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.
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!
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 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!
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?