Have you heard? Sesame Street is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Just think about that. Four decades of Sesame Street falsely teaching children that the last letter of the alphabet is ‘zee’ instead of ‘zed’. Four decades of Sesame Street teaching children to laugh in an unconvincing east European accent whenever they count to five. Four decades of Sesame Street showing slightly underwhelming short-form documentaries about bottle factories.
And four decades of solid gold musical performances. For a kid’s TV show, Sesame Street has played host to some genuinely incredible musical acts in its time, and here’s a list of our favourites. Do let us know if we’ve missed any out…
10 – Tony Bennett, Little Things
Where Tony Bennett tells a child that she shouldn’t hurry to grow up because he believes in little things “like colours in the sky”. Which we believe is a polite way of telling her that when you get old your teeth fall out and sometimes you accidentally wet yourself. Charming, nonetheless.
9 – Feist, 1,2,3,4
A spectacular puppet-heavy recreation of Feist’s famous 1,2,3,4 video. So preposterously delightful that you can even forgive Sesame Street for teaching children to find value in bland coffee shop music.
8 – Norah Jones, Don’t Know Y
A true multi-tasker of a performance. Not only does Norah Jones teach children about the letter Y and sing her best-known song, but it is also more likely to put children to sleep faster than any other song ever performed on Sesame Street by anyone.
7 – REM, Furry Happy Monsters
Who knew – re-recording old songs with new lyrics and singing them next to a bunch of dangerously bipolar puppets actually improves them. You learn something new every day.
6 – James Blunt, My Triangle
Yes, look, it’s James Blunt. And everyone knows how much of a knobshine James Blunt is. But, admit it, at one point during this song you thought “Hey, maybe James Blunt isn’t so bad after all.” Didn’t you? It’s OK. It’s our secret.
5 – Billy Joel, Just The Way You Are
Of all the lessons that Sesame Street ever taught us, this one has stayed with us the longest – that whenever Billy Joel sings, it’s OK to shout abuse at him and to repeatedly tell his deaf friend to go away. Remember that, kids. One day it might come in handy.
4 – Destiny’s Child, A New Way To Walk
Not so much for the song itself, or the tortured way that the song is introduced, but for the moment two and a half minutes in when Grover comes perilously close to having his eye taken out by Beyonce‘s wayward crotch.
3 – Johnny Cash, Nasty Dan
This is just immense – it’s a battle of wits between mean old Johnny Cash and mean old Oscar The Grouch. Who comes out on top? No contest – the sneer that Cash gives Oscar after Oscar tells him that Nasty Pearl sounds OK could freeze blood. Terrifying.
2 – Paul Simon, Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard
Not that the little girl next to him seems to think it’s called Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard, though – in her head it’s clearly called Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance Alright Dance Dance Dance EVERYBODY DANCE EVERYBODY DANCE OH YOU CAN DANCE WITH ME YOU CAN DANCE WITH ME Dance Dance Dance Dance Dance. Almost illegally heartwarming.
1 – Stevie Wonder, Superstition
Now this is just in a different league. Stevie Wonder, before he got fat and rubbish, singing a glorious six-minute song about the dangers of organised religion to a group of impressionable children, some of whom have more of the funk than we will ever fully begin to comprehend. Not just the greatest musical performance on Sesame Street, but maybe one of the best videos of all time. Perfect.
BONUS VIDEO: Stevie Wonder again
He doesn’t just sing his own songs, you know. Stevie Wonder also makes up throwaway songs about Sesame Street. And they rule, too. Amazing.