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The Muppets with Beth Cook

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Transcript by Descript


welcome to Zeitgeist Radio. I'm your host, Morgan Roe, founder of the Zeitgeist Academy. Zeitgeist means spirit of the times, and it is the collection of cultural forces that all contribute to what it feels like to be alive and part of a dynamic culture. Every episode I speak with someone from a unique musical subculture.


We dig into their passion and explore how music is a powerful force that brings people together. Before we dive into today's interview, I want to offer you something special. If you're like me, you come out of these interviews with all sorts of questions. Each week, after speaking with one of our amazing guests, I dive into something they introduced us to that I find interesting or important.


I write a blog post about it and email a nice tidy bundle to your inbox. Every two weeks, never miss an exploration of an awesome musical subculture. Join the academy and sign up for my free newsletter@zeitgeistacademy.com slash radio.


My guest today is Beth Cook, a Muppet enthusiast and founder of our Muppet melody.com


**Morgan Roe:** Beth, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.


**Beth Cook:** Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.


**Morgan Roe:** I'm so excited. So Beth has been a voice student of mine for over a year, which is crazy. It's been super fun. Um, so can you tell people kind of who you are musically?


**Beth Cook:** Musically, I'm just a fan and. Amateur singer who's doing it just for the heck of it.


**Morgan Roe:** And for the Muppets.


**Beth Cook:** And for the Muppets. Yeah. It should be noted that every single song that I have practiced with you has been a Muppet song. Yes,


yes.


**Morgan Roe:** This is definitely the most interesting, um, introduction I ever received for a, uh, a new student is our, our mutual friend was like, I have a friend Beth, and she wants to sing The Muppets.


I was like, What did I hear that right? Like just the muppets and at first, honestly, my thought was, well, we'll run outta content fast. And then now that I'm, I've been like, you know, we've been taking lessons for over a year, I'm like, oh no, we're not gonna run outta content anytime soon. So I'm, I'm really excited to have you on and pick your brain about kind of where this whole journey started and your, you have a blog and I'd love to get into some of this a little bit more and talk about some of the stuff songs we've done, maybe.


Yeah. Um, So can you kind of start like, okay, so I'm assuming you got into the Muppets as a kid, but, um, what about the Muppets kept your fancy all these years to the point where you have, you know, you're, you're here now as you are with


it?


**Beth Cook:** Yeah, I think, you know, it was one of those things that was always just kind of, Playing as a kid, it, it was, you know, both of my parents were fans, which, which is rare.


They didn't have a lot in common, but that was one of the things they had in common. And so, you know, the three of us kids just grew up watching the Muppets, as many people of our generations did. And I think the more that I allowed myself to dig into that interest, The more I found there was there to discover.


The thing that, uh, has always appealed to me ever since I was a kid was just the absurdity. And, you know, absurdity and fun for, for its own sake. Yeah. Just because, you know, fun is a necessary part of being alive, but then also that's, that's just what gets you in the door. Like they reel you in with the fun, but then they hit you with like the big universal themes of kindness and curiosity.


Yeah. And how all living things are connected to each other. And


**Morgan Roe:** some of the songs we've done have been like intense. Mm-hmm. Intense. Some of the, I mean, they don't shy away from some serious subject matter, like,


**Beth Cook:** oh yes, there are songs about, you know, grief and, yeah. Feeling lost and alone in the world, and


**Morgan Roe:** one in


particular that we did.


Um, it just happens that, um, actually I think we've been doing lessons for. It's been almost a, it must be closer to a year and a half because I'd already been doing lessons with you for a while and I had a very unfortunate thing happen where I lost a very dear friend of mine and I actually had to like, Stop one of the songs we were doing because it was like, it was so intense.


We, I mean, we didn't, oh my gosh. Stop it. Stop it. Right. But I think I shared with you like, okay, I can't teach this song today. Like, we'll come back around. Because it was like, it was about a friend, it was about the loss of a friend. Maybe they didn't mean like death loss, but it was certainly like, it was very intense and I honestly, Uh, I, I know the Muppets, I've watched the Muppets a little bit, but like, I'm surprised I'm like taking this whole journey with you, you know that.


Mm-hmm. The teacher becomes the student of like the depth. I've been so impressed with the, the depth of some of these, these songs. They're really well done. They're well written and they don't shy away from


stuff.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah. I think it was when I was in high school, this big, beautiful, full color. Coffee table book called Jim Henson, the Works, uh, was released and around that time I had to do a, you know, a high school paper on someone you admire.


And I was like, oh, look at that. Um, and so I think that was my gateway into a deeper level of Muppet. Nerdy. Yes. I love it. Yeah. And then, you know, I eventually got, uh, connected with the folks over at. Uh, tough pigs.com. I, you know, was just following them for several years and then I finally got brave enough to say like, Hey, I write a Muppets blog and I like what you guys do.


Could I maybe write for you guys sometimes? And I've, uh, been. Working with them for the past year and change, and it's been absolutely fantastic to find, you know, the people who are interested in the same thing as you, but to the same level of like super nerdom.


**Morgan Roe:** I love it. So let's go back a couple steps.


So what made you wanna start? How long have you had your own blog?


Uh, oh gosh, that would've been. 20 13, 14, 15. I know I was still at Evergreen that, that era of my life. So right around 10 years. Oh my gosh. 2013. Oh, oh. I don't even wanna think about 2013. I broke Beth, I'm


sorry.


**Beth Cook:** Wait. Yeah, I'd been, um, I've been wanting to find the lyrics.


Online of one of my favorite, lesser known Henson projects, uh, which was the Tale of the Bunny Picnic. And one song in particular. You know, the the opening song. They've got two groups of bunnies singing different things over each other at the same time. I'm like, I can't understand what they're saying.


And I looked online and I could not find the lyrics anywhere, and I was like, well, it's 20, whatever. If it doesn't exist online, it probably doesn't exist. At all. Oh man, I'm gonna have to do it myself, aren't I? So I want, so I created a blog, it's called, uh, at first for a long time, it was just our melody.


Uh, then I, I grabbed the url, our muppet melody.com. Nice. So, I wanted to not just transcribe the lyrics for, you know, the lesser known projects so that you know, if there is someone else out there in the world who's wondering the same thing that I am, that, hey, here you go, here's the lyrics to the Tale of the Body picnic.


But also I realized, you know, I have a lot to say about these songs and, you know, I wanted to give credit to the, the lyricists and the musicians who write these songs and, and talk about what these songs mean to me.


**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. And that we've done that bunny picnic song. Right.


**Beth Cook:** We've done the ending song, which it sounds absurd to, to say to the world that my, my favorite protest song is sung by a bunch of Muppet bunnies.


It's so true. And that,


**Morgan Roe:** you know, you, that's how you phrased it to me. You're like, this is my favorite protest song. And I was like, what? And then I'm like, oh my God. This is


**Beth Cook:** a protest song. That one is called Drum of Time. Yeah. But yeah, the, the one that I still haven't been able to finish the lyrics for, because, Like, when I posted it, I was like, okay, here's my best guess.


And you know, if anyone's reading this, you know, chime in with your best guess and maybe we can piece this together. And I have definitely gotten those comments that have been super helpful. Nice. Um, but that one particular song, uh, it's called Hello Sunshine, like the slower verse is, is easy to figure out, but the faster verse, I just cannot fit all the pieces together because, I don't know, maybe someone who worked on the project has gotten, gotten it written down somewhere.


Right, right. Have you ever reached out to anybody? I didn't at first because I had no connections and now that I'm just, I'm really kind of one of the newbies over at Tough Pigs, but they've got connections, so maybe someday I'll reach out to someone who is, someday you'll finish. 10 years later, you'll finish the lyrics.


Exactly.


**Morgan Roe:** Oh, that's so great. Yeah. Yik, before we move on, do you wanna tell people why that's a protest song?


**Beth Cook:** Oh, oh man. So I don't wanna leave him hanging. You know, honestly, the Tale of the Bunny Picnic, it sounds so vapid, but it's an incredibly meaningful piece that really is all about like the cycle of the abuse of power.


Like, you know, you've got this community of bunnies who are just trying to live their lives and. You know, the, the youngest sibling bean, this is the, the origin story of Bean bunny. If you've ever seen him hanging out with the other Muppets, this is where he came from. Uh, you know, he's being teased by his older brother.


But then all of the buddies are getting harassed by this dog that's working on the farm. And it turns out the farmer is being absolutely terrible to this dog and he's telling him, you know, get rid of these bunnies, or I'm not gonna feed you. You know, if you do a good, if you do a good job, I might even give you a name.


Oh my gosh. Yeah. That level of, of messed up. And you know, the bunnies concoct this plan to deal with the dog, but then they find out, oh, the dog is just the middle man. He's terrified of this much bigger batter guy. And then they finally, You know, it starts out with just the one with just being, you know, the smallest and the one who everyone underestimated standing up all by himself and singing.


I got chills. Like I, like when I


**Morgan Roe:** first watched


**Beth Cook:** it, I got chills. Yeah, I know. And then slowly the other buddies come and join. And because the farmer is allergic to bunnies, which is why he wanted to get rid of them in the first place, they cause a sneezing storm and his pants fall down and it's a very muppet ending.


But you know, it's, A really powerful message. Yeah.


**Morgan Roe:** One tiny little bunny, one tiny little person singing in song can raise so many voices. Yeah. Again, it's just been so fun. Um, okay, so, um, what do, what were the songs that led you to, or, or what was your process when you were like, you know, I wanna take actual lessons.


Like, it's one thing to have a hobby. Mm-hmm. And, and like, well, I mean, You're pretty serious about it, but like, like actually studying with someone. Um, what led to that


**Beth Cook:** decision? Yeah, singing was always something that I'd been vaguely interested in, like when I was a kid and, you know, you're wondering what you wanna be when you grew up.


Like a singer was always one of those things that I threw in as a possibility. But it was always one of many, like a singer or an actor or a writer or a marine biologist or. Right. No. Yeah. And I, I loved fifth grade choir and I was a little hoy toy about having this huge range and being able to go up really high.


And then I didn't really have, I didn't really have a, a structured. Time and place for singing until fast forward to high school and we're doing a musical, and I discover, oh, I've completely lost all of that range that I had and having trouble. Like even auditorially distinguishing between notes and I didn't realize that it was something that, you know, use it or lose it kind of thing.


But you know, that was, that was high school. That was, well, yeah, say long ago. Puberty sucks. Just


**Morgan Roe:** generally, and, and it's, you know, right. Things are growing and changing very quickly in your head. I mean, we've talked about how small all of these muscles are, right? Mm-hmm. And, um, man, just be glad that you didn't have to go through what guys do with the voice drop.


That's a whole nother level of like, talk about not knowing, being able to control what comes outta your mouth. Being able to hear or associate like, yeah. Yeah. Growing up is a crazy process.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah. So I think as my. Muppet nerdy was growing. I found myself singing these songs and for the most part, it didn't matter if I was pitchy or whatever because I was the only one there and I didn't really care.


But if it was a song that was particularly important to me, then it felt more important to to get it right, and there was a particularly difficult time in my life. In the summer of 2021, when my cat got out, she was an indoors only cat, and she got outside and it was the first day of this massive heat wave when it was, you know, 114 degrees outside.


Oh, and I spent a week sleeping in the backyard. I just became nocturnal. I would lie awake for an hour and then go. Walk around the neighborhood calling for her and then repeat all night long. And then during the day I would try and catch some snatches of sleep inside where the AC was. And I just found myself singing these songs that were so familiar to me and therefore comforting.


Yeah. But also these songs that are about, like two in particular, there was, um, One little star from Follow That Bird and Moon, moon from Big Bird in Japan. Uh, and they're both about, you know, looking up to the night sky and feeling helpless and lost and looking for answers. And it was that period of my life that made me really want to, you know, learn how I could connect with these songs on another level.


And I really did want it to be just for me. I was like, I had no aspirations of like singing in front of other people. Yeah. And the longer I've gone with taking lessons, the more I've been just singing around the house for the heck of it. I mean, granted living alone helps with that, but,


**Morgan Roe:** and we've done.


Both those songs. Did we do? Mm-hmm. Yeah, we've done both those songs. Yeah. Uh, how many Muppet songs are there that you know of? Do you have, do you have a number in your


**Beth Cook:** head? I, I couldn't possibly put a number on that. So first we have to define what do we mean by a Muppet song? Okay. No, that's actually true.


**Morgan Roe:** Let's, let's talk about this.


**Beth Cook:** Yes. So are we including songs that, uh, that any. Henson associated production has sung whether or not it was written for something else or originated elsewhere, or are we just including original songs that were written specifically for that production? Are we only including the core Muppets or are we adding on things like, you know, Sesame Street and Labyrinth and everything else?


**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Yeah. What do you, what do you wrap in typically?


**Beth Cook:** It's great. I actually had a friend come to me with this, this question of like, what counts as a Muppet? And I was like, aha, you stumbled on the age old taxonomy of Muppet's problem. For I, I would say for our purposes at Tuf Bigs, it helps to really include anything under the umbrella term of.


Muppets that could be associated with the Jim Henson company or Sesame Street, which Jim Henson was involved with when he was alive, but is not owned by the Jim Henson Company. And nowadays it's, you know, Disney owns like the core cast of Muppets, but not other properties. And yeah, so I, I'm. Using the term Muppets as a broad umbrella term.


Yeah. We've done


**Morgan Roe:** a lot from Fraggle Rock. Oh yes.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah, yeah. That is my very favorite as will not surprise you.


**Morgan Roe:** What about it makes it your favorite?


**Beth Cook:** Oh gosh. Um, I think because it does have that combination of absurdity and meaning in perfect balance, and especially because. These are creatures that we don't see in the usual world.


Like they're not, you know, birds or pigs or frogs or even monsters. They're their own unique thing in their own unique world. And that really appealed to the, the weirdo in me. Um, it was something that I remembered from my childhood, but kind of vaguely. And then, you know, Would find like a v h s in high school and watch it and go, oh my gosh, I remember this, and all these memories would come flooding back.


And now of course it's just, you know, become my hyper-focus, special interest. Yeah. That's, that's become my kind of go-to thing at, at Tough Pigs as I'm the, I'm the Fraggle nerd and, you know, I was, I approached, uh, tough Pigs about doing, uh, a Fraggle Rock podcast and. Then while we were working on it, the reboot of Fraggle Rock premiered and Henson approached us like, Hey, do you wanna do a podcast to promote back to the Rock?


And we went, uh, yeah. Yeah.


**Morgan Roe:** That's


**Beth Cook:** awesome. And Joe, thank goodness, uh, Joe Hades, one of the main guys over at Tuff Pigs was like, yes, but I have to bring on, This gal who you've never heard of, but I promise she knows her stuff and Nice. So at the end of each episode, there's a little five minute bit where I'm interviewing, uh, Halle Stanford, who was, uh, one of the show's, executive producers and the president of television at the Jim Henson Company.


What? I'm like, I got to say that I did that. It was so incredible. And so that was Fraggle talk. And now we are premiering Fraggle Talk Classic. Okay. Where my co-hosts and I, you know, go through one episode at a time of the original series. Oh, that is so cool. I love hearing that from people. You know, every once in a while I'll see something nasty on Twitter about like, Oh my God, it's so embarrassing of, you know, when people are liking things that are meant for children.


And fortunately, the rest of the Muppet fandom gives that no quarter. Yeah,


**Morgan Roe:** no, no. Yeah, no, no tolerance for that. Oh, that's so cool. Um, man, so what are some other, are there, what are some other big names We sort of talked about, um, how a lot of these songs have really incredible guests or, you know, the people who have written them.


Um, There's just, there's a lot going on. Um, so yeah, I don't know. Are there, are there other people that you wanna like mention or, or who are, who are notable


**Beth Cook:** that I may not know about? I would say, I would say the big two for the Sesame Street songs are, uh, Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss. And like, these are names that, you know, Muppet Nerds will know, but you know, if.


You know, you just watch Sesame Street as a kid, or, you know, these, these aren't necessarily household names for everybody, right? Yeah. Um, so Joe Raposo is best known for Bean Green. Yeah. Okay. But then also, you know, he wrote the Sesame Street theme. Uh, C is for cookie. Uh, one of these things is not like the other, um, of the songs that we've worked on.


Um, he wrote little things and a new way to walk. So fun. So fun. Oh, I love that one so much. That's, that's got, that's an


**Morgan Roe:** example of a celebrity.


**Beth Cook:** Um, yeah, so the, the original was, was sung by three. Pig Muppets and called the Winker Sisters. It was very much a disco style. Yeah. And so they were, you know, uh, Sesame Street is known for its parody song, so of course it was the Pointer Sisters, of course.


But when they, you know, redid it for, oh God, it would've been the early two thousands, they had Destiny's Child come and sing it with. A few of the Muppets and that's the version that, that we practiced together. And it was very intimidating for me to sing along with Beyonce. But uh, it ends up being this one that I feel uncomfortable singing along to now because I just love that version so much.


It's so good.


**Morgan Roe:** Yes. That's funny cuz you know, what did you say his name was? That he that wrote all those?


**Beth Cook:** That was Joe Raposo. Joe Raposo.


**Morgan Roe:** It's funny, like. Those are big hits. Like, oh yes, everybody knows see is for cookie. Everybody knows being green. So it's interesting that we are not as familiar with his name cuz I would say that.


Mm-hmm Honestly, probably more people know those songs than like some major hits by, by superstars, you know, like, oh yeah. Songs by, by major like celebrities. You know, it's just funny cuz the Reach, cuz you get, you get the kids, but then you don't associate that name to it. So it's like this weird. Super stardom without the fame.


Yep.


**Beth Cook:** Where everyone


**Morgan Roe:** knows you work, but no one knows who you are. Well, people know who you are, but not, not the, not at the same level.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah. Wow. Crazy. So the other big, uh, Sesame Street guy was Jeff Moss who wrote, um, the people in your neighborhood and rubber ducky, and I love trash. Um, but the one that you and I have worked on is I don't wanna live on the moon.


I love that


**Morgan Roe:** song. It's so funny. I love that song. I, I actually that, so here's the thing, every time we have a lesson, those songs are earworms and they're stuck in my head.


**Beth Cook:** Oh, yes. Or days.


**Morgan Roe:** But yeah, live on the, I would like to live on the moon. That is a beautiful, beautiful song. I, that was one of my favorites Personally, that you've brought, um,


**Beth Cook:** Just such


**Morgan Roe:** a, a lovely look at the joys of going out somewhere and exploring, just to explore. But then you come back to the home that you love and the people who are around you.


But it's nice to go other places too, like so delightful. Exactly.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah. And so another big name of course is Paul Williams, who you know, Non Muppet fans would, uh, would recognize a lot of his work. But, you know, he was also the guy behind the songs of the Muppet movie and, uh, Muppet, Christmas Carol, and so many others.


And yeah, just a, a perfect example of like someone who you wouldn't necessarily knew, wrote those songs. Yeah. If you only knew him from his non Muppet works. Yeah. Yeah. He's one of those guys where Go through the, lists him up. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You look him up and you're like, oh yeah, that guy. Oh yeah.


**Morgan Roe:** Lots of um, old school country folk.


Rainbow Connection. Was Rainbow Connection for the Muppets, or was


**Beth Cook:** that for Yeah, it was. It was in the Muppet movie. It's the song in the Muppet movie and yeah. Oh man. I love it. And I will say that. I've deliberately avoided working on that one because we Oh, for sure. We like to roll our eyes over at Tough Pigs.


That it's, it's overused. I, I completely,


**Morgan Roe:** I would, yeah. That's how I feel about like, um, for Elise Da da as a piano teacher, everyone wants, every single kid wants to learn that song, and I'm just like, no,


**Beth Cook:** I'll not. I have to


**Morgan Roe:** draw the line somewhere. And then na Yeah. There's some that, uh, that I get it. They're overdone.


I just, yeah. This was interesting looking at that list. Yeah. Um, man. So is it okay with you if I just bring out some that I have questions about and then just kind of ping some thoughts? Or do you want, do you have a couple other people you wanna highlight


**Beth Cook:** first? Um, yeah, before we change gears, I will say that my very favorites are the, um, the duo of Philip Balsam, uh, composer and Dennis Lee Lyricist who wrote.


All of the songs for Fraggle Rock. Wow, that's so nice. None of the tail of the buddy picnic, which is why they, they sound so great together and, and, uh, fit so well. But yeah, that particular combo of these two guys is, there's just something magic there, and I think that's probably a big part of why Fraggle Rock is my favorite.


Sure. What,


**Morgan Roe:** what is it do you think that you love about them?


**Beth Cook:** Oh gosh. Well, we recently lost, uh, Philip Olson, which was really hard. Um, you know, I was thinking back about like how much these songs have been present all throughout my life and shaped my childhood and how I understood the world and my relationship to it.


And it's so odd to. Have someone have that much of an effect who you've never met. Right. And I, one of the things that's really impressive is the range, like e like in Fraggle Rock alone, they cover every genre of music you could name, you know, you've got country, you've got gospel, you've got rockabilly, you've got, you know, these sweet Waltz, lullabies.


It's just absolutely everything. And. Then they of course also run the gamut from, you know, absolutely absurd nonsense to these really deep songs about the meaning of life and yes, but they do it in a way that's so accessible, like the lyrics hardly ever mention the specifics of what's going on in the episode.


Yeah, they hardly ever mention the word Fraggle. It's just, you know, universal themes. Well,


**Morgan Roe:** each song that you've, again, I kind of expected just because I'm not as familiar. I expected, I guess, more, um, how do I put it? Like, just more like, like light, upbeat, fun, entertaining. Yep. Um, and I've, I've been like, every single song that you've brought pretty much could be like, it is its own standalone song that like, I could just go sing somewhere, you know, like, and, and it's not necessarily that people would, if they didn't know the song, they would still be able to connect to it even though they may not have seen the episode or, or know the context of it.


And a lot of these come from, Episodes I haven't seen, right? Mm-hmm. And I'm still able to connect to them and, and get something out of working on them, um, which I think is just so fascinating. Again, my respect for this whole thing has just deepened so much working on these with you because, um, they are just full, complete songs about real


**Beth Cook:** things.


Yeah, absolutely. One of those things and then you're right. Okay. So all


**Morgan Roe:** of those songs that you just, so all the songs from Fraggle Rock were written by the same guys. Yes. Because like you just said, like legit, like bluegrass and, and rock and schmaltz, we were just talking about schmaltz. Mm-hmm. Um, that is an impressive amount of, uh, flexibility to be able to write so well in all of those different genres.


Yeah. Aw man. Well, they're awesome.


**Beth Cook:** So yeah, I just wanted to give them a shout out before we move on. Yeah, for sure.


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**Beth Cook:** Okay, so


**Morgan Roe:** one of the ones I wanted to ask you about, what is, what is eight in a hole in the wash tub? That one. I just, I need a little context. I know I just said that they're all kind of like stand on their own, but that one right.


**Beth Cook:** So that's another Paul Williams gem. He also wrote the songs for Emmett Otters Jug Band Christmas, which was a very unique experience because it existed as a book first and the titles of the songs were all in the book. Cool. But not the lyrics. They would just mention offhand. And then Paul Williams was faced with this challenge of like, okay, now I've gotta write a song that's called The Bathing Suit that your Grandma Otter wore and he did it.


Whoa. Okay. So yeah, ain't no hole in the wash dub is this. Absolutely. You know, toe tap and earworm that's all about, you know, struggling with. Poverty but finding joy wherever you can that, hey, as long as there's no hole in the wash tub, you're gonna be fine. You'll get clean. Exactly.


**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Well, boy, part of the reason I had to ask was that was probably the worst ear worm


**Beth Cook:** outta all of them.


Absolutely. It wouldn't go away.


**Morgan Roe:** And even like weeks after we stopped working on it and kind of retired it, we can always come back later to any of these, but, um mm-hmm. Man, weeks later it would still pop in. I'm like, oh my God.


**Beth Cook:** That was the one that I was so proud to break out at, uh, karaoke night with my friends.


Oh, yes. I was like, hesitant to do anything, and I was like, well, I've been taking singing lessons, but I've only been practicing Muppet songs and like, not even the ones that y'all know, like the deep cuts and because my friends are amazing. They were like, no, now you have to do it. You have to. Right, right.


I was like, okay. So I, I got up there and I sang with the track because here's the thing. Karaoke tracks of Deep Cut Muppet songs do not exist. Yeah, no, I, I fully believe that. Yeah. And we'd been working on it enough that I nailed it, and they were just like, holy cow. Oh, that makes me so happy. It made me so happy too.


**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. Everybody go listen to it because that's not an easy feat actually. That's a really, that is an intense song. Yeah. There's a


**Beth Cook:** lot to that song. Oh,


**Morgan Roe:** awesome. Um, so another one we kind of talked about. New way to walk. I, I, um, yeah, I just wanna mention that one. Um, but I'm going to go back there someday. Mm.


That one is lovely. Can, can you, what is that, what's


**Beth Cook:** going on there? So, the original, this is another Paul Williams because it, it's from the Muppet movie, and in this moment we see Gonzo singing this song just. Up to the night sky and musing about his place in the universe. And it's at this moment where, you know, the, the bus is broken down and they're not gonna make it to Hollywood in time.


And everyone's feeling depressed. And Kermit especially has this, this monologue where he, with himself, I guess it's a dialogue where he's talking to another Kermit and it fits really well in this. In the story of this poignant moment of, you know, figuring out your place in the universe, but also even just taken out of the movie, it works totally well as a standalone song.


You know, years ago it was the song that I sang when the, the one year that I went to Burning Man, and I sat at the temple and listened to all these people telling their stories of. Grief and anger and confusion. And, you know, every once in a while someone would, you know, lead us in a, a joint prayer or they would sing a song or, and so when it was my turn, I said that, you know, I'd, I'd come here to grieve for the, um, or my sister's stillborn baby, my niece that I never got to meet.


And I found so much healing in sitting with these total strangers and hearing their stories and sharing that grief together, that I sang that song in, in all my pitchiness and, you know, passed the, it wasn't a speaking stick, it was a, it was a little Nerf football to the next person and. And wrote my niece's name on the temple and Oh, that's


**Morgan Roe:** beautiful.


Wow. Yeah. Yeah. Well, what, what's, yeah, man, what stood out to me with that song was some of the covers that you brought. Yeah. Because it has been covered and it's,


**Beth Cook:** it


**Morgan Roe:** was, yeah. There was one in particular that we kind of based, cuz the range is a little


**Beth Cook:** hard. Um, yeah. The Gozo version it was, was. Not achievable for me at that time.


So we, it was very loud. We went with the version by, uh, believe the artist's name is, uh, Rachel Yamaha. Uh, but it's on the Green Album, which is all Muppet covers. So


**Morgan Roe:** beautiful. Yeah, like that, that cover specifically really stood out to me. It's just very like, I don't know, very earthy and, and gritty and I don't, it's, it was just, so that was a really special one as well.


I had no idea this whole backstory for you as well, but, um, but you're right that even without the context of the Muppets, it's just a really beautiful, sweet song. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Um, the, I believe the very first song we ever worked on, oh gosh, when was it? I'm pulling, was it where


**Beth Cook:** The River Meets the Sea? It was one That was one of the first ones, yes.


The first one we ever worked on was, There's a promise.


**Morgan Roe:** There's a promise. I have those two at the same, like on the same like right next to each other, so, yep. It was one. Yes. There's a promise. So why was that your first song?


**Beth Cook:** Oh, that's a really good question because it was not Christmas time at all, and like that was from the, well, not the Christmas episode of Fraggle Rock, but the Winter Solstice episode of Fraggle Rock.


Yeah. And you know, it's all about this theme of. You know, there's a rhythm to life and the natural world and the changing of seasons and winter can feel really hard, but I promise you that spring is coming. Yeah. Um, yeah, it


**Morgan Roe:** was very, it did feel very New Year's and maybe it was just the time of year. Um,


**Beth Cook:** yeah, maybe I figured fingers have


**Morgan Roe:** it down Christmas.


Yeah. We start practicing. I get pretty sour around Christmas. A lot of the times I, I have really burnt out on Christmas just because as a musician, people don't understand a lot of times that starts in September, Christmas, practicing Christmas, whatever, whether it's, you know, performances, whether it's theater, whether it's putting programs together.


It starts way early, so people are like, oh, it's the season of Christmas music and an extended season for a normal person. This is a rant. I will get off my soapbox shortly, but the extended season of a normal person is maybe six weeks, right? You, it's normally between Thanksgiving. And then Christmas and, and some crazy people start in, you know, before Thanksgiving.


Well, when you've already been doing it since September. I'm just like, ugh.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah. Enough already. So,


**Morgan Roe:** but that said, you know, it does take preparation and it was a real, that was a great song to work on. Um, for kind of like for New Year's, like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, and then right along with it, where the river meets the sea, um, John Denver did that, right?


**Beth Cook:** That was a cover? Uh, yes and no. So he didn't write it. It was right. Another Paul Williams song. It's from Emma Daughter's joke band, Christmas. Um, but yes, uh, John Denver sang that with the Muppets in, um, I think it's just called John Denver and the Muppets a Christmas Together. Honestly, maybe it was Rocky Mountain Holiday.


I don't remember which. John Denver and the Muppet special. It was, it, it appeared in. Um, but yeah, they did a, a beautiful version together and talk about, you know, heavy-hitting grief songs like that song is literally all about death. Yeah. It's so beautiful.


**Morgan Roe:** Wow. I didn't even catch that. Oh, seriously. I mean, I don't know.


Maybe cuz it was the first, first ones I, I, I, that


**Beth Cook:** subtext went completely over my head. I'll send you the lyrics. Yeah. Evidently,


**Morgan Roe:** well, we could, we could


**Beth Cook:** revisit it. Wow.


**Morgan Roe:** Yeah, I'm, I'm counting here. We've, so far we've done almost 30 songs.


**Beth Cook:** Oh my gosh. Wow. Yeah. And I know that


**Morgan Roe:** you have a


**Beth Cook:** huge list of more Oh yeah.


It, it goes on and on and so I, I specifically chose the songs that make me feel something. Yeah. And it, you know, not all sad stuff. Like I, I do have it categorized into like, melancholy stuff and. Fun stuff and sweet stuff. Um, and I try to give it a little bit of balance. Yeah. Um, but yeah, I, I'm remembering especially like, um, this song we worked on, I'm Never Alone.


Yeah. Uh, from Fraggle Rock where Yes. Ubers, I also love that one so much. Yes. You know, he's, he's singing about, you know, how, how. You know, you don't need anyone but you, and it's this, this great jazzy little swing number, and I just loved singing that around my empty apartment. You know, I'm living alone for the first time ever and just absolutely loving it.


**Morgan Roe:** Yes. You're never alone cuz you've got you. Exactly. It's, that's delightful. Okay, I have a, a question I'm not allowed to not ask you. Does Ross puppeteer actually


**Beth Cook:** play the piano live? He does not. Okay. I admit, I did not know this. I had to look up the answer. This was really, really important for


**Morgan Roe:** me to know.


So I sent you this question in advance.


**Beth Cook:** So apparently, because it bugs


**Morgan Roe:** me, cuz it looks like he knows what he's doing, but I'm like, there's no way I play piano. There's no way.


**Beth Cook:** But also he, he


**Morgan Roe:** looks like he knows what he's doing. It's


**Beth Cook:** very confusing. Yeah. So the answer is both, like, yes, he knows what he's doing and also he's not actually playing the piano.


So when, if, if they were just puppeteering Ralph, just like. You know, talking on the, on the Jimmy Die Show, then the normal way that you do, uh, what's called a live hands puppet, which, you know, any Muppet with, you know, articulated hands like Ralph or, um, uh, Dr. Teeth or Moki, uh, her Fraggle Rock. You've got one puppeteer puppeteering, uh, there.


Right hand in the, the head of the puppet and then the left hand, and then you've got a different puppeteer doing just the right hand. And so that in and of itself is, is huh. A completely bonker skill. And to be able to coordinate between two humans. Oh my gosh. But when, when having Ralph play the piano, they would switch to having, you know, Jim Henson doing like just the head and the voice, and then, uh, Frank Oz would be doing Oh, okay.


The hands. And, you know, I learned this all on Muppet Wiki this afternoon. Thank you. There was, um, a bit by, uh, Steve Whitmeyer who had, uh, taken over the, the role of Kermit after, uh, Jim died. And, um, he was talking about doing the hands for Rolf and how he would study the piece. Like in real life to make sure that his fingers were going where they should be.


They do. Were playing on yeah, a piano that made no sound. Okay. Like they could, you know, bang out on those keys all day long. But the keys weren't connected, so they didn't make any sound. But, so yes, the, the fingers would be going in. Their, their best attempt at the right places. But the, the music would be prerecorded.


**Morgan Roe:** I would sit there and be like, okay, like I'd pause it and I'd, I'd try to look like, okay, are his, do I see fingers under there? No. It should just sound like clum clum clump. And I knew it, like, of course it's dubbed, it's gonna be dubbed like over. But, um, he just, they, they, they're just always in the right spot.


And I'm


**Beth Cook:** like, I don't know. That tells me something. Thank you for


**Morgan Roe:** investigating that.


**Beth Cook:** My pleasure.


**Morgan Roe:** Tell me about some projects you have coming up this podcast. Sounds really cool. Are there other projects


**Beth Cook:** that you're doing? So, this year is the 40th anniversary of, uh, Fraggle Rock. And so we're, we've been releasing, you know, one episode at a time, reviews on Tough Pigs, and similarly, the podcast is gonna be talking about.


You know, the original series, uh, one episode at a time. But the podcast takes a much deeper dive and, you know, talks about more of the, the background details. And we go off on amusing tangents. And I had thought, well, what if I put the, the lyrics on my blog and, and talk about those songs on my blog at the same time that that's being released?


And I realized what a massive amount of work that is. Yeah. That I'm. Not being paid for. So I was like, you know what, I'm, I'm gonna be kind to me and not do that right now. Especially because I'm super grateful for, um, there's an entire channel on YouTube that's just Fraggle Rock songs and lyrics. Like it's each, you know, song individually, and then it's got the lyrics in nice, the description.


Nice. So I'm very grateful to whoever that person is. And I'm like, you know what? I, I can come back to these songs on my Muppet blog at a later date. They'll still be there, I'll still have things to say about them. And in the meantime, I'm mostly just focusing on the podcast and, you know, the occasional article for Tough Pigs.


And, you know, I'm, I'm. I'm trying to build a, a writing career. You know, I'm, I'm working on a screenwriting portfolio. I've got my various, uh, middle grade novels that are sitting gathering dust, but right now, you know, this is where my heart's work is. I just keep getting idea after idea after idea. And yes, I'm just so grateful to have found.


An outlet where I can talk about these ideas to people who actually want to listen to me talk about them. Yes. That's when you know you're in the right place. Yes. Amen.


**Morgan Roe:** Yes. Um, just a, a note on the lyrics thing. I think it's really funny that some of these just seem to be like lost, like,


**Beth Cook:** right, like, This was something that I was speculating about on this podcast is that like back in the, in ye olden days of the internet and Geo Cities and Netscape, there was a, a website that had all of the lyrics to all of the Fraggle Rock songs.


Just a apropo of nothing. And now this YouTube channel exists and I'm wondering if it's the same person, and I keep meaning to reach out to them and ask like, Hey, are you this magical human? Yeah. From back in the day. Who has the same weird obsession that I do? Well,


**Morgan Roe:** was it on a star? Was it on one little star?


There was, we've done some where you're like, I think these are the lyrics.


**Beth Cook:** Those are the ones that I had to figure out myself. Um, because yeah, I, I'm, I'm very grateful when other folks are like, You know, here are the lyrics as best as I can. Figure them out. And I'll go, cool, here's my attempt at that. And if they line up, great.


And if they don't, then you know, I'll like listen back a million times. And sometimes I'm like, oh, oh, they're actually right. It is this instead of that. And sometimes it's like, oh no, I still think it's this.


**Morgan Roe:** Yeah. And that's hard sometimes you're like, well, it could be either one. No, I've done that in other areas, but I'm, I can usually in, in just in stuff that projects I've done, I can usually go and, and look up the definitive answer.


Right.


**Beth Cook:** Yeah. For a lot of, we don't have the definitive answer. Yeah. Which is wildest when the answer changes. Like especially with, um, the example that comes to mind is with being green, like there are different versions. Where the lyrics change slightly. Yeah. And so, you know, it depends on, well, which version are you talking about?


You talking about, you know, Kermit on Sesame Street or Kermit on the Muppet Show or Big Bird at Jim Henson's memorial service or the cover on the Green Album. Oh my gosh, yeah. Uh, what's the Green Album? Sounds interesting. Uh, that was an album of just Muppet covers that. Came out probably a, a, a decade ago.


Um, that's where that cover of Yeah. Going to go back there someday came from,


**Morgan Roe:** yeah. Yeah. So is this a compilation, like they put the word out and we're like, you know, reached out to Sele. Is it celebrities or is like, who, who are these people on this


**Beth Cook:** album? Yeah. Various artists. You've got, uh, Let's see. Cake did, oh, their cover of phenomena.


I, I,


**Morgan Roe:** I, I know how it goes. I could sing it to you right now.


**Beth Cook:** That is so perfect for cake. Yep. But yeah, I think in that case being green was covered by Andrew Bird. Nice. Well


**Morgan Roe:** maybe I'll have to go listen to that cuz I've been really impressed again, some of the, the covers and, um, and right now do you wanna talk about, I mean obviously this is gonna change by the time we, um, Released the episode, but mm-hmm.


Right now we're working on the first time it happens. Oh gosh. We were just working on this recently. Um, right. You wanna talk about that


**Beth Cook:** song since it's very fresh for us right now. Oh my gosh. Okay. So this is a song from the Grape Muppet Caper, which many people think is the best Muppet movie of all time.


I, it definitely holds a special place in my heart, but this cover is done by. Of all people. Seth McFarlane. Yeah. Who turns out has a great like swing style voice. Yeah. Like he, he's, he's very much Michael's Michael


**Morgan Roe:** up. Yeah, yeah,


**Beth Cook:** yeah. So I, you know, added that to my Muppet sing along playlist and was like, oh, maybe I could, uh, Practice that one of these days and turns out it's real hard.


Yes. Well, again, yes. Uh, so


**Morgan Roe:** many times you've brought songs, and this is a, a good example of like, um, and one thing we talk about in lessons is like, we want it to sound easy, right? So that's the goal, right? So of course it's gonna sound easy when they do it, but, you know, some of this stuff is pretty complicated, aga.


And again, they, they don't shy away from genre. They don't shy away from. Uh, weird chord progressions or, or jumps that are pretty challenging for vocalists or weird range issues where like the first note of the whole thing is like, pretty low and then it goes up pretty high, so,


**Beth Cook:** yeah. Um, and I really love covers like this that brings something new to the table.


Yeah. Like if it's, if a cover is just, you know, the original arrangement sung by, you know, some celebrity. Then like, okay, that might, you know, make some sales, but are they really, how, how much is it contributing


**Morgan Roe:** to, how much is it they're making it their own? I think that's why I, I know I keep bringing this up, but I'm going to go back there someday.


Mm-hmm. They really made it their own. Nothing in that sounded even remotely Muppet ish. Yeah. And, but that's what I loved about it, is they took it and they made it their own. And this one again, like you could, this could be playing it like. You know, like you walk into the mall or something. Mm-hmm. Like this could be on, you'd never know if you didn't already know that it's from the Muppets.


Um, yeah. This particular version at least.


**Beth Cook:** Um, it could absolutely be someone's like wedding song. Totally.


**Morgan Roe:** Absolutely. Yes. It would like hands down be played at the like fir beginning part of the wedding reception when all of the, like, you know, all of the generations are there. Yep. And they play,


**Beth Cook:** in fact, I know someone through Tough Bigs who this was their wedding song, but it was the Muppets version cuz I don't think this one had come out yet.


Right. Yes.


**Morgan Roe:** Oh man. That's fun. Oh, that's fun. Any other crazy in interesting times when you've encountered the Muppets that you didn't expect to? Like where you, do you see them in interesting places? Uh, maybe not. This is just a question that kind of popped into my head for no reason. Like, like for example, at a wedding, that's not a place I wouldn't necessarily expect to see a Muppet song.


Song.


**Beth Cook:** Well, because, uh, In particular, this was a couple of fellow Muppet nerds. Uh, that was, that piece of information was not a surprise to me. Sorry. Um, and some day at my future wedding there will probably be a Muppet song or 10. I have


**Morgan Roe:** zero doubt in that.


**Beth Cook:** Right. And it will be epic cuz


**Morgan Roe:** again, um, yeah, there's just such, such depth and breadth here.


Mm-hmm. Well, I, um, I always ask this final question at, at the end of every interview. So, do you know what zeitgeist means?


**Beth Cook:** I remember listening to. The intro of your podcast and going, oh yeah, that makes sense. And now I forget the literal translation. Yeah, translation. So it means


**Morgan Roe:** spirit of the Times. So Zeit is time.


And then Geist is like ghost, like Poltergeist, ghost, yeah. Zeit. So time ghost. But like the, the translation means like spirit of the time, it's like kind of what it like feels like to be. In any particular moment. So like, like it mm-hmm. Like if you picture living through 2020, there's a very specific zeitgeist that everyone was, you know, versus like in the nineties.


Completely different zeitgeist. And so I, I have an anthropology background too. That was my real


**Beth Cook:** major in school. Oh. Um, that makes a lot of sense now that I'm thinking about


**Morgan Roe:** it. So that's why I think this is such the, the, I am enjoying so much this combination Zeitgeist radio of like talking to people from these interesting subcultures or like, you know, places that people make music and show up and what is the zeitgeist?


So, There's a moment that I, I call a zeitgeist moment. Mm. Where you just kind of like, there's a moment where you just plug in to whatever that zeitgeist is through music. Cuz this is a music focused, you know, podcast and, and business here that I have. So, um, So when, kind of like when you just, when you feel alive through music and connected to something bigger than yourself.


So that's kind of what I call a zeitgeist moment. Um, what was a recent zeitgeist moment


**Beth Cook:** for you? Oh my gosh. So as we we're recording this podcast, the new series, the Muppets Mayhem has not yet premiered, but they're going through a lot of, you know, like, uh, Teaser trailers and you know, dropping like one song at a time and the album's available for pre-order.


And we over at Tough Pigs have been cautiously optimistic for a long time. Like, oh, the Electric Mayhem are getting their own show. This could go really awesome or really bad and we don't know and we're gonna cross our fingers because, you know, back to The Rock was incredible and we never thought that would happen and, and.


You know, I, I haven't seen it yet. Like we, it ha it hasn't dropped yet. But, um, you know, I think a few of the, the press have gotten early press access to watch it and, you know, they can't say anything yet except, Hey, I think this is really good. And so that makes me really hopeful that, you know, there's a, a lot of talk about like, Are the Muppets still relevant?


Should they retire? How long can they keep going? And this is making me hopeful that, you know, we can still get new generations of fans and find ways to keep these characters relevant and. And reinventing them like they're original puppeteers. You know, half of them are no longer with us. And so then these new folks have gotta take on these legacy characters and make them their own, but still somehow stay true to the original.


And you know, these new writers coming on have got this job of continuing these legacy characters, but also with more, you know, 2023 sensibilities, and I'm incredibly impressed and grateful when they get it right. Um, I will say that there was a particular moment of the, uh, the holiday special of Back to the Rock.


Um, so back to the Rock is. Not a sequel or a prequel to the original Frago rock. It's, it's an au, it's an alternate universe. And each episode contains, you know, a redoing an original song or from the original series and then one new original song. And when this holiday special came out, I was convinced that, you know, the.


The song that they brought back from the original series was gonna be, there's a Promise Cuz it was the the Winter Holiday special. What other song could it be? And what they did instead was they used the final song from the final episode of the original series, which was Magic Be With You. And you know, the whole message was, you cannot leave the magic, magic will always be with you.


And. I started crying. I was like, like at that point we, we knew that they had gotten a season two, but at that point they didn't, you know, it was their, Hey, if this is all we get, let's give it our all. And that just meant so much to me. That's awesome. Oh my gosh,


I


**Morgan Roe:** love that. Well, I mean, like if working through these with you has been, has told me anything, it's that this music is absolutely still relevant. Like these themes will never go away. It's part of being human. Yep. And, and even like some of the, like the protest song, what year was that written


**Beth Cook:** like, 80.


Yeah. Something


**Morgan Roe:** three or four. Yeah. And you brought it to me in like 2021, I guess. 2022. Mm-hmm. Right in the middle. I mean, there's, it's very, very much still relevant, so, yeah. Oh yeah. I appreciate you taking me on this journey. I'm not sure who's leading who here, but it's, it's very fun for me. So, Beth, thank you so much for being on my podcast.


**Beth Cook:** Thank you so much for having me. This was a blast.


Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Zeitgeist Radio. To up-level your musical journey and become a music student for life. Join the Zeitgeist Academy by signing up for my biweekly newsletter. You'll get exclusive content, blog posts, and behind the scenes insights. I love putting it together and you'll love reading it.


Head over to zeitgeist academy.com/radio. That's Z E I T G E I S t academy.com/radio. Music for this episode was created by Ian Boswell. Please hit that subscribe button and tell all your friends you found a cool new podcast. See you next time.



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