You can learn to sing/ You can learn the special words that live in everything/ Teach your ear to hear the stones/ Listen to the trees/ Magic is as magic does/ It lives in you and me. ~ Fraggle Rock episode “Wembley’s Wonderful Whoopie Water”
I hadn’t really planned to post today. Life, the universe, and everything sort of tumbled down around my head this week, and the idea of posting — even the idea of catching up on reading blogs — has been overwhelming.
But then I saw a news article. A horribly sad one, one which took some of the light and joy and whimsy out of the world.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, Jerry Nelson is the Muppeteer who is responsible for performing more characters in the worlds created by Jim Henson than I could possibly list; most people would know him as Herry Monster, Count Von Count, and (most importantly, at least to my mind) Gobo Fraggle.
I rediscovered Fraggle Rock several years ago, when I found a copy of the first season on DVD for half price, and I just couldn’t resist reconnecting with my childhood. I expected to have a few laughs with it and then move on.
What surprised me in watching the show again was how complex it was, how it dealt with the very adult problems of responsibility, the importance of friendship, and cooperation between people who share a world but can’t see eye-to-eye. It was a show that was intended to change the world.
And it did, at least for some of us who were the right age, and in the right place at the right time. The idealism of the early 1980’s may lie deeply buried in many of my generation, but it’s there, and we learned it from Fraggle Rock.
Part of what made that show so successful, what made it have such an impact on my young and impressionable mind, was its characters. They weren’t just Muppets, doing silly things and singing silly songs — they were people, they had depth, and it was their performers who gave them that depth.
That’s why I’m so sad to hear of Jerry Nelson’s passing. His distinctively sharp voice may be more recognizable for his work on Sesame Street, but his was the voice of Marjorie, the wise Trash Heap, which taught me that Gorgs are people too; his was the voice of Pa Gorg, who taught me that even pompous blow-hards are capable of love; and his was the voice of Gobo Fraggle, who taught me that it’s easy to be brave and good and strong, so long as you have friends who love you.
So now I’ll just let the man speak for himself. Thanks for all the good times, Mr. Nelson. You will be missed.