Kieran Moore – Oxford Dictionaries defines “soul” as
“A person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity” or “Emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance”
By this definition many, many Muppets have soul or, if you’re Lew Zealand, sole. Whether they’re being fired out of a cannon, testing edible paper clips or wearing fart shoes; Muppets do so with a sense of self and emotional awareness that makes them so much more human than many of the people I know in real life. However, away from all of the zaniness above, there is one Muppet that embodies the above definition more than any other – and that’s Mokey Fraggle
If each of the Fraggle Five was a part of the ultimate Fraggle (like a singing, dancing Megazord), Mokey would be the soul. As the oldest of the main five Fraggles, she’s the mother of the group and often provides their moral compass – even if her efforts are sometimes misplaced. She’s kind, sensitive and a dreamer – and (spoiler alert) she’s my favorite Fraggle. So let’s dance our cares away and get on with it.
10 – Mokey’s Jam Session
It’s quite unusual that an instrumental piece makes it onto one of my character charts – the only other times I can think of were for Zoot and Cantus Fraggle. Speaking of the latter, I really wanted to include a song from the Fraggle Rock episode Mokey and The Minstrels, but nothing made the list. The reason I hoped to feature this episode was so I could highlight a wonderful conversation that takes place between Mokey and Cantus. It’s probably the best example of Muppet philosophy you will ever hear and makes me think of that chat Kermit has with himself in The Muppet Movie just before he sees the shooting star. Cantus and Mokey’s exchange is all about looking inside and knowing yourself. It’s perfect and I recommend everyone find it and take a listen. To get back to this track, anyone who knows Fraggle Rock and Mokey will be aware this chart is going to be ballad heavy so this fun, jazzy number makes a nice counterpoint. It’s short, but well worth the time.
9 – Somewhere There’s a Special Place
Mokey and Red are best friends. It would be easy to say the show’s creators simply took the lazy route of matching up the two main girls together – particularly because they are such different characters. However, I don’t see anything lazy about this pairing at all. The fact that Mokey and Red are so very different is actually one of this duo’s strengths. As is demonstrated by this song, although they want different things they can easily see a way the situation can work for both of them. Red and Mokey are passionate and fun-loving and from that common ground all other differences can be overcome. That’s pretty much the premise of the show in one relationship. Fraggle Rock excels at floaty-light songs and this is one of the finest examples.
8 – Beetle Song
I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is one of the best known Fraggle Rock songs. I could be wrong (surely not), but after classics like Follow Me and Dixie Walin’ and the show’s theme, I can see this being fairly well recognised by Fraggle aficionados and casual fans alike. As with the previous song this is being sung by Mokey and Red, but that’s where the similarities end. This is much more upbeat and silly and singalongable (if you’re feeling brave). I mentioned above the Mokey is fun-loving and that often comes out in mischievous ways. Here she’s playing up to Red’s competitive nature and setting her an almost impossible task that she’s bound to fail. It’s interesting to see that dynamic in action and watch Mokey get the better of Red in a good-natured way. This song leaves me in awe of Kathryn Mullen and Karen Prell!
7 – Why?
So far, despite saying this chart would be ballad heavy, we’ve had a little bit of everything from Mokey. This however is the introspective ballad to end them all! It’s a beautiful piece that explores Mokey’s character, her feelings about the world around her and how she fits into it all. It’s a well worn chestnut from me by this point, but once again I have to say I love how a Henson “kids” show is showing the grown-ups how to do emotion successfully. It’s astounding. I adore the fact that songs like this get to exist in a 20ish minute puppet show. Fraggle Rock is silly and colorful, but it never talks down to its audience and that’s why it’s so fondly remembered. Kathryn Mullen has a silky soprano voice that gives Mokey some real vulnerability in this track. This is beautifully sung and acted and anything less would have really betrayed the emotion of the lyrics. In Kathryn’s hands it’s perfect.
6 – The Joy
Watching Mokey sitting outside writing in her diary makes me think of another, more recent time when we saw her do the same. In case you aren’t aware, several years back The Henson Company ran a short film competition asking fans to create a piece based on The Dark Crystal. Steven Dirckze and Taylor Tofflemire came up with the genius idea of having Mokey go exploring to cure her writer’s block only to come face to face with a dying Mystic. Their encounter is beautiful and moving, delicate and genuinely affecting. It’s a wonderful film that is well written, acted, performed and directed. It’s easily my favorite of all the entries. It’s called The Wanderer and it’s on YouTube and I can’t recommend it enough for fans of The Dark Crystal or Fraggle Rock. I can’t help but think this song might have been the inspiration for the whole film. It fits perfectly – even down to the butterfly in the clip.
5 – Sunlight and Shadow
The only thing sadder than one sad Fraggle is two sad Fraggles. Since this is a solo number it’s only half as sad as it could be, but it’s still pretty sad. (And you know that because I’ve used the word “sad” a lot). Going back to my introduction talking about emotional intelligence and soul, here we see Mokey tackle the issue of being locked away in a manner that the other Fraggles probably wouldn’t. Once again, we see her thinking about the world around her and the concept of freedom. This is still quite “woe is me”, but it’s putting that feeling into context. I physically can’t praise Kathryn Mullen enough for her performance as Mokey. She tugs at every heartstring. And while I’m offering plaudits – no Fraggle chart can pass without a mention of Dennis Lee and Philip Balsam. They are songwriting geniuses.
4 – Sorrow and Shame
Although the previous song was sad (although only half as sad as if two Fraggles had sung it), you wouldn’t instantly associate Mokey with the Blues. Yet here she is singing them as though her lover just left her for her best friend, her dog died and the bank foreclosed on her cave. This is still introspective, but done in such a different way for Mokey that it immediately stands out as interesting. It’s neat to see her and Kathryn break out and perform a style of music that’s away from their usual gentle ballads. Mokey’s light soprano isn’t what one might expect for this style of song, but it works because everyone commits to it. Once we get in to the raucous gospel-inspired finale everything has changed and this becomes a roof-raising number that shows off Kathryn’s ability to spit out a rhyme at high speed.
3 – Ragtime Queen
If Mokey had ever released a single (as Muppets sometimes do), I think this would have been it. It has massive radio play appeal and I could honestly see this having the ability to crossover into the mainstream with a few more verses. I always picture Kate Bush singing this, but there are plenty of artists releasing this kind of song today. I love the way the tune rises and falls and plays with the meter of the lyrics. This track was actually number one on my Kathryn Mullen chart back in the day and my love for it hasn’t diminished, despite this drop in the rankings. I still think this is Kathryn’s best vocal and probably her top performance of Mokey overall. I somehow have acquired two Mokey plushes and one day I intend to customize one so I too have my very own “Rags” doll.
2 – Helping Hand
I wish this song was better known. It really is Mokey and Gobo’s “Friendship Song”. Because the pair aren’t in mortal danger like Red and Boober it perhaps lacks the same emotional punch, but in every other way they are equals. I love this quiet moment between Mokey and Gobo. They aren’t always the most obvious pairing, but as the two Fraggles who feel most grown-up they work together in a way I appreciate more and more every time I see them. There were hints of a romance between the two, but I’m glad that wasn’t really explored. We all know what happened to Friends once they started pairing up. No one wants to see Gobo shouting “We were on a break”. Jerry Nelson is once again brilliant as Gobo. His musical partnership with Kathryn reminds me of his work on The Muppet Show with Louise Gold and that’s no bad thing.
1 – Sail Away
This is one of my favorite ever Muppet songs – Fraggle or otherwise. It’s such a special piece. Like all the best songs (and elevator muzak) this works on many levels. On the face of it this is a sweet lullaby that focuses on the moon and it’s fleeting passage through our lives. It’s soothing and relaxing and does just what a lullaby should do. (I’m nodding off as I type.) However, as part of my regular quests for online Muppet covers I found a version of this performed by a guy called Scott Stutzman that he recorded as part of an EP with Dixie Wailin’, Follow Me and Just a Dream Away. When paired with at least two of those songs, I found that this number can actually be seen as being quite mournful and potentially about the loss of a loved one. His recording gave me a whole new perspective on this piece. If you get the chance to listen to it, please do. In the meantime, Mokey sings this in an emotionally truthful manner that is so resonant it almost hurts. Kathryn clearly knows how special this song is. Every so often the Muppets capture lightning in a bottle by combining performance with writing and this is one of those occasions.
There’s so much more I could say about Mokey Fraggle. I love her artistic side. I love how sensitive she is. I love her ringpull necklace. I love that she is brave enough to collect radishes from the Gorgs’ garden. I love that she cared enough to try and stop Fraggles eating Doozer constructions. I love how much I identified with her as a child. And as much as I love each of the Fraggle Five in their own special way, my heart will ultimately always belong to Mokey.
So while I didn’t get time to say all that, I do have to make time to say a huge Thank You to Kathryn Mullen and all the other Fraggle Rock performers, writers, composers, creatives and, well, everyone who had anything to do with the show and these 10 songs. You all gave me one of my favorite fictional characters ever. Thank You.