Thursday, December 18, 2008

December Stories and Songs, Part 18

When SonShineIn was small, we got a copy of Russell Hoban's book Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, and it quickly became one of our favorite Christmastime books. Since we didn't have HBO then (or ever), it wasn't until many years later that we learned Jim Henson had made a television film of it in 1977. Although that's a very good film -- Jim Henson, after all -- please, get hold of a copy of the book if you can and read that.
The plot has something in common with O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, but with enough twists that it is much more than just a "children's version". Family, friends, music -- and the story is all about animals who live in a swamp. It's a story with a message that is never heavy-handed.
I often find a song that's mentioned in a story, but seldom one that was inspired by and written for it. In the book, Emmet, his mother, and his band sing a song called "Downstream Where the River Meets the Sea" in memory of Pa Otter (who is already dead when the story begins). We are only told the title, no lyrics. When the film was made, the song, with title slightly altered to "When the River Meets the Sea," was written by Paul Williams (he also wrote The Rainbow Connection, We've Only Just Begun, and many other hits). You can hear it on this clip from the film, but if you don't already own a copy of the CD John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together -- well, you need to get one, that's all.

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