Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sesame Street Songs

Some children's entertainment is timeless. If well-executed, a children's show or song has the potential to amuse and engage children across the span of generations. Admittedly, the fact that children are incredibly easily won over may play a part in the perseverance of these songs; most kids tend not to be especially discerning in their taste, nor do they have even a remote sense of what is irritating. Not to mention the fact that many parents are too cheap to replace the old hand-me-down CDs and videocassettes over the years--I know that kept my family watching scratchy VHS tapes for years after their prescribed shelf life had expired. Why buy a new copy of "Follow That Bird" or "Sing the Alphabet" when the original is still in working condition? Exactly.

Whatever the reason for its perseverance, Sesame Street has captured the hearts of children from the 1960s on and its appeal to each subsequent generation has remained strong. The show's music that drew in children in the 70s often remained beloved by children of the 90s and beyond. Many of the versions seen below are from the 70s but have been since replayed or re-recorded for new young viewers. The songs are extremely catchy and make for easy sing-alongs--perfect for children, but as an adult, it occurs to me they would be perfect for my iPod as well. Excuse me for a moment--I'm off to iTunes to add "Put Down the Ducky" to my road trip playlist.

As is the case in everything you see here at Children of the 90s, memory is subjective. Songs that stand out as my favorites probably differ somewhat from your own, so share your own most memorable Sesame Street tunes in the comment section. In fact, you could even link to a video of the song so we can all reminisce along with you! Sound like I'm asking you to do my job? Possibly. I asked nicely, though, so I think we can let it slide.

By the by, if you're looking for your favorite Sesame Street famous musical guests, fear not; I haven't forgotten them as a blatant omission. I've already got a whole post devoted to them. Check it out. See, I'm not so lazy as I might have seemed when I asked for your contributions to this list. I accept your apology for the snap judgment. Don't worry about it.

Rubber Duckie

Now here's a song with some serious mass appeal: in 1970, Rubber Duckie actually charted at a peak number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not too shabby for a song intended to encourage children to bathe.

C is for Cookie

Ah, how we long for the days when Sesame Street's favorite cookie addict was still allowed to freely extol the virtues of sugar-laden snacks. While Snopes has since discounted the raging internet rumor alleging a switchover from Cookie Monster to Veggie Monster, our furry blue cookie consumer doesn't seem quite as ravenous for sweets as he once did. In my day, C was for Cookie and that was good enough for me.

Elmo's Song

Play this one at your own risk. I'm telling you, once it's in there, there's no removing it from your brain. It's entirely likely you will spend at least 24 hours repeating the "La la la la, la la la la, Elmo's soooong" chorus over and over again in your head. Elmo draws you in with his benign cuteness and then BAM! Total cerebral takeover. Well played, Elmo. Well played indeed.


Oh, poor, misguided Big Bird. He sees the alphabet written in chalk on the sidewalk and jumps to the conclusion that it's a long word with a meaning known only to the wise. Children without a comprehensive knowledge of the alphabet are probably equally perplexed by the meaning of "ab-cer-def-gee-jeckle-mernop-kur-stoove-wik-siz," but hopefully they can deduce that they possess an intellectual potential superior to Big Bird and figure it out eventually.

Bein' Green

This song gave Kermit a bad rap for melancholia--his lament of his green hue does seem like a bit of a downer. Apparently a major proportion of child viewers failed to understand that he actually felt okay about being green by the end of the song. That's what you get for trying to engage children through subtlety: total misunderstanding.

Put Down the Duckie

Hoots the Owl tells it like it is. Ernie naively thinks he can play the saxophone while clinging to his dear rubber duckie, but he is sadly mistaken. I suppose you could deduce some sort of anti-materialism message from the song, but most kids probably learned only not to attempt to play the saxophone while holding a small yellow rubber duck.


"Sing" remains one of the most-sung songs on Sesame Street, which is nearly as impressive as how many versions of the word "sing" I managed to squeeze into this sentence. The Carpenters' cover in 1973 even hit number 3 on the Billboard charts. It's since become a Sesame Street standard; perhaps there's some guest star initiation clause that requires celebrities to churn out a version of "Sing."

The People in Your Neighborhood

This one could possibly stand to be updated for the current decade; the people in our neighborhood have expanded to include the digital cable installation man and the guy in India allegedly named "Mike" who talks us through our Windows 7 installation. That's not to diminish the importance of the postman and the fireman, of course. It's far more likely that kids will still have aspirations of growing up to be one of those than an outsourced technology customer service associate.

I Love Trash

There's not really a "message" in this one, per se, but it stands alone on cuteness. That is, if you consider a garbage can-dwelling monster waxing poetic on the virtues of a good broken telephone or rusty trombone to be "cute." For the record, I do.

I Don't Want to Live on the Moon

Like Ernie, I too feel that I'd like to visit the move, but setting up permanent residence seems like a mistake. That's the lesson here, right? An anti-gravity locale is a tough full-time homestead? Okay, okay, fine, maybe it has something to do with appreciating what you have here at home. Darn you, Sesame Street, and your resonant life lessons.

Monster in the Mirror

We could all take a page from Grover's book: rather than being frightened by the monster in his mirror, he chooses to befriend it. To be fair, he is that monster, but I'm sure there's a nugget of educational wisdom in there somewhere. I think it's hidden in the "Wubba, wubba, wubba, woo, woo, woo" section.

Ladybug Picnic

Learn how to count and delight in watching ladybugs engage in adorable picnic activities? Where do I sign up? Of course, not all of the lyrics are totally relatable for small children. That line about the ladybugs' conversation about the high price of furniture and rugs and fire insurance for ladybugs may have gone a tad over their heads, but luckily they were distracted by the cute animation.


Lorelai said...

Confession: I totally bought the 40 Years Of Sesame Street DVD, and all these songs were on there. They had the 'People In Your Neighbourhood' version where poor deaf Linda had to translate "oh, the elevator operator is a person in your neighbourhood" into sign language in about two seconds flat.

Melissa Blake said...

oh, I forgot about the rubber duckie song!

And Kermit's song was MY jam! :)

Sadako said...

The Rubber Ducky song is so in my head forever now.

Kristie said...

C is for cookie and These are the People in Your Neighborhood really stick out for me. Of course, that's when I was watching sesame street, in the late 70s and early 80s. Great post!

Ladytink_534 said...

I loved these songs when I was a kid. I was a huge Big Bird and Cookie Monster fan. The Two Little Girls in a Little Doll House was one I really liked.

nikki said...

Clearly the best Sesame Street song is from when REM was on performing Furry Happy Monsters.

Anonymous said...

I was just telling someone not long ago about how, thanks to Sesame Street, every time I now hear Hip to be Square, I immediately change the words in my head to Hip to be A Square.

Emily said...

Sometimes, when I'm not having such a great day, I go to YouTube and watch classic Sesame Street clips. Never fails to act as "comfort food." :D

Jessica said...

I Don't Want to Visit the Moon was my FAVORITE!!! I just loved Ernie! Thanks for sharing :-)

coulrophobic agnostic said...

OH bless you, I've been trying to remember what the "wubba wubba wubba woo woo woo" song was for FOREVER.

My dad's favorite was I Dance Myself To Sleep, and I still have a soft spot for it. Though my favorite part has always been Bert wailing "ERNIE, the sheep are tap dancing!"

Andrea said...

My faves:

Pinball 12:

The Alphabet Song (with kermit & the tribe)

Cereal Girl

Anonymous said...

one of my favorites was always "If Moon Were Cookie"

Shannon said...

My favorite iteration of "Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood" will always be the one that featured Ralph Nader. "A Consumer Advocate is a person in your neighborhood..." Nice. Way to squeeze some extra syllables in there, Sesame Street.

411314 said...

The videos up there for "C is for Cookie" and "The Ladybugs Picnic" are exactly the videos I remember seeing during my childhood and hearing those songs from. I don't remember the video for the song where Big Bird mistakes the whole alphabet for one word, but I heard that song on an audio tape.

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