For over 65 years The Muppets have delighted and amused us all, with the inimitable likes of Kermit, Miss Piggy and Gonzo having charmed their way into our hearts in one way or another.
The arrival of The Muppet Show in 1976 and Muppets Tonight in 1996 brought the hi-jinks of Jim Henson’s puppet creations to screens across the world on a regular basis. Its success quickly became a magnet for big-name celebrities from across the entertainment world, many of whom scrambled for the prized guest spot on each episode.
As you’ll see in our below Muppets highlight reel, an array of our favourite musicians have all shared some wholesome screen time with Kermit and the gang over the years. With the franchise set to return for a new series, Muppets Now, on the newly launched Disney+, music’s A-listers will surely continue to link up on-screen with the timeless puppets in the near future.
Here’s NME‘s favourite musician/Muppet crossovers to date.
The Blondie legend appeared on The Muppet Show in 1980 to sing a duet with a banjo-playing Kermit, with the two taking on the sickly-sweet ‘Rainbow Connection’ from The Muppet Movie.
Most wholesome moment: “I just dig songs about rainbows.” — Debbie Harry
Elton John performing his 1976 Kiki Dee duet ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ with Miss Piggy while wearing an eye-dazzling pink suit? Count us in.
Most wholesome moment: Elton calling Miss Piggy “a wonderful lady I’ve always wanted to work and sing with”.
The late, great Prince was given his very own Muppets Tonight episode back in September 1997 when he was going by the name ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince’. Despite the strict brief that was issued to the showrunners by Prince’s management (they apparently weren’t allowed to look at Prince directly or call him anything but ‘The Artist’), the ‘Purple Rain’ musician actually had a blast making the episode.
“He was only half again bigger than most of the Muppets!” executive producer and writer Kirk Thatcher joked (via Ultimate Prince), before recalling: “He and his people seemed to get the jokes and enjoyed the fun we were having with him and he thankfully had very few notes. He just smiled and giggled quietly at the script and seemed very open to it all.”
Most wholesome moment: Prince performing the tear-jerking ‘She Gave Her Angels’ — before breaking out into a rendition of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ with the Muppets cast.
Joan Jett‘s guest appearance on The Muppets came at the tail-end of an episode about, well, tails — Miss Piggy’s, to be precise. Jett’s performance of ‘Bad Reputation’ saw the whole Muppets cast and audience donning Piggy-style fake tails in solidarity with the character in an episode which dealt with issues of self-esteem, body positivity and TV censorship.
Most wholesome moment: Jett dedicating ‘Bad Reputation’ to Miss Piggy, naturally.
School is quite literally out at the moment, which is of course a message Alice Cooper has been preaching for many, many years. Back in 1978, his appearance on The Muppet Show was a memorable if slightly haunting one as he performed a rather discordant version of ‘School’s Out’ alongside some rather terrifying human-sized Muppets.
Most wholesome moment: The joy on Alice’s face mid-performance as, for some reason, he strips down to a holey red leotard.
An entire episode of The Muppet Show was built around Johnny Cash‘s guest appearance back in 1981. While your eye will be rather unfortunately drawn to the Confederate flag that’s hanging in the back of the set, Cash’s grinning performance of ‘(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend’ — which plays out as a sheet-wearing Gonzo rides among a herd of cows — will still bring a smile to your face.
Most wholesome moment: The glee on Cash’s face as Gonzo charges around in front of him during what was surely one of the more unique live engagements of his esteemed career.
The ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper guested alongside the late US stand-up comic Don Rickles on a 1997 edition of Muppets Tonight — there’s a sentence we never thought we’d write. Coolio capped off his guest spot by performing the forgotten rap-funk banger ‘1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)’ with help from Seymour, Pepe the King Prawn, Clifford, Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat and Bobo the Bear.
Most wholesome moment: The addition of the line “let a Muppet know” to the lyrics.
Not strictly part of Muppets canon, but Weezer‘s joyful 2002 video for ‘Keep Fishin” is just too fun to exclude from our list. From Miss Piggy kidnapping drummer Patrick Wilson to the bobbing penguins which sit on top of the band’s amps, even Statler and Waldorf get involved at the end: “Hey, they ain’t half-bad.” “Nope: they’re all bad!” Ho, ho, ho.
Most wholesome moment: Kermit and Gonzo wearing custom-size Weezer t-shirts.
The White Stripes man appeared on the last-ever edition of The Muppets back in March 2016 to perform ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ in a bid to help Kermit get back together with Miss Piggy.
Most wholesome moment: Well, the Stevie Wonder cover — and the show of support from every Muppet wearing a ‘Love’ t-shirt — did eventually help Kermit and Miss Piggy get back together, so…
Last but by no means least is Dave Grohl, who simply had to maintain his Nicest Guy In Rock reputation by appearing on The Muppets back in December 2015. Grohl and the Muppets band perform the Foo Fighters‘ ‘Learn To Fly’ in the episode as Gonzo is fired out of cannon from the roof of a TV studio.
Most wholesome moment: Dave and Animal’s drum-off at the end of the above clip. It’s like Whiplash meets The Muppets, and ends with the pair destroying their drum kits and declaring it a draw.