Writers: Paul Williams
Title: A phrase that states the main idea of the song.
Structure: A / A / B / A
Points of Interest:
1) I feel lucky to have grown up in an era when children's entertainment was dominated by two people who were not only talented writers, but also extremely moral people: Mr. Rogers, and Jim Henson. My generation got to spend time throughout our childhoods really thinking about what what it means to be a good person, and how to strive daily to be our best selves emotionally, intellectually, and creatively. There were occasionally snippets of a Christian God referenced in these discussions, Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister after all, but what I appreciate most from both writers is the greater stress they each placed on humanity, on love, and on peace. To me, their work suggests that we should be good for the joy it brings ourselves, and for the joy it brings to others.
2) Many of the songs Paul Williams wrote for The Muppets, particularly the Christmas songs, similarly layer a greater humanism over a Christian foundation. "Thankful Heart," Scrooge's resolution toward the end of "A Muppet Christmas Carol," is a great example of how this balance plays out. We do hear Scrooge mention prayer in verse 1. In the B section, Scrooge talks about how the world is "born again each day," which suggests a deeply Christian faith. Most interestingly, in the last verse, the human "you" that Scrooge sings to throughout the song briefly becomes God, as in "sing your praise," before immediately switching back to the human with "beg you to share my day." In this moment we perhaps see the underlying belief that God is in the people all around us, and so we should really sing the praise of our fellow man. The humanism throughout the rest of the song supports this idea: "Every girl and boy will be nephew and niece to me," "I will bid you welcome / What is mine is yours," "if you need to know the measure of a man / you simply count his friends," to just name a few.
3) In greater support of this praise for humanity, Williams writes into the A section a call-and-response, forcing us to sing in one unified wish for social equality. The call-and-response is a brilliant structural support for the song's content.
4) On a different note, I love the vocal melody of this song, particularly in the A sections. A melody can move one of two ways: stepwise, from one note to an adjoining note; or by jumping a greater interval. Too much stepwise motion can be boring, and too many jumps can feel disjointed. Williams uses an interesting technique here that can be traced, I'm sure, pretty far back in the history of music, but it is worth noting anyway. The first three lines of each A section consist of a larger intervalic jumps that move stepwise each time; A-D, A-E, A-F#; lending the phrase stability from the stepwise motion and interest from the intervalic jumps.