There are few things that resonate more with me emotionally during the holidays than John Denver. As a child, Denver was one of the few “country” factors to my otherwise strictly northeastern upbringing. I remember watching the news coverage of his passing with my mother and brother, and feeling like I had lost a dear uncle.
The holiday recording “Christmas Together” starring John Denver and the Muppets was a huge part of my childhood. Even now, when I hear the “12 Days of Christmas,” it is in the squeaky voice of Ms. Piggy and the morose baritone of Kermit the Frog.
Despite how well I knew the songs, there was always an air of mystery surrounding this special. Even though my family collectively owned about a dozen copies of the album on 8-track, cassette, vinyl, CD and everything in between, I had never actually seen the special.
To the best of my research, the special aired for one night only in the United Kingdom in December 1979. The corresponding album that I was so familiar with was released in the United States the previous October. For years, this fascinated me. How could something so popular and such a big part of my family have barely existed in a certain medium?
Each year, I would scour the Internet looking for some old VHS copy to give to my family. Remember those DVD catalogs that used to plauge your mailbox? Those people hated me. Why? Because each year I would refuse to believe that something so important was never released on video or DVD.
But why John Denver and the Muppets?
There are few things my family completely agreed on in pop culture. This Christmas CD was one of them. My parents, fans of early-70s easy listening adored John Denver. My siblings, children of the 80s, adored the Muppets. I, a product of the 1990s, adored nostalgia. The Muppets also represent something very innocent and special about the idea of childhood. There is nothing cynical or disingenuous about the Muppets, and that can be said for very few things in society.
Several years ago, a YouTube user uploaded a very rough copy of the original program, thus ending my two-decade search for this Christmas gem. Having imagined the narrative I presumed accompanied the music, I was a little disappointed at what amounted to another strange late-70s holiday special. This doesn’t matter, though; the album still lives on, and will live on in my family for generations. There are very few Barclay traditions. John Denver and the Muppets, however, is certainly one them.