was the same way, which is why the Muppets still hold up well today.

I also still love the soundtrack.  There are some truly excellent songs,”Rainbow Connection” being the most obvious.  The songs were catchy, clever, and carried  universal meaning.  Of course, they were also co-written by Paul Williams, one of the better songwriters of all time.  “Can You Picture That?” is performed in the movie by the Muppets’ resident rock band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, and it’s about as rocking as anything on the radio in that period.  The message?  Be yourself, believe in yourself; if you can imagine it, you can do it.  It’s pretty simple stuff.  But the presentation is palatable to all audiences, although kids might not get a lot of the references (I know I didn’t).  Listening closely, I realize that the lyrics are pretty disjointed; they seem to be put together largely for the rhymes.  “I never think of money, I think of milk and honey, grinning like a Cheshire cat. . .Can you picture that?”  The mental pictures the song creates are pretty wild.  There’s a bit of spoofing in the song, too.  A lot of rock-pop bands in the 70s sounded a lot like this, and although their lyrics were slightly more coherent, they were no less ridiculous.  There’s a (family friendly) appearance of hedonism, of “jelly belly giggling, dancing and a-wiggling, honey that’s the way I am.”  The message doesn’t even really show up until the bridge:  “Fact is there’s nothing out there you can’t do.  Yeah, even Santa Claus believes in you.”  The Muppets remind us that anyone can follow their dreams, even if their dreams are about an “aurora borealis, shining down in Dallas.”  Just remember to “use it if you need it, don’t forget to feed it.”  All you gotta do is see it.

Or as Animal succinctly put it, “Cas yah bag e yaht?”

Gone to the Movies: “I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along”

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I’m feeling a little silly tonight, and I haven’t posted any Muppets’ songs in a long time.  Which is about all I have by way of explanation about this post.

The way I figure it, I was at least partially raised by Jim Henson.  See, Sesame Street and I were born the same year, so I grew up watching his fur and felt creations there, as well as on The Muppet Show and in the movies.  I spent so much time watching the Muppets and listening to my various Muppet-themed albums, that it could be argued that Jim Henson was the equivalent to a babysitter for me.  I learned many important life lessons from the Muppets–sharing, friendship, loyalty, and all that good stuff.  It’s entirely possible that my morality stems not from my parents but from a bunch of puppets.  (Not that my parents didn’t impart lots of good lessons, or that they weren’t good people.  Things just seemed to make more sense when they came from multi-colored creatures of questionable origin with googly eyes.)

This particular song doesn’t really impart any important lessons, but it sure is fun.  Paul Williams’ slightly jazzy, slightly vaudevillian music is appealing, and the lyrics are clever and funny (best line: “A skunk was badgered, the results were strong.”).  And the camaraderie between Kermit and Rolf is wonderful.

They seem like real people, with the same cares and worries the rest of us have.  It’s just that everything is filtered through a slightly different lens.  That’s what always made the Muppets so special.  Jim Henson and his fellow puppeteers imbued these characters with such life that it’s easy to forget it’s a dog and frog singing about broken hearts and romance.  In a way, I guess that’s what makes it so easy for kids to hear the messages the Muppets teach.  Because they might be puppets, but they are just like everyone else.

BTW: Here’s a link to information about Jascha Heifetz, whom Rolf mentions at the beginning of the clip.  Just in case anyone cares.

“It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green”

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A special thanks goes out to Dan for inspiring this post.  His musings and ponderings and lessons always seem to coincide with whatever I happen to be struggling with at the moment.  And it’s always nice to have a fellow traveler on the road of life.

I’m not alone in this world when I say that there are things I don’t always like about myself.  At some point, we all wish for something we don’t have–or less of something we have too much of.  We might want to be taller, or skinnier, or have more money.  We might wonder why [insert deity here] has burdened us with poor health or personal problems.  We’re all occasionally ashamed of how we behave.  Sometimes, we’re all the last person we want to be around.

These feelings are only a problem if we let them control our lives.  Because with certain exceptions, most of the things we don’t like about ourselves can be changed. And if they can’t be changed, our attitude towards these perceived imperfections can be.  I have been blessed with good health, a roof over my head, and the luxury of cable television and Internet access.  There are many more things I’m grateful for, and that I know I’m lucky to have.  And when I’m really down on myself, sometimes it helps to remember those things.  But there are always times when I can’t pull myself out of the mental abyss, when my fear and worry and insecurity get the better of me.  Times when it feels like nothing will ever change no matter what I do, so I might as well give up.

That’s when I get myself a little shot of green.

I’ve known this song since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, but it didn’t really make sense until I was an adult.  Kermit’s theme song is about finding the beauty in who you are, whatever that is, even though “it seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.”  The hardest thing any of us ever have to accept is ourselves, warts and all.  But accepting yourself is the first step to . . . everything.  It gives you the strength to overcome and handle whatever life throws at you.  Love yourself.  Know yourself.  And for goodness sakes, stop being so hard on yourself.

“When green is all there is to be, it could make you wonder why, but why wonder.  Why wonder?  I’m green, and it’ll do fine.  It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.”

Jerry Nelson

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I’ve already established here that I grew up on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and that I adore the music created for both shows (check out posts here and here for further proof).  In general, I find a lot to value in children’s music, in spite of the fact that a lot of it makes me kind of sentimental and weepy.  Any song that says you are valuable for who you are is a good song, and this is the most important lesson we can teach children.

Jerry Nelson was the voice of many muppets, including The Count, Herry Monster, and Robin the Frog.  He passed away yesterday at 78.  Although he’d retired as a muppeteer, his passing is a huge loss for the world of entertainment.  I’ll be honest, I’m having a little trouble writing this without crying.  Because the muppets were such an important part of my childhood, because I learned so much more than numbers and letters from them.  I learned about sharing and kindness and self-esteem.  I learned how to be silly and how to sing.  I learned that kids voices matter, too, maybe more than anyone else.

This is a nice tribute I found on YouTube (thanks to wileyk209zback for creating and posting it).  The song is “Halfway Down the Stairs” written by A.A. Milne (a powerhouse in children’s literature).  Thanks, Jerry.  I’ll miss you more than you know.  Say hi to Jim and Mr. Hooper for me.