Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10 FAVORITES (13) - Sesame Street Songs

Many of those who are around my age or older can pretty much agree that Sesame Street is one of (if not THE) greatest children shows of all-time. And lots of us have memories of the seminal series ranging from the colorful Muppet characters, the frantic animations and the clever writing all wrapped up in the lessons teaching young children (from Nursery Rhymes to the ABC's). One of the most important elements of the show was music and, in particular, songs. They didn't just use "The Alphabet Song" or "Twinkle Twinkle" when it came time to teach children (both onscreen and off). They had brilliant songwriters who managed to capture the energy and fun of music and combine it with the joys of learning. But what are the best songs the now 41-year-old series had to offer? Today's 10 FAVORITES offers up the best songs that I heard as a child growing up watching Sesame Street. Now, when I say the songs I heard growing up, that leaves out a lot of the songs produced after 1990 (which is around the time I stopped watching the series regularly). So, in advance, I apologize to those of younger generations who may not be familiar with the songs featured in today's list. Most of these songs first made their appearance on the show in the 1970's and were reurun several times throughout the following decade (the 1980's, which is my domain!). So, with that out of the way, here are:

THE 10 BEST SESAME STREET SONGS

HONORABLE MENTION
The Sesame Street Theme Song
Once you hear this bouncy tune, it is hard to forget it. It always made me happy because I knew that my favorite show was beginning. But it has been pointed out by several of my generation that it is a rather frustrating song. It doesn't really tell you "How to get to Sesame Street." It keeps asking but never answers. Yet the imagery of "Sunny Days" and "Smiling Faces" is so inviting that you just know where "Sesame Street" is.

SONG #10
Rubber Duckie
First appearing in their inaugural season back in 1969, this song is really the one that made their music department famous. Who ever would of thought that a song about a guy and his favorite bath time toy would be a hit record? It helps that Jim Henson's performance as Ernie is so endearing that every child wanted a Rubber Duckie!


SONG #9
ABC-DEF-GHI
Yet another song from the first season, this was a great twist on the classic "Alphabet Song." Big Bird, who in the early years was more like a goofy teenager rather than the 6-year-old we know and love, is talking about the most amazing word he has ever heard. What he doesn't know is what that word really is, but Susan is on hand to explain. Take a look:

SONG #8
Mahna-Mahna
Some of you may be saying "Hey, this is from The Muppet Show!" But what some of you may not know is that this fun and jazzy song got its start in 1970 on Sesame Street and was revamped in 1976 for the first episode of The Muppet Show. It is a little jarring if you are used to the latter version, but still the song is just as good as it ever was.

SONG #7
How Do You Do?
I was saddened earlier this year to hear of the death of the jazz legend Lena Horne. So I immediately went on YouTube to find the clip of the first time I saw her, which was this beautiful song she sang to Grover. It is a wonderful song that helps children learn how to meet people (great for kids on their first day of pre-school or kindergarten!). Fairly simple and yet it is extremely poignant and catchy. Plus, it's Lena Horne!

SONG #6
Born to Add
I loved this song as a little kid. I loved it even more as I got older and realized that Sesame Street was a master at parody. As a child of the 1980's, I am a total fan of Bruce Springsteen and the poetry he weaves in great rock tunes (if you don't believe me, just listen to "Born to Run"). So this great song has an even better meaning for kids as they get older and understand that from great things can come great parody.

SONG #5
What's the Name of That Song?
This song has become a favorite of mine more recently because I almost forgot about hearing it on record growing up. But thank you to YouTube (and the Old School Sesame Street DVD's)! It's a silly idea for a song but Muppet songwriting legend Sam Pottle (The Muppet Show Theme) managed to give us a catchy tune with lyrics that say exactly how you feel when you cannot remember the name of a song you cannot stop humming.

SONG #4
Bein' Green
It is Kermit the Frog's eternal anthem. It is a beautiful tune about understanding that you are different and liking yourself for who you are. Everybody (especially these days) needs to sing this song to themselves. There are several versions Kermit (and others) have done over the years, but the two definitive ones come from Sesame Street. One, is the first appearance (back in 1969) that has just Kermit sitting in the swamp singing the tune. The other, done about a year or two later, has Kermit singing the song with the late Lena Horne (where the powerful meaning was never stronger). Below, is the first version.

SONG #3
Sing After Me
Another great frequent guest on Sesame Street who is sadly no longer with us, was the late Madeline Kahn. Ms. Kahn was a phenomenal comedic actress and performer who we all remember from such hilarious film roles like Lily Von Schtupp in Blazing Saddles (for which she earned an Oscar nod!). But this was my first knowledge of her: The lady who sang this fun and silly song with Grover on my favorite show! The interaction between Frank Oz's Grover and Ms. Kahn is absolutely delicious. Together they make a perfect team.

SONG #2
C is For Cookie
I do not care what parents or advocacy groups say today, this song is AWESOME! What better way to help kids learn how to spell than to combine it with one of their favorite snacks? By the time I got to school, I certainly knew how to spell "Cookie" and Sesame Street is very much responsible for that (at least in part).

AND...
SONG #1
Sing
I absolutely love this song! It is so simple that it is complex. I know that sounds weird but it's true. The song first appeared on the show in the early 1970's and was sung by a bunch of kids. Every year, the show would drag this song out but always find some new way to do it, which made it enjoyable for the audience. My absolute favorite version (which is below) is where Olivia (played by the late Alaina Reed Hall) gorgeously sings the song as Linda (a seminal character herself) shows the audience the beauty that is American Sign Language. Every time I hear this song, no matter what version, I just want to get up and "Sing!"


So there you have it: THE 10 BEST SESAME STREET SONGS. I hope your favorite was on here! Special shout out of thanks to the people at SesameStreet.org for allowing some of these clips to be available on YouTube. If you would like to see more of these kinds of clips, just head on over to the video section of their website where they have several classics available for viewing. Next week, I begin my month-long devotion to Christmas things (Movies, Specials, Carols, etc.). Enjoy!

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