When Jim Henson created The Muppet Show in the mid-1970s, he hoped to make a television program that whole families would be excited to watch together. As in his older hit Sesame Street, Henson used celebrity guest stars in the new show, but instead of having them sing nursery rhymes or teach counting, the musical guests took center stage. Each star gave several performances of songs pulled straight from each artist's greatest hits. While Muppets often took part in the elaborate performances, the lyrics were rarely changed. Put simply, whereas Sesame Street used guest stars for educational purposes—The Muppet Show used them for extravagant, kooky, sometimes flat-out weird musical numbers.
The producers didn't shy away from songs with mild adult themes.
Take, for example, Loretta Lynn's classic complaint about how much motherhood sucks, "One's On the Way."
Another tune you'll never find on Kidz Bop? Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler."
Other times, they just rocked hard, like in these two Alice Cooper numbers.
One thing that tied all the performers together: they had unimpeachable musical cred.
Some guests were also seriously cutting-edge.
If you were a kid whose entire knowledge of pop music came from The Muppet Show, you would have been seriously cool.
And then, of course, there are the pure, fluffy morsels of pop delight that are Elton John's performances.
We think this might actually be Elton John's natural habitat?
Aside from being a lot of fun, the Muppet Show is an amazing, genre-bending archive of the best the music industry had to offer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While the videos available online sadly aren't super high-quality, the performances were always top-notch—and the show's zany, surreal signature style gave the era's biggest stars a chance to reimagine their hits in creative new ways.
Feature image via Muppet Wiki