With the new Muppet movie making a new cinematic rainbow connection in November, we started reflecting on all of the amazing musicians that graced the stage of the long running series. Not that we don't fully embrace this reboot of the Muppets franchise, but we can help but marvel at just how amazing the original really was.
What made the original so good was that it treated its musical guests just like it did its audience: with smarts, fearless silliness and no small bit of joyful chaos. That attracted serious musicians who didn't mind coming on and being not-so-serious for a while.
The Muppets have moved from vinyl to 8-track to cassettes to CDs, and now a whole new generation will get to know them in digital form. In honor of them having been around for so long and making the world a better and more musical place -- and for introducing us to a slew of kick ass musicians -- here's a rundown of The Muppet Show's top ten musical guests.
10. Elton John Seriously, it's like Elton John was born to guest-star on The Muppet Show. Not only does his music inspire creativity and happiness, but his fashion was less about being in style, and more about plain old fun. Nothing quite screamed late '70s like Elton's flamboyant nature and wardrobe. Does anybody else think that it's very possible that Elton John got his wardrobe ideas from Jim Henson? He really did have a lot in common with Miss Piggy. We can only hope that Elton's new baby enjoys this old episode as much as we do.
9. Alice Cooper Alice Cooper put away his hardcore act for one night to not only introduce himself to the younger Muppets in the audience, but to show that he wasn't all scary stage antics -- he was a monster lover as well. Cooper is known for his flashy stage shows, and this appearance on The Muppet Show is no exception. Any hardcore rocker that can put aside his boa constrictor and dance with an animated ghost just to entertain kids is pretty rad in our books. And honestly, he does make a pretty cool Dracula.
8. Steve Martin Before most people knew Steve Martin as a musician, he was on The Muppet Show. This particular scene highlights Martin's kick-ass banjo skills (which he frequently showcased in his stand-up, and more recently on his national tour) while rockin' out with some of the most lovable Muppets. In the same show, he also performs "A Rambling Guy/Man" which doesn't feature the Muppets, but is absolutely hilarious. Google it. Which highlights why we love the Muppets so much; any show that not only allows a full-grown man to make an ass out of himself, but encourages it? Genius.
7. Buddy Rich Two words: DRUM BATTLE!! Buddy Rich (to those of you who don't appreciate awesome jazz) was a percussionist best known for his speed and technique. Rich was a drumming force, and nobody else was a better match for him than Animal. Maybe it's just us, but we always had a soft spot for Animal, and this drum battle is one of the reasons. Not only can we relate to Animal's insane and uncontrollable love for music, but we envy his stellar drum skills. And although Animal gives up halfway through the contest (we don't blame him), he makes us proud.
6. Debbie Harry There's just something sexy about Debbie Harry in a an orange jumpsuit, but leave it to the Muppets to turn "One Way Or Another" and "Call Me" into a non-sexy, funny, monster-filled time. But it's her duet on "Rainbow Connection" duet with "Kermie" that's the standout. It not only makes us smile, but it also showed off Harry's mad vocal skillz. Best known for her funky, synthesized vocals, she's able to keep up with our little green frog in this version, and we appreciate it. And don't lie -- we know you're like us and still tear up just a bit when we hear that slow banjo opening and hear the words "Why are there so many/songs about rainbows..."
5. Dizzy Gillespie One of the reasons we loved the episodes where the Muppets showcased musicians was because they never stuck to one genre. If you were a big fan of Debbie Harry, for example, you probably didn't know who Dizzy Gillespie was, outside of his name and maybe his musical rep. But that was the beauty of it: Gillespie was one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, and it was incredible to enjoy that kind of range on any network television, let alone what looked to be a kids' show. Not to take anything away from The Electric Mayhem, but Gillespie does kind of steal the show on this one.
4. Harry Belafonte "Banana Boat?" YES! We find it hard to find a more appropriate song to be on The Muppet Show than this one, and nobody could have done it better than the "King of Calypso" himself. The very first time Harry Belafonte sang this famous song on television was on The Muppet Show, and the Muppets roll out the red carpet. When you have the most famous furry creatures singing your back-up vocals, you know you've made it big. Plus, it gives us some insight into what the hell these lyrics mean. Again, the Muppets not only entertained us, but taught us lessons.
3. Johnny Cash Just to prove how cool The Muppet Show was in its time, it got no less than the Man in Black to come in and play "Ghost Riders in the Sky" while Gonzo rode a bucking cow in the foreground. Granted, this was the era of "Urban Cowboy" and the country-music craze of 1980, but really, when a legend like Cash agrees to come in and grin goofily at the goings-on? There's probably not much you can't get away with. The only thing missing is a sketch in which Fozzie shoots a man in Reno just to watch him die.
2. Linda Ronstadt Kermie falls completely head over heels for Linda Ronstadt when she guest stars...and we can't blame him. When they sing "When I Grow Too Old to Dream," who didn't hope that those two crazy kids would make it work, age (and species) differences be damned? Well, Miss Piggy didn't. No one can come between a pig and her froggie love. (You have to respect anyone who wears pearls and kicks ass. No, really. You have to.) Ronstadt might have been the pop-ingenue of the moment back in the day, with one of the prettiest voices out there (and who can beat Rowlf the Dog on piano?)... but there's no denying Miss Piggy.
1. John Denver It says a lot about John Denver and The Muppet Show that Denver's performance of "Grandma's Feather Bed" didn't creep us out. It didn't even occur to us that it's like a swingers party in this bed, nor did it bother us to see John in a wig pretending to be grandma. He's John Denver, dammit. He can do and sing whatever the hell he wants. John Denver appeared on The Muppet Show, made albums featuring the Muppets (his Christmas CD is still one of our faves), and appeared in multiple TV shows featuring the Muppets. He basically muppeted-out -- which sounds like a pretty rewarding thing to do, come to think of it.
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