John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together is a 1979 Christmas television special starring Jim Henson's Muppets and singer-songwriter John Denver. The special first aired December 5, 1979, on ABC. The special has never been commercially released on any standard home video format.
The special opens with Denver and the Muppets singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas". To add comedic effect, Fozzie Bear forgets his line ("Seven swans a-swimming.") and Miss Piggy overemphasizes hers ("Five gold rings, ba-dum, bum, bum.")
The main plot of the rest of the special is the creation of the special itself and a special musical number for Miss Piggy. During the discussion of her number, Miss Piggy confronts Denver in her dressing room about their presumably mutual attraction. Miss Piggy, as a doll named Fifi, sings "I Will Wait for You" to Denver, who plays a wooden soldier trying to stay in step with a line of marching wooden soldiers.
The program concludes with Denver reciting the story of Jesus' birth and joining the Muppets to sing "Stille Nacht/Silent Night" while the children in the audience join in.
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, The Swedish Chef, Waldorf, and Link Hogthrob
- Frank Oz as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal
- Jerry Nelson as Robin the Frog, Sgt. Floyd Pepper, and Lew Zealand
- Richard Hunt as Scooter, Janice, Statler, and Beaker
- Dave Goelz as Gonzo the Great, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Zoot
Better known is the soundtrack album of the same name, which featured 13 tracks of traditional Christmas carols and original songs. This album, originally released on RCA Records in October 1979, was re-released on CD by Denver's own Windstar label in 1990 and again by LaserLight Digital in 1998; LaserLight issued it once again in 2000, this time as an abridged 10-track version; the original full-length CD was subsequently reissued in its entirety in 2006 (the previously missing tracks are "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "When the River Meets the Sea", and "Little Saint Nick"). All releases of the album contain a different recording of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" than that featured in the TV special, along with their rendition of "Christmas Is Coming".
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", and "A Baby Just Like You" was released as a red vinyl 45 rpm single (RCA PB-11767), while "The Peace Carol", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", and "Deck the Halls" were issued on a radio-only promo single (RCA PB-9463).
A sheet music edition was also released containing most of the songs and the musical scores from the special.
The following credits are sourced from liner notes included with the album release:
- John Denver – lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, arranger
- Hal Blaine – drums, percussion, arranger
- Denny Brooks – acoustic guitar, arranger
- James Burton – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dobro, arranger
- Ray Charles – vocal arranger
- Emory Gordy Jr. – bass guitar, arranger
- Glen D. Hardin – piano, electric piano, electric organ, celesta, arranger
- Lee Holdridge – orchestra arranger
- Jim Horn – flute, tin whistle, alto flute, bass flute, baritone saxophone, arranger
- Herb Pedersen – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, arranger
- Danny Wheetman – mandolin, harmonica, arranger
Jim and Jane Henson rolled out the first Muppets in 1955, and the ensuing 65 years have given the franchise time to expand into virtually every medium, from film and TV to music and theater, and on to internet memes, Vines, and an AR app. There’s an awful lot of Muppet history to sort through, but inevitably, we all have our favorite Muppet moments. As the newest Muppet TV series, Muppets Now, heads to Disney Plus on July 31, Polygon’s entertainment writers are spending the week looking back on the Muppet creations that have meant the most to us over the years.
For me, the Muppets have always been a kind of warm, constant alterna-family. The franchise has its roots in slapstick, vaudeville, and visual surrealism, but there was a real and constant sweetness and sense of emotional support and connection under Kermit’s exasperation, Fozzie’s flop sweat, Miss Piggy’s vanity and hopeless crush on Kermit, and all the many bit players’ hankering for fame and recognition. Jim Henson’s own warmth and sincerity as a creator made it easy for him to slide from goofy comedy into the authentic emotion of classic sequences like Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection” or Gonzo’s “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” in The Muppet Movie, or virtually anything involving Kermit’s nephew Robin.
So much as I love the Muppets harassing John Cleese or vamping it up with Jason Segel, I’ve always gotten more out of the Muppets’ sincere side — especially when it comes with just a wink of comedy instead of outright wackiness.
Favorite official Muppets release
John Denver’s “When the River Meets the Sea”
The 1979 special John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together is awkward in a lot of respects, with an elaborate staged dance number involving singer-songwriter John Denver as a toy soldier (Denver was not primarily a dancer), and a retelling of Jesus’ birth, complete with a baby Muppet Jesus. But the album associated with the special was a staple in my home at Christmas, and it includes some extra songs that didn’t make it into the special — notably “When the River Meets the Sea,” a song written by Paul Williams for the 1977 Muppets holiday special Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. No offense meant to that special, but I always liked the Kermit-Robin-John Denver version better musically and vocally. It’s a sweet, sad song that essentially promises us we’re all going to find a purpose in death — a pretty heady concept for a kid at Christmas, but still a warm and uplifting one, especially coming from some very comforting Muppets, and John Denver, who was practically a Muppet himself.
Favorite unofficial release
Kermit and Fozzie improv in a tree
One of the best things about the Muppets’ long run overall was the creative relationship between Jim Henson and his longtime partner-in-crime Frank Oz. This early camera test to see how Muppets would play outdoors, ahead of The Muppet Movie, could have just been the puppeteers waving their Muppets around for five minutes to see how well they registered onscreen.
But, Henson and Oz being who they were, the experiment turned into an improv conversation about the philosophy of being puppets. First Fozzie and Kermit force each other to face some painful truths about their own nature, and then they come to terms with it. The Kermit-Piggy sequence isn’t as meta and ridiculous, but the interactions between Kermit, Fozzie, and some actual cows (with Henson accidentally slipping onscreen at one point, and both men occasionally laughing as much out of character and in character) is a lovely little piece of live personality showing up onscreen.
“To Morrow,” from The Muppet Show
The Muppet Show was always pretty up front about its creators’ sense of humor — their love of wordplay, visual comedy, and expressing both through elaborate puppets. That’s why I’ve always gotten a giggle out of “To Morrow,” a Muppet Show number featuring “The Country Trio,” a threesome of puppets modeled directly after Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry Nelson, the voice and puppeteer behind the Count, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and many other Muppet and Sesame Street stalwarts.
The song itself is a bouncy bop, with its tangled “Who’s On First”-style comedy misunderstandings, but what really gets me here is the sense of seeing Henson, Oz, and Nelson preserved together as they were, as cheery, bouncy creators, just slamming out a ridiculous ditty that made them happy.
[a seething Miss Piggy storms up to Kermit]
Kermit the Frog: Oh, Miss Piggy appears angry.
Miss Piggy: Angry? No, I am not angry. Your star is not angry. She is merely... disappointed.
Kermit the Frog: Disappointed?
Miss Piggy: [turns around to show backpack on her back] Yes. You have not been honest with me, Kermit.
Kermit the Frog: I haven't?
Miss Piggy: [turns back to Kermit sharply] No. When you told me we were spending a week in the swamp, you never said there would be snakes and spiders and...
Miss Piggy: ... alligators!
Kermit the Frog: No, I was saving the best part for a surprise.
Miss Piggy: [incredulous] Surprise?
[Kermit nods again]
Miss Piggy: Kermie, you are out of your little green mind!
Kermit the Frog: Well, gee, Miss Piggy, I was born in the swamp. My roots are there, and I just wanted you and my other friends to see it. But we don't have to go back to the swamp. We can, uh... We can go back to where YOU were born: the sty.
[Piggy looks stunned]
Kermit the Frog: You know, where YOUR roots are.
Kermit the Frog: Where pigs eat swill! And wallow in the mud! Remember that, huh?
Miss Piggy: Huh?
Kermit the Frog: *Huh*?
Miss Piggy: *HUH*? Remember THIS!
[she karate chops him so hard that it sends him flying into the stage curtain]
John denver kermit
Are you offended. She asked quietly. I was silent, and Natasha began stroking my neck and shoulder blades, whispering soothing words. Her gentle touches made me feel warm and pleasant, and I felt that my legs were moisturized.John Denver \u0026 Cass Elliot - Leaving On A Jet Plane
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