Remembering Jim Henson

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Twenty-five years ago today, on May 16, 1990, Jim Henson passed away. Five days later, a memorial service was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. In July, another memorial was held in London, at St. Paul's Cathedral; both services were open to the public.

Four years before his passing, Henson had given very clear instructions about the services, requesting that no attendees wear black and that a jazz band be present. According to one account, Henson also reportedly wrote that "I'm not at all afraid of the thought of death and look forward to it. It would be lovely if there were a song or two ... and someone said some nice happy words about me."

Below, I've collected some videos from Henson's memorial services. They're touching, funny, and heartfelt. If you're at work, get ready to cry at your desk (and laugh a bit, too).

Frank Oz's Remembrance

"The best thing of all—the best thing—is when you watched Jim laugh until he cried. It usually happened when we were recording something, or performing with the gang ... And he couldn't speak, and the tears were rolling down, and he'd try to add to the joke and he just couldn't do it, and it was the best thing to see because you knew he was always busy and always working under pressure. And thinking, it was such a purge and a release—wonderful, the best thing to see him do that." —Frank Oz

Also discussed: nude photos, what's inside Bert's brain, simplicity, quality, craftsmanship, and love.

Richard Hunt's Eulogy

"It's important that we all stop giving ourselves such a hard time. We've got to remind ourselves, and push ourselves, to let go—there's not much we can do except to be, and in being, become aware. See what's going on around you all the time, and allow it to happen: all the sadness, all the joy. And that's why Jim's last words are most important: 'Please watch out for each other,' he says. Love everyone and forgive everyone, including yourself. Forgive your anger. Forgive your guilt. Your shame. Your sadness. Embrace and open up your love, your joy, your truth, and most especially your heart." —Richard Hunt. (Two years later, Hunt was memorialized in the same cathedral.)

Henson's "last words" here are reportedly also from the aforementioned letter to friends and family; I haven't found a copy of the letter online, but here's a portion that's widely quoted:

"Watch out for each other.

Love and forgive everybody.

It's a good life, enjoy it!"

Big Bird Sings "Bein' Green"

Performed in London. Devastating.

Harry Belafonte Performs "Turn the World Around"

"Greater than his artistry was his humanity."

Jim's Favorite Songs

The end of the service, performed by various Muppeteers. Fifteen minutes of joy and sadness. Watch for the audience members waving butterflies.

You can read much more about the memorial from the Muppet Wiki.

Can You Find More Videos?

These services were professionally recorded, and were much longer than what's shown here. If you can find other videos online, please post links in the comments.

See also: The Late Movies: Muppet Extras, Jim Henson Makes Muppets (Video, 1969), Revisiting 8 Sesame Street Rumors.

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May 16, 2015 - 11:40am
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