Hidden Gems of Sesame Street Music: Part 1

Published: August 31, 2008
Categories: Feature

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You know what I love? Sesame Street music. In the show’s four decades of existence it’s covered pretty much every genre — pop, rap, opera. Heck, Menudo even made an appearance sometime during the Reagan years. I don’t know the exact figure, but what with over four thousand episodes plus two movies, numerous specials and countless albums, I’d estimate the total number of original Sesame Street songs at about fifty million.

Songs like “C Is for Cookie,” “Rubber Duckie” and “Sing” are American classics — and we’re sick of them. Which is why my pal and fellow Muppet fan, Tough Pigs’ own Anthony, and I are going to write this week about our favorite lesser-known Sesame Street songs. It seems like every time I hear an old Sesame LP or watch a special I’ve never seen before, I discover at least one amazing song that I never knew existed.

So I’m going to tell you about a few today, then Anthony will tell you about a few tomorrow, I’ll be back on Wednesday, Anthony will be back on Thursday, and the two of us will wrap it up on Friday. Got that? Here we go.

Oh– one more thing. You may notice that while we’re telling you how great these songs are, we’re not actually presenting the tracks themselves here for your listening enjoyment. That’s because they’re all owned by the Sesame people, and we ain’t the Sesame people. However, I may or may not have heard rumors that it may or may not be possible for you to hear and see these songs by doing some searching around the internet. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Write It Down

1980s Sesame Street

As far as I know, this is the only time Sesame Street has covered the topic of “You should write things down if you want to remember them later,” which makes sense, as I can’t imagine it’s a major issue for preschoolers. But the highlight of this number isn’t the rarity of the subject matter, it’s the style: “Write It Down” is a rap.

Maria, the illest rhyme-buster on the street, sets things up for us, then we learn more about writing things down from Luis (who writes plays and stories) and David (who documents his grocery orders “from all over town” — apparently Hooper’s clientele reaches far beyond Sesame Street). But Forgetful Jones steals the show, despite having no idea where he is. “Write It Down” is an incredibly catchy old-school rap, and proves that Sesame Street is just as dope as it is educational.

Comb Your Face
1980s Sesame Street

I guess this first appeared on Sesame Street in the 80s, but I just discovered it a few years ago on Play With Me Sesame. It’s sung by Furline Huskie, a monster performed by Richard Hunt, a Muppeteer with more energy than a 6-year-old after three bowls of Count Chocula. The monster’s about to go out (perhaps on a hot monster date), and before leaving the house he shows us his grooming routine and invites us to join in.

It’s only a minute and 20 seconds long, but it really does make fur management seem like the most fun you can have. I can only imagine how many children watching at home ended up bruised and mangled as a result of following Furline’s instructions and vigorously combing their own faces, waists, and tummies.

Sing in the Shower
1980s Sesame Street

Speaking of good hygiene, here’s a song about proper bathing habits — a worthwhile topic considering the fact that 78% of children smell funny.

Hey, remember Olivia? That lady sure had a set of pipes, and she’s in better voice than ever as she sings in the shower about singing in the shower. How meta!

But she’s not the only one who la-las as she lathers: Verse 2 finds Big Bird singing in the birdbath. Whereas Olivia was tastefully filmed from the shoulders up as she showered, Big Bird is seen fully nude. Meanwhile, Ernie sings in his bathtub and Oscar sings in his mudbath. Which explains why Oscar has such great skin.

This song, much like “Comb Your Face” and “Write It Down,” makes a mundane task seem fun and does it with gusto. I sing this song at the top of my lungs every time I shower.

Counting the Days
Merry Christmas From Sesame Street, 1975

There’s one thing Big Bird doesn’t like about Christmas, and it’s not the crass, exploitative commercialism. Rather, as he explains on this track from Merry Christmas From Sesame Street, it’s the mere act of waiting for December 25 to arrive! Big Bird’s frustration makes for an amazing 1950s-style rock ‘n’ roll number, complete with falsetto singing that makes my voice crack when I try to sing along.

Once again I’m amazed at the apparent ease with which the Sesame Street songwriters compose a song that sounds like it could have been a hit single… and if Ernie’s verse about helping Rubber Duckie write a letter to Santa doesn’t cause your spine to melt from cuteness, you are a heartless beast and I want nothing to do with you.

Shapes in My Room
1990s Sesame Street

Telly is by far the most underrated Sesame Street Muppet. I mean, the dude can’t catch a break. He’s been a major Sesame regular for decades now, but he always gets ignored when it comes to merchandise, and no kid ever names him as his or her favorite character. Telly is the middle child of the Sesame Street Muppets.

But with “Shapes in My Room,” Telly proves his worth, buoyantly taking us through his daily routine of scrutinizing every object in his bedroom and identifying what shape it is. I guess this song came before the writers gave Telly his bizarre triangle obsession, but still, this fella really loves his shapes. His energy is infectious, as is his scatting prowess. (“Dooby dooby doo-WAH, ba-doo-WAH, ba-doo-wah!”)

I really don’t know how I’d classify the song itself… it has some jazzy horns, but it’s not really jazz; it has some wicked electric guitar, but it’s not quite rock. I’ve never seen another Telly solo this impressive, but that’s okay… the shape of this song is AWESOME.

And those are five of the best lesser-known Sesame Street songs. Click here for part two, in which Anthony will tell you about five more!

Click here to talk about excellent songs on the Tough Pigs forum!


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Written by Ryan Roe

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