Photo courtesy of FOX
"The Simpsons" At 30: A Complete History Of Every Band That's Ever Rocked Springfield
Following a Dec. 17 Christmas special, January 14 will mark 30 years since the official season premiere of "The Simpsons." Today, the show still holds the trophy as the longest-running primetime TV series. If you look back on the 670-plus episodes of the animated series, you're likely to find a few constants: Homer will undoubtedly cause a catastrophe, Lisa will voice her opinions on issues important to her, Bart will get into trouble and a musical guest or two will appear in nearly every season. In fact, since the series premiered, music has played an integral role in many of the storylines and has arguably helped "The Simpsons" become as venerable of a show as it is today.
As evidence of music's permanent place in "The Simpsons," we learn in multiple episodes that Homer is often regretful of not having lived out his dream to become a rock star; Lisa can often be found playing her baritone saxophone when not studying; the now-popular theme song was composed by GRAMMY winner Danny Elfman, and countless bands, artists and musicians have lent their voices to tons of episodes, often playing themselves but sometimes other characters.
What is it about music and "The Simpsons" that make the two pair so well together, and what has helped the show, after 30 years and counting, remain as popular and influential today? To help us understand the continued cultural impact of "The Simpsons," we asked a few of the guest stars, and one of the individuals behind the show, about the everlasting impression that Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and the rest of the cast have made on all of us.
"There's something so compelling about them," says supervising director Mike Anderson, who's been with the show for 30 years and was the one who made Sigur Rós' participation in season 24 happen. "I think somehow the Simpsons—the yellow Simpsons—represent all of us. I think we are them, we have seen the experiences, somehow, we understand them. And they're a part of us that we love. And also, we can watch from the safety of our homes as Homer bashes his head between a ship and a pier post or saws himself in half [Laughs]."
Peter Frampton, who appeared in the season seven episode "Homerpalooza" says it’s the juxtaposition of pairing artists who reach different demographics. "I’m on the same show as the Smashing Pumpkins, who started out much later," he says. "Everything put together makes the most impact for the script."
Shawn Colvin, who appeared in two episodes as the lead singer of a church band named Rachel Jordan, adds, "'The Simpsons' has a certain edge and sophistication and irreverence in its humor and content, while still being silly and fun, thus making it relevant to all ages. The characters are so lovable and well-developed, not to mention well-played. They are relatable. Ultimately, it’s an intelligent show that also succeeds in being kind of stupid, in the best possible way."
Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive, who appeared with the band in season 11, says having music play such a large role on the series has "made the Simpsons a very hip and relevant contemporary show. Besides the continuing family adventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and all the other characters, it was unique to see musicians cartooned and hear their music integrated into the shows. It was a win-win-win for all."
Welsh singer/songwriter Judith Owen, who appeared in two episodes of the show, says, "One of the charms of 'The Simpsons' is that it actually has a foothold in reality. The fact that you've got this father, who's doing a really boring job in a factory but feels the regret of having given up his dream to be a musician, how many people are like that in real life? These are real experiences that people feel, which is having to give up their youthful dreams because they can’t pursue it because they have a family or obligations. Those are things that make the show pertinent and real."
Owen adds, "The music acts, like it so often does in life, as being the thing that connects you to humanity, and that is what music does anyway. Whether it be artists, or the very nature of the characters being musical, it connects the viewer to them in a very human way because even though it’s all make-believe, it has real things that we all understand."
Anderson adds that what makes "The Simpsons" so relevant 30 years later, is that we can find ourselves in one of the characters. "They hold up a mirror to the craziness in the world going on, but they make fun of it. It's a safe way to look at problems."
As far as the impact "The Simpsons" as had on all of us, the viewers, Anderson posits, "It's in our DNA now. It’s hard to imagine a world without the Simpsons."
To celebrate the 30th anniversary since the show's premiere, we've compiled a complete list, with some highlights, of every musical guest appearance on the show. Take a walk down memory lane and see if you can imagine a world without "The Simpsons."
Episode 6—Ron Taylor: "Moaning Lisa"
In the inaugural season of "The Simpsons," Lisa is struggling to find purpose in the world. She finds solace in her saxophone, but characters, like her music teacher Mr. Largo, get in the way. Then, one night as she’s sulking in her room, feeling down and defeated, she hears the soulful sax sounds of "Bleeding Gums" Murphy, played by the late actor, singer and writer Ron Taylor. Lisa sneaks out of her room, follows the music and eventually meets "Bleeding Gums," who teaches her how to express her feelings through music. Together, they write "Moanin' Lisa Blues."
Episode 5—Tony Bennett and Daryl Coley: "Dancin' Homer"
Episode 31—Ringo Starr: "Brush With Greatness"
In Season 2 episode "Dancin' Homer," Homer and family attend a baseball game to see the Springfield Isotopes. "Bleeding Gums" Murphy makes another appearance to perform the National Anthem, and this time his voice is supplied by the late singer Daryl Coley. As the title suggests, "dancin' Homer" fires up the crowd with a spur-of-the-moment performance, impressing the baseball big shots so much that they promote him to work for the Capital City Capitals. As the Simpsons arrive in Capital City, a song of the same name, performed by GRAMMY winner Tony Bennett, plays as Bennett himself makes a quick cameo with the line, "Hey, good to see you."
Adding more star—er, Starr?—power to the second season, the former Beatles drummer appears in episode 31 as Marge's once-upon-a-time art muse. When Homer is looking for his athletic gear in the attic—after deciding he’s going on a diet when he gets stuck in a tube slide during a trip to Mount Splashmore — he comes across several portraits of Starr painted by Marge. Lisa becomes interested in her mother's hidden talent, which sends Marge back in time, recalling how she sent her paintings to Starr a long time ago but never received a response. When Marge is encouraged to pick up painting again, the episode travels to England where we see Starr responding to fan mail seemingly from decades past. He picks up Marge's package out of the pack and finds her paintings. Impressed by her work, he sends a letter to Marge thanking her for her "fab" painting, which he "hung on me wall."
Episode 1—Michael Jackson and Kipp Lennon: "Stark Raving Dad"
Episode 10—Aerosmith: "Flaming Moe's"
Episode 13—Sting: "Radio Bart"
Episode 17—Terry Cashman: "Homer At The Bat"
Episode 20—Beverly D'Angelo: "Colonel Homer"
Episode 22—Spinal Tap: "The Otto Show"
In the season opener, Michael Jackson guest stars as the voice of an institutionalized man: Leon Kompowsky of New Jersey, who looks nothing like the real Jackson but claims to be the King Of Pop. Due to contractual obligations with his label at the time, Jackson couldn’t sing the songs in the episode, including "Happy Birthday Lisa," which Jackson wrote, so the singing parts were done by musician Kipp Lennon, a founding member of the folk/rock band Venice.
"Singing for the Simpsons over the years has always been a pleasure and a joy," Lennon tells the Recording Academy. "I always know that whatever they are calling me for it’s going to be clever and fun... It's quite a legacy to be a part of... a true icon of American pop culture that set the bar so very high indeed."
Meanwhile, Aerosmith make their "Simpsons" debut in episode 10 as the featured musical guest at the grand reopening of "Flaming Moe's," where the famous Moe joins them onstage for a rendition of "Walk This Way."
Sting appears in episode 13 as part of a campaign to raise awareness about a young boy who had allegedly fallen down a well in Springfield. However, the audience knows that there really isn’t a boy in the well; instead, it’s Bart who throws a radio transmitter microphone down a well and tricks the town into thinking a little boy is stuck. In an ironic turn of events, Bart falls down the well and Sting helps dig him out.
Later, in "The Otto Show" episode, Bart attends a concert by Spinal Tap—a parody band who appeared in the 1984 mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap—and decides he wants to be a rock star. The episode guest stars Harry Shearer, a regular "Simpsons" cast member who reprises his role as Derek Smalls from This Is Spinal Tap.
Episode 7—Tom Jones: "Marge Gets A Job"
Episode 9—Linda Ronstadt: "Mr. Plow"
Episode 20—Barry White: "Whacking Day"
Episode 21—David Crosby: "Marge In Chains"
Episode 22—Barry White, Bette Midler and Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Krusty Gets Kancelled"
Season four features an episode that fans and critics would go on to name one of the best in the animated series' history: "Mr. Plow." In the episode, Homer starts a snowplow business and calls it "Mr. Plow." In an attempt to get more customers, he creates a commercial to advertise his new business. When Barney sees how successful he is, he starts his own snowplow business, getting an even bigger snowplow and creating his own commercial, which features a jingle sung by Linda Rondstadt.
Barry White appears as the Grand Marshall for "Whacking Day"— a day created to drive snakes into the town's square and club them to death. David Crosby appears in episode 12 as the 12-step sponsor for Lionel Hutz; the episode references the Crosby, Stills And Nash song "Teach Your Children," when Crosby tells Hutz "and know that I love you."
Episode 22 features an all-star cast including White, Bettle Midler and Red Hot Chili Peppers, who come together to perform on Krusty's comeback special. It features the Red Hot Chili Peppers singing "Give It Away" in their underwear, and Krusty and Midler singing "Wind Beneath My Wings."
Episode 1—David Crosby, George Harrison and the Dapper Dans: "Homer's Barbershop Quartet"
Episode 4—The Ramones: "Rosebud"
Episode 7—James Brown: "Bart's Inner Child"
Episode 10—Robert Goulet: "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)"
Episode 15—James Taylor: "Deep Space Homer"
In episode one of season five, viewers are reminded that Homer once had a promising career as a member of The Be Sharps, whose hit song "Baby On Board" won a fictitious GRAMMY. In a flashback, Homer meets George Harrison at the GRAMMY after-party, and David Crosby presents The Be Sharps with their GRAMMY. The Be Sharps end up reuniting for a performance at Moe's Tavern, with the signing voices provided by the Dapper Dans.
One of the most memorable episodes of season five is episode four, which featured The Ramones performing at Mr. Burns' birthday party. After the band sings happy birthday to Mr. Burns, which ends with them saying "go to hell you old bastard," Mr. Burns, mistaking the Ramones for the Rolling Stones, orders Smithers to "have the Rolling Stones killed."
James Brown appears in episode seven of the show for a performance of his 1965 song "I Got You (I Feel Good)" at the Do What You Feel festival. GRAMMY winner James Taylor appears in episode 15 to serenade Homer and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Race Banyon on their space shuttle mission.
In episode 22, Ron Taylor reprises his role as "Bleeding Gums" Murphy and lends his saxophone to Lisa for a school recital when she bumps into him at a hospital. Before Lisa could return the sax, "Bleeding Gums" dies. Lisa is the only one to attend his funeral and vows to make sure everyone in Springfield knows who "Bleeding Gums" Murphy is.
In the final episode of the season—part one of the two-parter "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"—Lisa convinces Principal Skinner to hire Tito Puente as a music teacher, but Puente quickly loses his job when the school loses an oil opportunity to Mr. Burns. Puente would appear again in part two of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?"
Episode 1—Tito Puente: "Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two)"
Episode 5—Paul & Linda McCartney: "Lisa The Vegetarian"
Episode 6—Paul Anka: "Treehouse Of Horror VI"
Episode 24—Cypress Hill, Peter Frampton, Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth: "Homerpalooza"
The highlight of season seven is an episode that many "Simpsons" fans consider to be their favorite: "Homerpalooza." In the episode, Homer, in an attempt to prove to Bart and Lisa how cool he is, takes them to the Hullabalooza music festival where he’s hired as a sideshow freak who can withstand the force of a cannonball blast. The episode features appearances by Cypress Hill, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and Peter Frampton, who Homer upsets when he accidently sends Frampton's stage prop (an inflatable pig he apparently purchased at a Roger Waters yard sale) flying into the air.
Recalling when he received the phone call from "The Simpsons" crew asking him to be on the show, Frampton remembers saying, "I think you want me to play the old, crusty rock star that’s done everything, been there and is a little bit fed up with everything, and [the crew] said, 'nailed it.'"
But for his part on "The Simpsons," Frampton didn’t simply read his lines, he also contributed to the story by adding one of his own. As Homer gets ready to be shot in the belly with a canon, Frampton walks by and quips, "25 years in this business and I’ve never seen anything like it."
As far as being "Simpson-ized," a.k.a. drawn like a "Simpsons" character, Frampton recalls that seeing himself as that way was iconic. The legendary guitarist even has a backstage pass of his character hanging from his speaker in his music room. "I'm very proud of it," he adds. "It's like getting a GRAMMY.
Episode 2—Sally Stevens: "You Only Move Twice"
Episode 3—Sally Stevens: "The Homer They Fall"
Episode 9—Johnny Cash: "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)"
In episode nine of season eight of "The Simpsons," Homer eats several hot chili peppers and hallucinates, leading him on a mysterious voyage where he meets the "Space Coyote," played by Johnny Cash.
In season nine, Hank Williams, Jr. sings the song "Canyonero," which was used in a commercial for the SUV of the same name.
In the "Trash of the Titans" episode, Homer runs for the position of Springfield's Sanitation Commissioner, but his campaign gets off to a bad start when he's beaten up after interrupting U2's PopMart Tour concert by inserting himself on the stage screens to promote his campaign.
Episode 6—Yo La Tengo: "D'oh-in In The Wind"
Episode 10—The Moody Blues: "Viva Ned Flanders"
Episode 11—Cyndi Lauper: "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken"
Episode 12—Dolly Parton: "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday"
Episode 14—Elton John: "I'm With Cupid"
Episode 15—Hank Williams, Jr.: "Marge Simpson in: Screaming Yellow Honkers"
Episode 20—NRBQ: "The Old Man And The 'C' Student"
In a star-stacked season, "The Simpsons" welcomed musical guests for six episodes of season 10, including Elton John, who ends up at the Springfield airport when the chandelier on his private jet needs repairing and leads to an emergency landing. After John exits the plane, Homer greets him and tells him he’s his biggest fan. John responds by handing Homer one of his GRAMMYs. John later ends up performing a special Valentine's Day private concert for Apu and his wife.
This season also features Homer running into the Moody Blues in a casino, Cyndi Lauper performing the national anthem at a Springfield Isotopes game, and Dolly Parton helping Homer and others get out of "Super Bowl jail" with her "extra-strength makeup remover." Yo La Tengo appear in episode six of the season as one of only a few artists invited to rework "The Simpsons" theme song, giving it a psychedelic touch.
Episode 5—The B-52's: "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)"
Episode 8—NRBQ: "Take My Wife, Sleaze"
Episode 9—Clarence Clemons: "Grift Of The Magi"
Episode 12—Britney Spears: "The Mansion Family" Episode 13—Bachman Turner Overdrive: "Saddlesore Galactica"
Episode 14—Shawn Colvin: "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly"
Episode 19—Joseph "Joe C." Calleja and Kid Rock: "Kill The Alligator And Run"
Episode 22—Willie Nelson: "Behind The Laughter"
In episode 12, Britney Spears hosts the Springfield Pride Awards with Kent Brockman and accidentally kills Springfield’s oldest resident, Cornelius Chapman, when she kisses him on the cheek after handing him an award. Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive performs at the Springfield state fair as Homer shouts for them to play their hit "Takin' Care Of Business.” Shawn Colvin returns as Rachel Jordan, the lead singer of a Christian rock band Kovenant, and Ned is attracted to her. In the final episode of the season, Willie Nelson performs at the Phony Awards show, as a request from his longtime friend, Dr. Hibbert.
On playing the character of Rachel Jordan, Colvin says, "Playing Rachel was a blast. I recorded the song in Austin and they built the animation around my performance, but I did some overdubs in L.A. to the animation itself of Rachel, making grunting noises as she lifted her sound equipment back into her van. That was a first for me."
The Who perform in Springfield to destroy the wall that separates "Olde Springfield" from "New Springfield" with Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle voicing themselves. 'NSYNC appear in episode 14 to prevent L.T. Smash—who manage the short-lived boy band (featuring Bart) Party Posse—from destroying part of New York City. Colvin again reprises her role as Christian singer Rachel Jordan.
Episode 3—R.E.M.: "Homer The Moe"
Episode 5—Judith Owen: "The Blunder Years
Episode 16—Phish: "Weekend At Burnsie's"
In episode three of Season 13, Homer tricks R.E.M. into playing a concert in his garage bar, which he opened to steal regulars from Moe's Tavern. The band plays their hit song "It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Judith Owen appears in episode five as herself, playing piano and singing at the Pimento Grove. Jam band Phish appear in episode 16 to play a rally in support of the benefits of medical marijuana, which Homer enjoys.
Recalling seeing herself animated for the first time on "The Blunder Years" episode, Welsh singer/songwriter Owen says, "It was absolutely hysterical. I had an enormous and mouth, and massive eyes, and it was just fantastic."
Episode 2—Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Keith Richards, Brian Setzer: "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation"
Episode 3—Tony Bennett: "Bart vs. Lisa vs. 3rd Grade"
Episode 4—Baha Men: "Large Marge"
Episode 6—Sally Stevens: "The Great Louse Detective"
Episode 7—Little Richard: "Special Edna"
Episode 11—Blink-182: "Barting Over"
Episode 17—"Weird Al" Yankovic: "Three Gays Of The Condo"
Episode 18—David Byrne: "Dude, Where's My Ranch?"
Episode 20—Jackson Browne: "Brake My Wife, Please"
In one of the most rockin' seasons of "The Simpsons," the creators managed to get some of music's biggest stars to appear in "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation.” In this episode, viewers are again reminded of Homer’s long-lost rock star dreams, and the Simpsons family, realizing how they may have contributed to his dreams never becoming reality, send him to a Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp run by the Rolling Stones. At the camp, Homer and other Springfield residents learn about rock music from instructors such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty and Brian Setzer. The campers end with a mock rock concert that features Homer on guitar and vocals.
Also, Blink-182 appear in episode 11, performing at a party being thrown by skateboard legend Tony Hawk, who Bart happens to be neighbors with when he temporarily moves into a downtown loft.
Episode 7—Jim Gilstrap: "Tis the Fifteenth Season"
Episode 15—Brave Combo: "Co-Dependent's Day"
This season of "The Simpsons" featured appearances by singer Jim Gilstrap and polka band Brave Combo, who series creator Matt Groening learned about when he was a college radio DJ in the 1980s.
In episode nine, Bart sneaks out of the house to attend a rap concert featuring hip-hop artist “Alcatraaz.” After Alcatraaz drops his microphone during the concert, it lands in Bart’s hands and the hip-hop artist challenges him to a rap battle. Bart wins and gets to ride home with Alcatraaz in his limo, meeting 50 Cent along the way. In episode 18, "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino plays the role of Clarissa Wellington, who is one of the contestants of Krusty the Clown's Lil'l Starmaker singing contest.
Episode 19—Jim Gilstrap: "Girls Just Want To Have Sums"
Episode 22—Mandy Moore: "Marge And Homer Turn A Couple Play"
Mandy Moore plays the role of pop star Tabitha Vixx—the wife of Springfield Isotopes' Buck "Home Run King" Mitchell. After Tabitha embarrasses Buck by stripping down to lingerie during one of his games, he asks Homer and Marge for help with his marriage in exchange for season tickets. After a few hiccups in the relationship, Tabitha and Buck are able to patch things up.
Episode 1—Metallica: "The Mook, The Chef, The Wife And Her Homer"
Episode 2—White Stripes: "Jazzy And The Pussycats"
Episode 4—Sir Mix-A-Lot: "Treehouse Of Horror XVII"
Episode 14—Stephen Sondheim: "Yokel Chords"
Episode 22 — Ludacris: "You Kent Always Say What You Want"
In the opening episode of season 18, Otto is driving the kids to school when he sees Metallica’s tour bus broken down on the side of the road. Otto pulls over to talk to them and Bart hijacks the school bus, forcing Metallica to hitch a ride with Hans Moleman.
This season also features appearances by The White Stripes, who performed a parody of their video "The Hardest Button To Button" with Bart. When Bart’s drum kit crashes into theirs, Meg White says she’s going to kick Bart’s "ass," but before she has a chance, the band falls off a bridge into a landfill.
Ludacris, who plays himself as "Luda Crest," a toothpaste that’s "the enemy of the cavity." Luda Crest appears in an informational video Lisa watches while at the dentist's office called "Menace Tooth Society."
Episode 1—Lionel Richie: "He Loves To Fly And He D'ohs"
Episode 2—Plácido Domingo: "The Homer Of Seville"
Episode 4—Ted Nugent: "I Don't Wanna Know Why The Caged Bird Sings"
Episode 7—Jack Black: "Husbands and Knives"
Episode 11 — "Weird Al" Yankovic: "That's '90s Show"
Episode 16 — Dixie Chicks and Beverly D'Angelo: "Papa Don't Leech"
Episode 17 — Zooey Deschanel: "Apocalypse Cow"
The 19th season of "The Simpsons"—the first produced after "The Simpsons Movie"—opened with a guest appearance by GRAMMY winner Lionel Richie. When Homer saves Mr. Burns from nearly drowning in a fountain, Burns rewards him with a trip to Chicago on his private jet for some deep-dish pizza. On the plane, Homer gets serenaded by Richie, who sings him a song about beer upon his request.
In the second episode of the season, an injury Homer sustained when accidentally falling into an open grave (after he and family snuck into a wake for some food) gives him a powerful opera voice and he stars as Rodolfo in La bohème at the Springfield Opera House, subsequently giving advice to GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY winner Plácido Domingo.
This season also features Jack Black as the character Milo, the hipster owner of the comic bookstore Coolsville Comics & Toys—a rival to Comic Book Guy, the return of Beverly D’Angelo as Lurleel Lumpkin, and the Dixie Chicks.
Episode 11 features a cameo by MTV talking head Kurt Loder, and during a flashback we see another glimpse of Homer reminiscing on the early days when he could have become a rock star. The flashback involves his 1990s band Sadgasm inventing a new musical genre called "grunge.” In a sign that the band gained some popularity, "Weird Al" Yankovic covered their hit "Shave Me" as "Brain Freeze."
A special version of the end credits theme for episode nine was performed by GRAMMY-nominated rock band Fall Out Boy, whose name was directly inspired by a character in the "Radioactive Man" comic book series. Episode 14 was inspired by a New York Times article on the effects of Ireland's smoking ban on pubs, and featured Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard as a street musician and Markéta Irglová—the other half of the Swell Season—as an Eastern European woman.
Though not technically an appearance, a reworked version of Weezer's classic "Beverly Hills" played during the credits for "Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D'oh."
Episode 8—Smothers Brothers: "Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?”
Episode 10—Anne Hathaway and Eartha Kitt: "Once Upon a Time in Springfield"
Episode 11—Chris Martin: "Million-Dollar Maybe"
Episode 16—Yael Naim: "The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed"
Though technically known as an actress rather than a singer, Anne Hathaway appeared in episode 10 of season 21 and sang as "Princess Penelope," and her appearance ranks as one of Mike Anderson's most memorable.
"Anne Hathaway showed up at a table read and when she sang as Princess Penelope everyone at the table had their mouth hanging open just staring," he recalls. "The whole place was silent as she sang her part because it was so beautiful. Those are the memories I take away from the show."
Season 21 also featured Coldplay performing a private gig for Bart and Homer after Homer wins a million dollars in the lottery (the band must stop performing when Bart gets up to go to the bathroom).
Episode 1—Flight Of The Conchords and "Glee" cast: "Elementary School Musical"
Episode 8—Katy Perry: "The Fight Before Christmas"
Episode 22—Joey Kramer: "The Ned-Liest Catch"
Season 22 of "The Simpsons" opened with appearances by Flight Of The Conchords' Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement, who play hipster camp counselors Kurt Hardwick and Ethan Ballantyne at an art camp that Lisa attends. When she returns, Lisa has trouble acclimating to normal life and runs away to "Sprooklyn," described by the counselors as the "artistic hotbed of Springfield," but she quickly realizes it’s not as cool as they made it out to be. She returns home and the camp counselors create a mural in her honor.
GRAMMY-nominated pop star Katy Perry also appears in a live-action episode of season 22, the holiday special "The Fight Before Christmas." In the episode, Perry appears with the Simpsons as puppets and plays the part of Moe's girlfriend.
Episode 10—Ted Nugent: "Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson"
Episode 11—The Tiger Lillies: "The D'oh-cial Network"
Episode 14—Alison Krauss: "At Long Last Leave"
Episode 15—Nick McKaig: "Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart"
Episode 22—Lady Gaga: "Lisa Goes Gaga"
Proving just how diverse the artists who guest star on "The Simpsons" are, the 23rd season featured the return of Ted Nugent, who is chosen by Homer to be the Republican candidate for the next presidential election, and an appearance by GRAMMY winner Lady Gaga. GRAMMY winner Alison Krauss and her band Union Station recorded a bluegrass version of the theme song over the closing credits in episode 14, and Nick McKaig—known for his covers on YouTube—performed "The Simpsons" theme over the closing credits in episode 15.
In the final episode of the season, "Lisa Goes Gaga," Lady Gaga visits Springfield, where everyone is in a state of depression, with Lisa being arguably the most depressed after having been voted the most unpopular student by her peers. Gaga attempts to lift her spirits, but instead Lisa unleashes her anger on Gaga, prompting her to realize that bottling up her feelings has been her problem all along. She apologizes to Gaga and the two sing a duet called "Super Star" together. In the end, Homer can be heard singing "Poker Face" over the credits.
Episode 1—Zooey Deschanel and Anne Hathaway: "Moonshine River"
Episode 4—Marvin Hamlisch and Anika Noni Rose: "Gone Abie Gone"
Episode 7—The Decemberists, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein: "The Day The Earth Stood Cool"
Episode 9—Tom Waits: "Homer Goes To Prep School"
Episode 12—Zooey Deschanel and Max Weinberg: "Love Is A Many-Splintered Thing"
Episode 19—Sonny Rollins: "Whiskey Business"
Episode 20—Justin Bieber: "The Fabulous Faker Boy"
Episode 21—Sigur Ros: "The Saga Of Carl"
Season 24 featured a plethora of guest artists, including singer Zooey Deschanel who appears in two episodes, including the season opener wherein she reprises her season 19 role as Bart's girlfriend, Mary Spuckler.
Episode seven of the season was packed with guest stars as Homer goes hipster after meeting a goateed food truck proprietor played by musician, actor and comedian Fred Armisen. The episode also featured guest star, and Armisen’s "Portlandia" co-star, Carrie Brownstein and the Decemberists, who were hired to replace M.I.A. music teacher Dewey Largo.
Justin Bieber plays himself in episode 20 when he tries to get into a talent show that Bart is performing in and gets turned away. "The Simpsons" head to Iceland in episode 21 of the season when Carl attempts to connect with his roots. Mike Anderson commissioned Icelandic band Sigur Rós to participate, and the band’s music was featured in the episode, along with their interpretation of the opening theme.
Episode 9—Rob Halford: "Steal This Episode"
Rob Hilford appeared in episode nine of season 25, an appearance that the Judas Priest lead singer would eventually call the "biggest thrill" of his life. In the episode, Homer gets involved in illegal film downloading, which leads the FBI to launch an anti-piracy investigation. When the Simpsons family seek refuge in a Swedish consulate, Halford ends up singing a parody of the band's classic "Breaking The Law" in an effort to get Homer out of the foreign building.
Episode 6—Katey Sagal and Billy West: "Simpsorama"
Episode 8—Sammy Hagar: "Covercraft"
Episode 13—Pharrell Williams: "Walking Big & Tall"
Episode 15—Richard Branson: "The Princess Guide"
Episode 17—Cat Deeley: "Waiting For Duffman"
Episode 20—Carice van Houten: "Let’s Go Fly A Coot"
Episode 21—Johnny Mathis: "Bull-E"
In another point in "The Simpsons" where we catch a glimpse of Homer's long-lost rock star dreams, he starts a band in episode eight with Springfield dads and calls it Covercraft, featuring Apu on vocals. Apu is discovered by the famous (fictitious) '80s glam metal band Sungazer and they recruit him to replace their lead singer, who has passed away. Apu admits to Homer that he's feeling lonely and homesick, so Homer decides to take revenge on Sungazer by poisoning them with Kwik-E-Mart hot dogs, and is later arrested. In jail, he and Apu listen to a story from a Hawaiian shirt-wearing Sammy Hagar. This wasn’t the first time Hagar’s likeness has appeared on the show: in season 11 Hagar was spotted in the crowd at a pseudo-VH1 awards show next to Willie Nelson.
Season 26 also features appearances by Pharrell Williams, who offers to write a city anthem for Springfield in episode 13; Recording Academy Special Merit Award recipient Richard Branson, who plays himself as the neighbor of Mr. Burns, greeting him daily in a Ned Flanders way by saying "hey-dibbley-do, neighboroonie," to which Burns replies, "stupid Branson."
Finally, Johnny Mathis appears in Smithers' dream in which Groundskeeper Willie is returning to Scotland and will be replaced by the standards singer.
GRAMMY-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma makes a cameo as himself to help Mr. Burns serenade Mrs. Bouvier. He also performed the show’s theme song, which played over the closing credits. Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines returns as the singing voice of a homeless woman with a secret singing talent named Hettie Mae Boggs, who Bart and Lisa house in their closet.
Episode 4—Donald Fagen and Judith Owen: "Treehouse Of Horror XXVII"
Episode 12 & 13—Jim Beanz, Common, Dawnn Lewis, RZA and Snoop Dogg: "The Great Phatsby Parts 1 & 2"
Episode 18—Brian Posehn: "A Father's Watch"
Episode 20—Jennifer Saunders: "Looking For Mr. Goodbart"
In the 600th episode of "The Simpsons," Judith Owen sings the song "600" in "Treehouse Of Horror XXVII," and a quick cameo from Donald Fagen performing with Steely Dan at Duff Stadium, annoyed at the drunks in the audience. In the two-part, hip-hop-themed, Great Gatsby-inspired episode titled "The Great Phatsby," Common, RZA and Snoop Dogg play themselves. The hour-long special tells the story of a condemned friendship between Mr. Burns and a cryptic hip-hop mogul named "Jay G." Original songs for the episode were created by Jim Beanz, a producer on Fox's hip-hop drama "Empire."
Episode 1—Billy Boyd: "The Serfsons"
Episode 2—Rachel Bloom and Martin Short: "Springfield Splendor"
Episode 8—Kipp Lennon: "Mr. Lisa’s Opus"
Episode 9—Shaquille O'Neal: "Gone Boy"
Episode 10—Ed Sheeran: "Haw-Haw Land"
Episode 14—Damian Kulash and Tim Nordwind (OK Go): "Fears Of A Clown"
Episode 17—Trombone Shorty: "Lisa Gets The Blues"
Martin Short (of the Steep Canyon Rangers with Steve Martin) guest stars as theatrical director Guthrie Frenel, who wants to make Marge and Lisa’s comic book, Sad Girl, into a stage musical. Shaquille O’Neal (part retired basketball player, part rapper) searches for Bart when he falls down a manhole. GRAMMY winner Ed Sheeran plays the voice of a crooning jazz pianist that Lisa falls for named Brendan Beiderbecke. In a New Orleans-flavored episode, the Simpsons end up in the Crescent City and stumble upon a group of jazz musicians, including Trombone Shorty, playing under a banner that said "celebrate." Marge asked Trombone Shorty what he was celebrating, and he replied with "humidity at 98 percent."
Episode 1—Jonathan Groff: "Bart's Not Dead"
Episode 2—George Segal (also a musician): "Heartbreak Hotel"
Episode 12—Patti LuPone: "The Girl On The Bus"
Episode 18—Awkwafina: "Bart vs. Itchy & Scratchy"
Episode 19—Dave Matthews: "Girl's In The Band"
Episode 20—Okilly Dokilly and Josh Groban: “I'm Just A Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh”
Episode 21—Awkwafina: "D'oh Canada"
GRAMMY winner Dave Matthews lends his voice to a bartender named Lloyd in "Girl's In The Band" and gives Homer advice to kill his family; fortunately, Homer didn’t take it. Josh Groban plays the singing voice of Professor Frink in episode 20 after his songs "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)," "So She Dances" and "In Her Eyes" were played in the season 20 episode "Lisa The Drama Queen." Rapper/actress Awkwafina appears in two episodes of the 30th season, as Carmen, sixth grade student and member of the gang Bossy Riot, in episode 18, and Canadian doctor, Dr. Chang, who treats Lisa after she goes over Niagara Falls in episode 21.
Episode 3—Dawnn Lewis: "The Fat Blue Line"
Episode 5—Dawnn Lewis: "Gorillas On The Mast"
Episode 6—Jill Sobule: "Marge The Lumberjill"
On the current season of "The Simpsons," singer/songwriter Jill Sobule wrote and sang the song "Lumberjill" for the episode "Marge The Lumberjill." In the episode, Marge takes up lumber-jacking when she realizes everyone thinks she's boring. (As if that were even possible.)
And there you have it: The last three decades of music on "The Simpsons." Now go get a donut and a can of Duff. You've earned it.