September 24th is a significant date in Muppetdom. Most serious Muppet fans probably know that it’s Jim Henson’s birthday, and many know that it’s also Steve Whitmire’s birthday (which I celebrated on Monday). But there’s another reason why September 24th is significant that even the most dedicated Muppet fan may not be aware of: Jeff Moss passed away from cancer on September 24th, 1998. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his death.
Most people know Jeff Moss as a composer/lyricist who wrote songs for Sesame Street and The Muppets Take Manhattan, which garnered him an Academy Award nomination. But he was also the head writer of Sesame Street from Seasons 2 through 5, creating or contributing to the creation of some of our favorite characters that live on to this very day, including one of Jim Henson’s signature Sesame characters, Guy Smiley. Like Jim Henson, Jeff Moss also passed at an unreasonably young age, being only 56 years old (if my math is correct).
When I try to characterize Jeff Moss’ music, the first word that comes to mind is “soulful,” especially as compared to the chameleonic virtuosity of Joe Raposo and the parodic poignancy of Chris Cerf. Even when Jeff Moss’ songs were lighthearted and upbeat, there was usually a deeper dimension to them, an edge of emotionality. Sometimes he even wrote specifically about emotions, as in the trilogy of songs he wrote for Little Jerry and the Monotones: “Mad,” “Sad,” and “Proud.“
Jeff Moss wrote one of my favorite songs of all time, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” which was of course originally performed by Jim Henson as Ernie. All of Jeff Moss’ songs are special, but when Jim Henson performed his music, something really magical happened.
To celebrate both Jim Henson and Jeff Moss, I’ve compiled a playlist of songs that Jeff Moss composed for Sesame Street and that were sung, in whole or in part, by Jim Henson. This list is not all inclusive:
There is another Jeff Moss song that I couldn’t add to the playlist because Jim Henson didn’t sing it, but I want to highlight it anyway. It’s called “I’m Going to Get My Hair Cut.” In it, Jeff Moss lends his voice to a Muppet boy named Jeffy who is afraid to get a haircut but is nevertheless determined to go through with it. Jeffy may well be the bravest character in Sesame Street history:
(No information available as to who puppeteered Jeffy to Moss’ vocal track.)