Happy Birthday, Sesame Street!

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Sesame Street has been a tremendous influence on my life, and throughout the history of this blog I’ve celebrated the series on several occasions. Today I take special pleasure in giving tribute to the Children’s Television Workshop, Jim Henson’s genius, and Sesame Street. Today the legendary program turns 40 years old.

That’s HUGE!

Sesame Street taught me my alphabet, it taught me how to count, how to share with others, and that natural hair and brown skin is just as beautiful as any other kind. Allow me to share some Afrobella highlights from the last 40 years of arguably the best children’s TV show of all time!

The Cartoons:

Sesame Street has a long tradition of featuring animated characters with adorable afros in them! And funky music to boot. Take for example this supafly Seventies mama who fixes her car with the letter R. How badass is that soundtrack?

Both Billy Joe Jive and his partner Smart Susie Sunset had natural hair and fly Seventies style.

Then there’s one of the most popular grocery store lists ever:

Who doesn’t remember that? Years later, Sesame Street released a remake of “A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter,” but nothing can top the original.

Back in the day Sesame Street was groundbreaking and inspiring, dedicated to integrating their audience and teaching kids to embrace and celebrate each other’s differences. Listen to this song from the Seventies, by Roosevelt Franklin’s baby brother, Baby Ray Franklin.

What a great message to teach the kiddies!

The Celebrities:

The list of celebrities who have appeared on Sesame Street is so long, it might be worth asking — who HASN’T appeared on Sesame Street?

From the early days, iconic celebs acted and sang alongside muppets to teach kids new words and life lessons. Check out this montage for just a taste.

That video is amazing. Celebrities from Vanessa Williams, Maya Angelou, Liam Neeson, Rosemary Clooney, Doug E. Doug, opera singer Denyce Graves, Conan O’Brien…all joined together to sing composer Joe Raposo’s signature song. I think that montage is adorable, but my all-time favorite version of Sing is by Olivia and Linda.

Sesame Street was where I first discovered and fell in love with Cab Calloway. HOW old was I when I first became obsessed with this?

And let me confess – the Two-Headed Monster was one of my favorite muppets!

The first time I heard Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold On Me was this version right here.

Dag, that letter U was persistent!

So many of my beauty icons made their first impressions on me through Sesame Street. I will never forget when Lena Horne and her fabulous fro appeared, and sang one of the funkiest alphabets ever.

I was always just a little jealous of the late, great Madeline Kahn in this classic clip – she got to hold and cuddle Grover! He’s always been my favorite monster!

This clip of Ethel Merman and Michael Jackson appearing on a Special Sesame Street Christmas is both wonderful and heartwarming. Michael’s fro was ON POINT as always, and I’m just sad that he didn’t sing a song and appear longer on the show.

Back in the day in Trinidad, the television stations showed vintage Sesame Street episodes over and over again, so many of my most favorite moments were from the Seventies and early Eighties. Consequently I’m kind of a walking encyclopedia of random Sesame Street trivia. For example, did you know that the original New Way to Walk was by The Oinker Sisters (LOL), but Destiny’s Child remade it in the Nineties?

Random, right? And I got so much more where that came from!

The Characters:

There were quite a few human characters on Sesame Street that I grew up identifying with.

Susan’s bright colors, asymmetrical afro and plus size style made her a favorite of mine from early on — which is why I celebrated Dr. Loretta Long as one of my earliest Afrobellas of the Week!

Consider this clip from 1986 — in my prime growing up days.

On a personal note, Telly Monster has always been one of my least favorite muppets. Chill out, Telly!

Olivia always was one of my favorite singers on Sesame Street — check out her beautiful braids and the handsome George Benson in this classic clip. Olivia wasn’t a regular on the show in the later Eighties, but her guest appearances definitely meant a great song! For example — Birdland, a jazzy tune she sang at Hoots the Owl’s Birdland Jazz Club.

Aw, and there’s the late Northern Calloway as David in the audience singing along with her.

David was one of the coolest brothers on Sesame Street. He had one of the sweetest voices and sang some of my favorite songs. (anyone remember I’m Pretty? I think about that song when I’m putting on makeup sometimes. TMI? Maybe!)

I knew the actor who played David had passed away, but I had no idea what led to his demise. Wikipedia outlines the tragic end of his life. RIP Northern Calloway.

This morning I watched Sesame Street for the first time in many years, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda played a rapping realtor trying to get Big Bird to change his habitat, and First Lady Michelle Obama taught Elmo and Big Bird about planting seeds to make delicious fruits and vegetables grow. Today’s episode made me proud of the show that has endured so much change, and excited for the future. It’s been 40 years, and Sesame Street is still going strong! And someday when I have kids of my own, I can share the classic clips of the show I’ve grown up learning so much from.

If you still don’t own these DVDs, treat yourself (and your little ones) to Sesame Street – Old School, Vol. 1 (1969-1974) and Sesame Street: Vol. 2 – Old School (1974-1979). And why not throw in Follow that Bird — it’s a classic!

What are some of your favorite Sesame Street moments?

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Comments

  1. Great post! Sesame Street just rules. I fell in love with James Taylor from the very first time I saw him sing Jellyman Kelly. I have sang that song my whole life–even now sometimes. And all of his music is etched on my brain. He’s the reason I learned to play guitar. I’ve blogged about my love affair with James Taylor due to Sesame Street over the years as well.

  2. A wonderful post! Sesame Street has touched the lives of so many children. They really make learning fun. I love how they incorporate children of different races, backgrounds and ability into their programs.I’m passing down the tradition of Sesame Street to my own children.

  3. What a fabulous celebration of Sesame Street’s 40 years.

    It was so much of my childhood and early learning that my mom bought my sister and I the records, albums. No DVDs back then.

    So many great memories and guidance.

    Happy Birthday Sesame Street.

  4. I LOVE THIS POST! Like you I grew up on Sesame Street. They taught me everything! I fondly remember the little girl going to the store. The song one of these things do not belong here, the number of the day 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, 10, 11, 12. Aww how sweet!

  5. I love you for posting this. Sesame Street is another part of our generation of kids who came in when the streetlamps came on. Thanks for bringing me back!

  6. CoilsnKinks says:

    Sesame Street was my all time favorite growing up. I watch it with my daughter now. Thanks for posting!

  7. Oh my gosh I remembered the Loaf of Bread video! How cool was that! Yes, Sesame Street was definitely a great show! It even thought me how to tie my shoelaces! Thanks for the memories Afrobella and happy birthday Sesame Street!!!

  8. Nappy Mind says:

    My four year old loves his personalized Sesame Street CD where Elmo and the Count sing directly to him.

    This weekend I’m taking him to the Smithsonian’s Sesame Street Birthday Party with the show’s Executive Producer and characters. Afterwards, the children can take pictures with the Muppets and their Muppeteers.

  9. Some of my favorite Sesame Street moments were the old school Telephone Rock song, the lonely Lower Case n song and all of the Kermit the Frog Sesame Street News Flash spots.
    My enthusiasm for Sesame Street runs deep; it helped raise me.

    By the way, Afrobella, we also share something else that shaped our early years…Bishop Anstey Junior School. I had been reading your blog for months before I saw your picture and recognized you.

    Thank you for helping me geek out over the Sesame Street birthday.

  10. I don’t know how old when I saw Lena Horne singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green”, to Kermit. But it resonated with me. Lena made me think she made this song just for me. I was the black sheep, middle child, and just felt like an outcast as a child, like I never fit in…she really gave that song soul. This is one of my favorite moments from Sesame Street.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvlP6EIOkNQ

    This is the original of Kermit, singing “It’s Not Easy Bein Green.” I didn’t see this one until today, he was much fatter then.

  11. warrior11209 says:

    I loved Sesame Street – first my friends and I watched it under the pretense of watching it with our younger brothers and sisters – they were about 4- 8 so that made us about 13 but really we were watching it for ourselves. The music , the characters – we would laugh and sing the tunes Monday morning at school. Roosevelt Franklin was a favorite!
    So when I had my children I again found myself enjoying the new version- a cleaner but still charming version and again found myself singing Patti Labelle’s song about “Mr. X” while driving to work.
    I had the privilege of working for Children’s Television Network for about 5 years in the early 90′s so I got to meet some of the people behind the voices – and yes I acted like a groupie when I got the chance to speak to them!!
    Happy 40th B-Day Sesame Street!!

  12. I saw some youtube clips recently about that ADORABLE little boy with the afro and dimples who sang the alphabet with a Muppet (think his name was Michael?) Brought back so many memories and made me a little teary eyed thinking about the positive impact the show had on me. Thanks for the post, I will watch the clips you posted later.

  13. Great post and awesome song selection, thanks for sharing. Sesame street has many classic moments. I discovered your blog while I was searching for something

    I also wanted to give a plug for a site I have been working on that might be useful to you and your readers. The site helps people share songs with their friends.

    My radeo http://www.myradeo.com is a social music site built on top of Facebook and YouTube. You don’t need to install or signup for anything to use My radeo. It’s free and easy. You can login with Facebook Connect. Check it out if you get a chance. Thanks!

  14. Grover as the waiter and Mr. Hooper and his store.

  15. I feel the same way about Sesame Street. Check out my recent post. http://mswoodenshoes.blogspot.com/2009/11/sesame-street-1970-opening-show-2178_08.html

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  1. [...] recently paid homage to Alaina in my Sesame Street birthday post just a month ago. Sad to know that she is gone. But her legacy of work will forever live on. [...]

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