There is no more iconic chunk of television legacy for kids of the 1970s and 1980s than Sesame Street, and a huge part of the show was (and is) the music that drives many of the skits and lessons.
From “C is for Cookie” to “Fuzzy and Blue” to “Letter B,” Sesame Street has been a wealth of musical learning and stuck-in-your-head-forever songs since its debut in November 1969.
A lot of times, the Muppets have help in delivering their musical messages, too … often in the form of world-renowned professional musicians.
It’s a tradition that continues to this day, but for kids of the 70s and 80s, some performers hold/held more sway than others, and this list of Sesame Street musical guests should tug at your Gen X nostalgia string.
Bennett was a star in our parents’ youth — maybe even in our grandparents’ youth.
But his appearances on Sesame Street always take you back, even if it’s just to a time you were trying to avoid listening to his records — again — with Grandma.
Cash remains an icon for millions of Americans long after his death, and his deep, stilted vocals manage to captivate even Oscar the Grouch.
Charles was a multi-generational talent who continues to inspire musicians and anyone who needs a boost in “I-can-overcome-the-odds’ self-confidence … including Elmo.
Hootie and the Blowfish
We didn’t grow up with “Hootie and the Blowfish,” but they sure were one of the key parts of our lives’ soundtrack, even if they weren’t our particular cup of tea at the time.
Dudes were everywhere!
The Piano Man is as big an individual musical superstar as our generation ever saw. Even though he’s a Baby Boomer by age, Joel is *just* close enough to our age group that we feel like we grew up with him.
Nora Jones is out of the Gen X wheelhouse in a lot of ways, but she is another who brought music to us as we were putting the finishing touches on young adulthood, and she was there as many of us were starting families.
Shari Lewis and Lambchop appearing on Sesame Street feels a little like Rudolph and Bugs Bunny sitting down to a nice pork dinner.
But, hey, they’re both iconic puppet-things that we remember from childhood, in reruns if nothing else.
LL Cool J
Another marker of early adulthood, LL Cool J had us thinking about doing it well … while we continued to closet-watch Sesame Street.
On a personal note, I’ll risk throwing out my back to get out of my easy chair and across the room to break off the volume knob turning down my transistor whenever Matthews comes on the radio. That W.C. Fields sing-song voice and broken-string “instrument” stuff is hard on these old ears.
But, yeah, he represents another part of the sound of our young adulthood.
If you’re a country fan, McBride sorta slides into the Nora Jones role — not a childhood idol, or anything, but someone we kinda grew up with.
And McGraw’s music can make you feel like a dirty dog for not appreciating what you have, or what you had way back then, as much as you should.
His daddy was baseball star Tug McGraw, too, so that puts Tim squarely into our 1970s and 1980s sights.
Shiny, happy? Maybe, though I suspect there is some cover-up, some projection, some obfuscation going on here.
Furry? Definitely. Well, the Muppets part. Michael Stipe? Not furry at all, at least on top.
Classic 1990s music, though, not matter what else you think.
Lou Rawls’ was so deep and soulful that he rattled my windows all the way from Sesame Street, and made me sort of sad … like, “you’ll never find” another performance like this.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before …
Smokey’s voice was so high and smooth it broke glasses in my house, all the way from Sesame Street, while also lulling me to sleep.
Ross is another Motown legend who found tremendous success on the pop charts … and a warm place there in the crook of Big Bird’s neck.
Paul Simon is small enough that one of the kids on Sesame Street could have served as his bodyguard when he and Julio went to the playground.
In exchange? Yeah, he had to call them “Al.”