Jeff Moss with Kermit and Miss Piggy
(Image via Muppet Wiki)
Jeff Moss, born on this date in 1942, was the first head writer for "Sesame Street," helping to bring to life characters like Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch, and winning hearts (and 15 Emmys) with classics like “I Love Trash,” “The People in Your Neighborhood” and “Rubber Duckie.” His music is memorable and so was he, as guest blogger Steve Reed makes clear in this touching tribute to his friend and fellow Princeton alum who died nearly 15 years ago.
I have many quiet impressions of Jeff Moss and am aware of the ways in which he and his music have influenced my life. But I have two small but vivid memories of him.
I first met Jeff when I was an undergraduate at Princeton. Jeff was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Princeton Triangle Club, and at the annual Triangle reunion Jeff would always wind up at the piano playing some of his favorite songs – Triangle and otherwise. I remember sitting cross-legged on the ground with a group of friends, completely captivated by Jeff's talent and subtle showmanship. It was the performance of a songwriter, not of a cabaret performer, and his rendition of "I Love Trash" was as joyful and gross as his "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon" was personal and moving. "Rubber Duckie" was nostalgic for me then, and I still hear Jeff's voice when my kids and I watch Ernie sing it on Sesame Street.
After graduating I had the privilege of attending several meetings of the Princeton Triangle Club board of trustees with Jeff. He was not shy; indeed he was an occasionally grumpy protector of the club's artistic integrity. At one meeting I sat next to Jeff, and after I (and perhaps he as well) had imbibed a few, our joking and running commentary on the meeting were cause for rebuke by the Chairman. I was embarrassed, but Jeff was not – he just gave a short laugh, and continued on the same course.
Shortly before he died in 1998, Jeff wrote The Song Goes On, which was a centerpiece of the Triangle Club's revue in celebration of Princeton's 250th anniversary and has become a staple in the club's canon. Although I never heard Jeff perform "The Song Goes On," I hear him every time I hear undergraduate voices singing the song. And every time I sing “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” to my children.
Princeton Triangle Club alum Steve Reed is a Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern University. He lives in Evanston, Ill. where his wife is employed by Legacy.com.