I think the first time I brought up the Jim Henson memorial service, that took place in 1990 was when I posted a video of the Muppeteers singing a deeply-moving version of the song “Just One Person,” which I posted here.
That same performance also showed up here the other day when I posted a long medley of favorite Henson songs at that memorial, which ended with that performance of “Just One Person.”
What I noted in that original post back in 2013 was that while most people probably think that “Just One Person” is a Muppet song, written for them – when in fact it’s from the stage musical Snoopy!!!!” with a score by Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady.
I had mentioned this the other day when I sent the memorial video to my friend Carla Winnie who I got to know a little over three years when she was my realtor. Why I sent the video specifically to Carla is that (as I’ve noted here) it turns out that earlier in her career, Carla was an actress in musicals and was actually in that original production of Snoopy!!! and can be heard on the original cast album. To be great surprise, when she watched the video (and loved it), she had absolutely no idea that “Just One Person” was no associated with The Muppets. But was thrilled to know that the song had been given such a wonderful afterlife. I liked, too, what she said, as well –
“That is my favorite song from Snoopy. I just love that song, and taught it to my son's class when he was in the 5th grade. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I had not realized the Muppets adopted it. How perfect. I know that Charles Schultz loved that song.”
And what a wonderful coda to know how much Charles Schultz loved the song, from its original incarnation.
The Muppets first sang it on The Muppet Show when Bernadette Peters was the host that week. And perhaps other times, as well, I can’t recall offhand. I bring all that up because for all the other performances they’ve done of the song, I have a feeling that this video below may be what solidified the song with The Muppets for them and in the public’s mind.
It requires a bit of an explanation for the full impact. After he died, The Muppets did a tribute special on Jim Henson. The premise of the special was that The Muppets had heard about this guy Jim Henson who seemed pretty great, and so they wanted to honor him – though to the viewers it’s clear they’re unaware he’s passed away. Also, for some reason that The Muppets can’t understand during this broadcast, Kermit is not there backstage with them to help put the tribute together. In fact, he’s not there for the entire show. The subtext, of course, for the TV audience is the question: without Kermit’s voice will the Muppets be able to go on without him?
This clip is from the end of the tribute special – it’s very good, but all the more impactful when you understand, to reiterate, that there’s been no Kermit for the full hour. Not a word from him, no sight of him. Only all the other Muppets. So…what will they do? Note, too, that at the very end, they bring in Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Elmo and some others from Sesame Street – I think it’s the first time characters from Sesame Street (other than Kermit) were on TV with those from The Muppet Show. So, it sort of unites all the Muppets together without Kermit, and the question of how they can go on not just without Kermit, but importantly, without Kermit’s voice.
Which brings us to this clip --
And a bonus comment to this all --
I don’t know if this was intentional (I suspect not, though it could have been), but the Muppet character who was so sad about being ignored and then Bernadette Peters sings "Just One Person" to in the aforementioned first performance of this song The Muppet Show is Kermit’s nephew Robin. And in that Jim Henson tribute video above, I noticed that the Muppet character who cheers up Fozzie Bear and starts to sing “Just One Person” is…Kermit’s nephew Robin! If that was intentional, it was very clever. And if it was just chance, what a fascinating bit of kismet.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor