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Bigbirdtheme
Music by Joe Raposo
Lyrics by Jon Stone, Bruce Hart, Joe Raposo
Date 1969
Publisher Sesame Street, Inc.
The_Street_Sings_Sunny_Days

The Street Sings Sunny Days

(Episode 3952)

The Sesame Street Theme is the familiar opening theme song of Sesame Street. It is registered with ASCAP as "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street" with several alternate titles including "Sunny Day."[1]

It is normally sung by The Kids. The theme introduces the magical world of Sesame Street through its lyrics, stating that it is a place where "the air is sweet" and filled with "friendly neighbors," and frequently asks the now-famous question "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?"

In an unpublished memoir, Jon Stone commented that he personally had come up with many of the ideas for the song: "An integral part of [set designer] Charlie Rosen's set was a wall of doors...I wanted to use these doors as transition gateways from the reality of the street to our puppet or animation pieces. I told Bruce [Hart] to include 'Every door will open wide,'" which was also meant as a reference to the phrase "Open Sesame," the inspiration for the show's title. "More important, I insisted that the recurring theme in the lyric be 'Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?' The opening I envisioned was one of children...running happily, tumbling, playing along the way, but always intent on getting to Sesame Street..." Although Stone was pleased with Joe Raposo's music, which he said was "melodic and simple enough for a child to recognize" and link with the show, he believed the final product was "a lyrical disaster," filled with "hackneyed phrases" and "astronaut slang" such as "A-OK" which he believed would "become obsolete."[2] Contrary to Stone's opinion, many of these "happy little clichés" (such as "Sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away") have arguably become as inexorably linked to the series as the melody.

The song has been remade a number of times over the years, not only for the show's opening and closing credits, but also for inserts. Among the earliest, most distinctive versions of the theme feature solo harmonica performed by Toots Thielemans. William Galison provided the harmonica solo for the 30th Anniversary version of the theme (used from seasons 30 to 32).[3]

On The Muppet Show, when the Sesame Street cast made a cameo in episode 518, the cast of both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show sang a verse of the theme song (this recording can be heard over a montage of Sesame Street clips in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years).

Gladys Knight sang the theme in Sesame Street, Special. This recording was also included in the album Sing: Songs of Joe Raposo.

A remix was recorded by Ursula 2000 for Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music. This remix also featured sound clips from various Sesame Street albums. This recording sometimes accompanied montages in episodes of The Sesame Street Podcast.

Openings[]

Sesame_Street_Sunny_Days_Show_Open_Through_the_Years

Sesame Street Sunny Days Show Open Through the Years

A mashup of every Sesame Street main title, compiled and uploaded by SesameStreet's YouTube Channel to mark the show's 50th anniversary.

The song has been a part of Sesame Street since the very beginning, as it was used to open the first pilot episode; this version is longer than that used in the series proper. Sung by Bob McGrath, the rendition includes the complete lyrics, as heard on albums and elsewhere, but seldom included on the show itself.

The more familiar opening theme sung by a children's chorus, named Lois Winter and the Wee Willie Winter Singers,[4][5] was used from the show's premiere in 1969 until 1992. Throughout this period, the opening theme was accompanied by clips of children playing on location in a park or city. Various sequences of footage were used and rotated from episode to episode. Big Bird was added to most versions of the sequence starting in season 4 and Barkley was added to the opening in season 10; the actual rotation of openings, meanwhile, was replaced outright with new footage in both 1972 and 1988. Also, the rotation of openings during the first three seasons were shot on film, whereas the subsequent openings, beginning with season 4, were shot on tape, like the street scenes and puppet segments.

For Season 24, the theme was updated with a calypso-flavored beat. The opening sequence employed the use of numerous animated effects and featured many more Muppet characters, including Big Bird, Grover, Oscar the Grouch (running in his trash can), Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Prairie Dawn, Ernie, Bert, Elmo and Telly Monster. The opening footage was generally standardized from episode to episode from this point on; however, an alternate version of the opening, introduced in Season 26[6] and featuring Zoe and Baby Natasha in the places of Grover and Prairie Dawn, respectively, was occasionally shown. The opening sequence was designed by Balsmeyer & Everett, Inc.[6]

In 1998, the opening reverted to footage of Big Bird and various children, with a rerecorded version of the theme resembling the original opening. The children vocals in this version are lifted directly from the theme song performance recorded for The Official Sesame Street 2 Book-and-Record Album. This lasted until 2002, when yet another opening sequence was produced featuring Big Bird and various children following computer-animated bouncing blocks, with clips highlighting the main features of the show (Elmo's World, Monster Clubhouse, etc.). Near the end, Super Grover appears flying and crashing to the bottom of the "Sesame Street" lamppost. He gets back up, holding a sign with the episode number written on it. The theme song was rerecorded in a rock style, and starting in Season 34, was remixed with flutes and harmonica. The opening was shortened on reruns, except for Season 37, the last season to use this opening.

For Seasons 38 and 39 (2007-2008), another new opening was used, featuring a slightly faster version of the theme with a minor hip-hop context to fit with the city setting. The sequence featured more Muppets, including Abby Cadabby, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Super Grover, Zoe, Rosita, and a bird among a computer-animated New York City using "folding" effects (this format would also be used for the segment transition bumpers and closing credits), and also had the episode number appearing on a sign adjacent to the "Sesame Street" sign on the distinctive lightpole. The graphics for this sequence were designed by Magnetic Dreams.

A new intro was created for Season 40 in 2009, featuring the Muppet characters in a chalk-drawn environment. Muppets who appear in this version of the opening include Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Ernie, Bert, Grover (and his super-hero alter ego), Cookie Monster, Zoe, Count von Count, Rosita, Telly Monster, Baby Bear, Murray Monster, Ovejita, Chickens, and Birds. After Super Grover knocks over the lamppost, it falls and the episode number is written next to it. The theme music is a remixed version of the 2007 theme, this time using mostly live instruments (i.e. acoustic drums, a horn section). This version was remixed again for Season 42.

For Season 46, when the series began airing on HBO, another new opening sequence was introduced. For the first time in the series' history, the sequence takes place on the actual street set. It features a new folk arrangement and only consists of the first verse. This was directed by Marco Spier at the advertising and music video firm Riff Raff Films.[7] For season 53, the opening was modified with a new arrangement of the theme, and the last shot was refilmed to replace Murray with Gabrielle, Tamir, Ji-Young, and Tango.

Closings[]

BottomoftheStreetCreditScroll

The illustrated closing from the early '70s features various Muppets, including a rarely seen full body Oscar.

StreeringWheelClosing
Sesame-1992credits-LibertyCTW

The 1992 closing, featuring vibrant, colorful animation by Joey Ahlbum.

How2Get2SesameStreet

An instrumental version of the theme, featuring harmonica by Thielemans, regularly served as the outro for the first twenty-three seasons of the show, and was only sporadically used afterwards. From season 4 to season 23, this instrumental version of the main theme was followed by the "Sesame Closing Theme," a short, funky instrumental that played over the funding acknowledgments.

Like the opening, the closing has changed many times throughout the show's run. During the first season and for the first three weeks of season 3, the credits (which until season 34 were generally included only on Friday episodes) rolled as the action from episodes continued on. The credits for season 2 featured still shots of children's paintings.

Starting with Episode 0295, the closing was changed to an illustrated sequence scrolling the length of a tall apartment building down into 123 Sesame Street. Various Muppet characters were depicted in this closing: Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Kermit the Frog, Little Bird, Herbert Birdsfoot, Lefty the Salesman, Roosevelt Franklin, Roosevelt Franklin's Mother, Herry Monster, Sherlock Hemlock, Professor Hastings, and numerous Anything Muppets. Grover appeared in various areas throughout the closing.

Late into the 5th season (starting with Episode 0640), the closing was changed to a live-action drive through the countryside, with the driver's hands over the steering wheel being shown. This footage (without the added steering wheel) was combined with films of railroad tracks and a canyon in the 1978-79 season. New live action footage of The Kids playing with Barkley was introduced in the 1980-81 season and remained in use for twelve years up to 1992.

An alternate closing with filmed sequences of New York City, filmed during the pre-dawn hours, was also occasionally used between seasons 18 and 23, such as in Episode 2255, usually coinciding with episodes taking place at night.

Concerning alternate music arrangements of the theme song, a lullaby version featuring a celesta would occasionally accompany the standard closing sequences listed above or as music cues for either the first or last scenes in an episode, again usually when it's nighttime or a character is asleep. The most frequently used lullaby arrangement was used as early as Episode 0540, although an alternate recording was used as early as Episode 0313. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, a different lullaby arrangement was occasionally used to close out episodes taking place at night (with some airings including a children's chorus repeating "How to get to Sesame Street?")

A new closing sequence was produced in 1992, complete with an upbeat rearrangement of the theme. Like the opening, this closing featured animated effects and appearances by Muppets — Elmo, Big Bird, and a pigeon — and various kids dancing. Unlike the 1992 opening sequence, this closing remained in use for fifteen years until 2007. Originally, the closing credits only appeared in every fifth episode, but starting in 1993, they would also appear for the season premiere. By 2003, the credits would be shown in every episode.

During seasons 24 and 25, a more "old-fashioned" alternate credit crawl appeared exclusively on repeats from preceding seasons. This closing re-purposes footage from Episode 2525 of Big Bird walking through Central Park and downtown with a group of children. A remixed version of the classic closing theme is used here, which had sporadically been used during seasons 22 and 23. Later season versions used different musical arrangements and new footage again.

Thielemans' harmonic version of the closing theme was used for the album Sing-Along Travel Songs, accompanied with Elmo and Zoe providing the vocals. When it was released on The Best of Elmo album, only Elmo's vocal is heard.

For Season 46, when the series began airing on HBO, the theme was replaced with a different closing song, "Smarter, Stronger, Kinder."

Other appearances[]

As the show's theme song, it has been featured in many productions related to Sesame Street, in both vocal and instrumental form. An instrumental version with a bit of Christmas-sounding music was included at the beginning of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Instrumental versions of the song also appeared in the first and last street scenes in Follow That Bird. The song, usually in instrumental form, has also been included in many video releases.

The theme is sampled in the score of The Great Muppet Caper during Oscar the Grouch's "very brief cameo." It also appears during the ending portions of "The Lovable Monsters of Sesame Street," and in Elmo Saves Christmas, it's incorporated into "Keep Christmas with You (All Through the Year)" and worked into the melancholy score for the future where Christmas takes place every day and all the shops on Sesame Street have closed.

In most countries, several of the international Sesame Street co-productions use their own theme song, while others use the original American version in their own style with slightly different lyrics; one example being the Dutch co-production Sesamstraat (see Sesamstraat Thema).

Also, the Danish co-production Sesamgade uses the same theme (with the same audio from 2002), but with a altered text by Mariella Harpelunde Jensen, so that it fits into a show that focuses on Elmo.

The theme song was performed at the Jim Henson's Musical World concert on April 14, 2012, and at A Swingin' Sesame Street Celebration on October 25-26, 2019.

Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration opens with a montage of the various opening intros used throughout the years. Shortly after, a brief version of the song is sung by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the cast.

Audio releases[]

All versions released are performed by The Kids, unless otherwise noted.

References[]

The song has been referenced quite a few times on Sesame Street, or in related productions.

  • A film insert showing kids playing with toys followed by adults working with similar objects includes a scene where a little girl plays the drums and sings a line of the theme song. (First: Episode 0796)
  • In a late 1970s Reporter Kermit skit, Don Music wrote a similar song called "Yellowstone Park," and after he finished his song, Kermit asked him, "Incidentally, can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?"
  • In Episode 3699, Telly finishes making a temporary Sesame Street sign when a blue monster comes by and asks him how to get there.
  • In Episode 3830, after The Amazing Mumford magically transports himself and Telly to Arizona, Telly asks an Anything Muppet cowpoke if she knows anything about how to get to Sesame Street.
  • In Episode 5029, Elmo and Abby set up the episode's theme of maps with the aid of a flower, who uses a map to find out how to get to Sesame Street.

Publications[]

Sources[]

  1. Work ID: 330176402
  2. Quoted in Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis (New York: Viking Press, 2008), pp. 159-160.
  3. NPR interview
  4. Danny Epstein, quoted from Street Gang by Michael Davis, 2008, pp.161, New York: Viking Press
  5. TV Guide: 50 All-Time Favorite TV Themes liner notes
  6. 6.0 6.1 Rhea, Marji. "Post Effects for Cars, Spaceships, Muppets.." American Cinematographer, vol. 76, no. 5, May 1995.
  7. Riff Raff Films: UK
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