By Chris Cummins
By now you’ve probably seen the YouTube videos in which an
uncharacteristically dour Kermit the Frog covers songs by Nine Inch Nails,
Elliott Smith and Radiohead. As hilarious as these unauthorized “Sad Kermit”
videos are, they also bring to mind some of the more downbeat musical moments
from the real Muppets’ history.
Sure, everybody remembers “Mahna Mahna,” but what about the bittersweet
symphonies that so often took center stage during The Muppet Show, Sesame
Street and Fraggle Rock?
Part of the enduring charm of these shows (and their respective spin-off
movies and albums) is how they made puppet characters seem like real-life pals.
As Gonzo reminds us, there’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.
That’s exactly the sort of feeling that the Muppets invoke. So when Kermit
sings about feeling like an outsider in “Bein’ Green,” it’s only natural for
viewers of all ages to relate to his pain–often leading to some pretty
devastating moments of self-realization. With that in mind, grab a box of
tissues and prepare to unleash repressed childhood traumas with this list of
the seven most tear-inducing songs from Jim Henson’s various productions.
7) “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
While obviously not a Muppet original, this cover is well
worth a mention regardless. Throughout the history of the Muppets, the
characters have frequently gotten mileage out of performing poignant versions
of other artists’ work. (Check out Rowlf the Dog’s take on “New York State of
Mind” from his Ol’ Brown Ears Is Back album or The Muppet Show’s reworking
of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” into an anti-hunting anthem as
But none of these have the impact that Floyd Pepper’s version of The Beatles’ “While
My Guitar Gently Weeps” does. As silhouettes of other Muppets are seen going
about their business through window blinds, the Electric Mayhem bassist–whose
last name was taken from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album–performs
a stark cover that somehow manages to heighten the original’s themes of
isolation. George Harrison would be proud.
6) “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along”
Relationships can be brutal and they often end badly. But
the appeal of finding someone to complete and compliment you is so great that
you’ll put up with all the bullshit of chasing love — regardless of how
miserable it makes you. That’s the point of this song, a rare duet between
Kermit and Rowlf (both portrayed by Jim Henson) that gives kids advance warning
about how difficult matters of the heart will be once they get older and start
caring about such things. It’s pretty much the pre-schooler equivalent of Joy
Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart. ” A hard lesson that needs to be
learned, “I Hope That Something
Better Comes Along” proves that while Sesame Street may teach kids about
the ABCs and 123s, The Muppet Movie tells them about life.
5) “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday”
Taking a break from making jokes about wanting to fuck chickens,
Gonzo finally came into his own with this wrist-cutting ditty about longing
written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher from The Muppet Movie. Accompanied by Rowlf on harmonica, he
contemplates where he belongs in the world and sings about attempting to “hold
on to love like invisible strings.” Good luck with that. Stupid YouTube doesn’t
feature the scene from the film, so click ahead to 6:36 in the above clip and
enjoy a live performance of the song from 2001’s The Muppet Show: Live event
featuring Gonzo, Rowlf and Paul Williams. If you are feeling especially
sadistic, check out the bullshit remake of the song from the Gonzo-centric Muppets
in Space soundtrack. It will depress you too, although for entirely
4) “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”
Written by Jeff Moss — who also penned “Rubber Duckie” and “The
People in Your Neighborhood” — this pensive Sesame Street song features
Ernie dreaming of visiting far-off destinations before deciding that
homesickness will always bring him back to the people and places he’s known all
his life. Although this song features similar themes of wanderlust to those
explored in “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday,” there’s an additional subtext
here suggesting that venturing out on your own is ultimately a bad thing. No
wonder so many twenty/thirtysomethings seem unwilling to start their adult lives,
Ernie has brainwashed them into states of arrested development. And they say
Bert’s the evil one.
3) “Bein’ Green”
The first Sesame Street song to make an impact upon
popular culture, “Bein’ Green” has
been covered by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles since it
debuted in 1969 during the show’s first season. It has become Kermit the Frog’s signature tune, bringing
inspiration to people everywhere and being interpreted as a plea for
self-acceptance and racial equality. It’s also a miserable anthem of
self-loathing until the last verse when Kermit finally realizes that he’s
beautiful and that green is what he wants to be. Just saying. If you doubt that this song can evoke both pain
and joy, just watch this performance of “Bein’ Green” from Jim Henson’s
…yeah. We’ll wait while you get a tissue.
…yeah. We’ll wait while you get a tissue.
2) “The Rainbow Connection”
Admittedly, there is nothing depressing about “The Rainbow
Connection” per se. It is an uplifting song about having the courage to pursue
your dreams, just as Jim Henson himself did. But when he died unexpectedly in
1990, it became impossible to listen to without thinking about the tragedy of
his death. Nearly 20 years later, it’s still difficult to hear Kermit—to hear
Jim Henson–singing about “the lovers and dreamers and me” and not feel a sting
of sadness about how his life and work were so abruptly halted.
1) “The Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”
The most depressing Muppet moment since Big Bird had to
learn about Mr. Hooper dying, this song is sung by the mentally handicapped
Junior Gorg when he thinks he has killed Mokey in the Fraggle Rock episode
“Mokey’s Funeral.” It turned out that she was alive and well, but that’s small
consolation for the kids who were traumatized by this dirge about the “dead
little Fraggle.” Watch Fraggle
Rock and dance your cares away…then go for years of therapy.