Rockstars And The Rainbow Connection: Some of The Best Musical Appearances on The Muppet Show

© The Muppet Show, 1980

By Neve Robinson

Ah, The Muppet Show. Beloved by everyone from the freshest of flowers to those in the same age bracket as Statler and Waldorf, The Muppets have a strangely appealing quality that spans across well – everyone, really. It’s no surprise then, that from the 1976-1981 original run of the show to even modern Muppet iterations today, even the most golden of musical glitterati couldn’t resist getting involved with the fuzzy friends. Having been host to the likes of Dave Grohl, Charles Aznavour, Harry Belafonte and Weezer, the puppets have performed alongside a smorgasbord of incredible and random guests over the years. Here’s a few of the best fabulously bizarre moments that two entertainment worlds collided over, erm, frog and pig puppets.

Elton John

In 1977, the bonafide king of glam rock and all things fabulously flamboyant graced The Muppet Show stage by playing his classic croon Crocodile Rock in- you guessed it – a swamp filled with crocodiles. In Kermit’s best-selling tell-all autobiography (the greatest autobiography since the likes of Nelson Mandela’s, arguably)  Before You Leap, Kermit states that his mother booked Elton John into the local theatre. While there, Kermit’s mother of course introduced John to the crocodile that inspired “Crocodile Rock.” I think Bernie Taupin was probably in that swamp too, you know. Why didn’t The Electric Mayhem play on more John records?

Joan Jett

Punk princess Joan Jett of The Runaways and The Blackhearts fame produced probably her greatest musical offering yet (and from a legend like her, that’s saying something) when she collaborated with The Muppets in 2016 to sing Bad Reputation. When Miss Piggy suffers a scandalous wardrobe malfunction, the network that The Muppets are represented by is outraged, and Piggy is forced to question everything she stands for. By the end of the episode, Jett helps Piggy remember her worth and empowers her – who cares if the public sees your pig tail, right? And who better to teach Miss Piggy to not give a f*ck than the queen of not giving a f*ck herself. #UnveilTheTail, man.

Debbie Harry

It’s hard to think of anything cooler and more iconic than Blondie bombshell Deborah Harry. But then I remembered that she dueted with Kermit The Frog in 1980, and the result was glorious. Beyond glorious. Here she is singing a favourite childhood song of mine and millions of others, The Rainbow Connection, but she also sang her own classics like Call Me and One Way Or Another. In the episode, Kermit’s unbearably cute nephew Robin’s Scout Troop visit the show and ask Debbie for her help in earning their “punk merit badges”. I’m still hoping to earn mine one day…

Alice Cooper

Make no mistake, there is nothing more shock-rock in the world than erm, singing puppets. Alice Cooper proved this point in his 1978 Muppet Show appearance, claiming to be an agent of the Devil and a Faustian character trying to strike a deal with The Muppets for their souls. After all, I think we can all agree that Kermit has much more soul, personality and good morals than most living souls these days. I can understand why Cooper fancied pinching our favourite Amphibian-American’s. Here he is performing School’s Out. I bet headteacher Sam The Eagle feels a right daft sod now.

Arlo Guthrie

1979 saw son of Woody, folk star Arlo Guthrie, play some of his greatest hits on a farm-themed Muppet stage (mainly from his 1976 record, Amigo). Normally, Guthrie would lend his voice to songs of human rights struggles and social justice ballads. I’d argue that the plight of The Swedish Chef looking for something to cook for a family meal other than his chicken counterparts is…sort of a social issue. Starvation? Maybe? I don’t know if these puppets even have digestive systems, but I digress.

Paul Simon

Paul Simon is arguably the cutest human on Earth. That’s just a fact. So what could be more wholesome than our sunshiney king singing with the cutest puppets on earth?! 1980 blessed us with an episode dedicated to the Simon & Garfunkel folk trailblazer, as he helped Gonzo learn to improve on his songwriting. Though personally, I find Gonzo’s lyricism quite inspiring. “For youuu… I’d wash my hair with stinky glue, I’d fry my legs and eat them too, I’d put a spider in my shoe — for yoouuuu!” I hope one day someone writes a song for me that’s so rich with romantic sentiment.

Johnny Cash

Probably one of the most famous Muppets guests, in 1980 a country-themed episode played host to the iconic Johnny Cash. Cash dueted with Rowlf the dog in Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog, a song surprisingly not written just for the purpose of singing one day an anthropomorphic hound, but rather actually performed live at the famous Folsom Prison concert by Cash. Rowlf ended up taking great offence to the lyrics within, though Cash assured him it was in jest. I think Cash’s greatest beef was probably with a puppet dog, you know. He was a fairly agreeable guy by all accounts. Well, unless you’re Waylon Jennings of The Highway Man. If you’re interested…

Prince

Muppets Tonight treated us to a 1997 cameo from the dearly missed Prince, and what a cameo that it was. He was known as his symbol at this time, so he’s referred to chiefly as ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’. Behold, as TAFKAP creates a song made from the Commissary menu of the hotel he’s staying in. Not sure why he plumps for this rather than Raspberry Sorbet, but I’m not complaining; this is a bonafide banger.

Dolly Parton

Good golly, Miss Dolly! Now here is a Muppet icon in her own right. Dolly Parton is the definition of a country legend (and, of course, an inspiration to the equally pink and fabulous blonde bombshell Miss Piggy herself). Muppet Magazine, a respected publication on a par with the one you are currently privy to, crowned Ms Parton an Honorary Muppet in 1986. She has collaborated with the Muppets many times, most recently in 2012 singing Islands In The Stream with Kermit as her Kenny Rogers. I’ve attached a clip from the 1987 Dolly show, so technically this isn’t a Muppets appearance. But it’s far too iconic to not include. I think Dolly and Kermit make quite the fetching couple, don’t you?

David Byrne

Okay, okay, so this isn’t quite a cameo as such. Talking Heads frontman Byrne isn’t present – or is he? Listen, it would be so wrong of me to not finish on this gem. I’m not going to explain this 1980 classic video; some art is better appreciated as is, you know? Besides, you’d only tell me to stop making sense, anyway. If you know, you know.