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How 'Sesame Street' Started a Musical Revolution

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/arts/music/sesame-street-anniversary.html

nytimes.com

How 'Sesame Street' Started a Musical Revolution
Fifty years ago, the television show united children's education, puppetry and songs. Pop stars have been singing the Muppets' tunes (and vice versa) ever since. How many ways can you sing about the letter B? On "Sesame Street," that question has many furry answers.

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Sesame Street

Sesame Street

Before Sesame Street, music wasn't even considered as a means to teach children. But Sesame Street changed that and proved that kids are very receptive to a grammar lesson contained in a song.

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Musical stars

Big-name stars lined up to make guest appearances. Stevie Wonder and Grover; Loretta Lynn and the Count; Smokey Robinson and a marauding letter U. "Sesame Street" also showcased Afro-Caribbean rhythms, operatic powerhouses, Latin beats, Broadway showstoppers, and bebop.

Now, after 4,526 episodes, the legacy is evident: It impacted the music world as much as it shaped TV history, inspiring fans and generations of artists.

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The goal

The aim of "Sesame Street" was to build school preparedness and narrow the educational gap between lower- and upper-income children.

They used pedagogy advice from a Harvard professor. Research also showed children were more receptive when they watched with caregivers, so celebrities were introduced.

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The music

The music

Music on "Sesame" functioned in three ways: As backing tracks for animation and film clips, as live performances by well-knows guest artists, and as songs for the human actors and Muppets to sing.

The belief was that as the characters were of different ethnicities, the music should be multicultural too. As "Sesame" became more popular, it pulled more major musical talent.

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Famous Faces

In 1973, Stevie Wonder participated in an episode-long musical guest, to teach Grover about vocal dynamics. Other stars also featured through the years, including Carly Simon, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and Celine Dion. There was also room for classical stars.

The message was that even world-famous stars could be accessible.

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Building a 'Sesame' Song

"Sesame" songs were built on a curriculum. Each year, outside experts outline pressing academic and social issues, and from that, an educational theme for the season is built.

After a song has lyrics, it is scored. Brevity and repetition are key, and the songs are tuned for catchiness. Demos go to producers and artists for approval and production suggestions.

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