"Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?"
Language English
Recorded 1969
Genre Television, theme song
Composer(s) Joe Raposo

"Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?" is the theme song of the children's television series Sesame Street. It is the oldest song in Sesame Street's history, dating back to the show's very beginning on November 10, 1969.

Overview Edit

The Sesame Street theme song was composed by Joe Raposo, a writer and composer of many of television shows' songs. The opening riff is a variation from the Good Vibrations song by the The Beach Boys, which was released 3 years prior. In his book on the history of Sesame Street, Michael Davis called the theme "jaunty" and "deceptively simple".[1] Raposo wrote the lyrics to the song with Jon Stone and Bruce Hart. Stone considered the song "a musical masterpiece and a lyrical embarrassment".[1] Raposo enlisted jazz harmonica player Jean "Toots" Thielemans, as well as a mixed choir of children, to record the opening and closing themes.[2] "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street" has since become a "siren song for preschoolers".[1]

Uses within the series Edit

Opening sequences Edit

For the first 23 seasons of Sesame Street, the theme song in the opening credits and the show's start was untouched. The first version in the opening credits has the melody played by Thielemans while children sing the lyrics. In each episode's beginning storyline, a slower instrumental version of Thielemans's tune is heard. ... Beginning in season 24, 1992, a newer, and slightly faster version of the theme surfaced. The theme song was re-recorded for the opening credits with a more upbeat, calypso, island like tune instead of the harmonica-themed melody of the previous versions with children singing. This version was heard during the show's opening for six more seasons. Like the previous version, this arrangement also had an instrumental version that closed every episode, and would continue to do so until season 38, outlasting the vocal version. Also during season 24, the harmonica music used at the beginning and end of each episode still remained throughout most of the season until the last few weeks when the harmonica music was changed to calypso, accompanied by a piccolo and ukulele. Other versions and alterations to the theme song were made to reflect changes in the show's locale. When Sesame Street presented a week of shows in New Mexico in December 1975,[3] the song was augmented to reflect its setting so that New Mexico was incorporated into the song's lyrics.

For the series' 30th season, the tune went back to a more conservative tone. Using again a harmonica-style tune, the theme was a throwback to the show's early seasons. Unlike the first version, though, this version was much slower and had additional notes added particularly in the beginning. This version remained for three seasons. Still, the instrumental calypso version used since November 1992 remained as the show's closing theme.

Again, the theme was given a complete makeover in season 33 to coincide with the revamping of the show's structure. This version had a much rapid, more energetic feel to the song. Also the line "Can you tell me how to get /How to get to Sesame Street" was repeated twice in this incarnation rather than the traditional repetition of "How to get to Sesame Street" at the end. For seasons 34-36, the theme was modified with more instruments. In season 37, the theme was shortened as well as reruns from seasons 34‒36.

Drastic changes were once more instituted for the opening song for season 38. The song again was upbeat, but it now had a style that has a kiddie pop/hip hop tune. Another change was the instrumental opener which now had a softer version of the new rendition. In season 40, the theme was remixed, this time using mostly live instruments (i.e. acoustic drums, a horn section). The theme was remixed again for the series' 42nd season.

For season 46, a new version came out. Traditionally, the song had 2 verses; one starting with "Sunny day" and one starting with "Come and play", but in this version only the first verse is used.

Closing sequences Edit

For the closing scenes that preceded the credits and a list of underwriting sponsors, an instrumental version of the old harmonica-style version in the opening sequence was first used. This version remained intact for 23 seasons. Starting in season 24 and through season 37, an instrumental version of the calypso rendition was used, and the closing credits were separated from the closing scenes of the show. In season 38, a new melody was used to complement the opening and closing sequences. The style seemed to be an instrumental version of the opening. (See above.)

Uses in popular culture Edit

The theme was covered by The Free Design on their 1970 children's album ...Sing for Very Important People. In 1982 the theme was covered by the Maynard Ferguson Big Band Album Storm in a jazz version arranged by Denis DiBlasio.

Don Music is on Sesame Street, used different lyrics when he pretended to compose the theme song, starting with the lyrics: "Stormy Nights" instead of "Sunny Days".

The theme was "remixed" in 1992 by British rave group The Smart E's. "Sesame's Treet" reached #2 on the UK singles chart.[4] A further remixed uptempo eurodance/happy hardcore version played by The Smart E's themselves was recorded for the 2000 Dancemania compilation Speed 5.[5]

The cowpunk band The Rugburns covered the song on their 1995 EP Mommy I'm Sorry.

In a single released in 2000 and produced by The Alchemist, underground rapper Agallah sampled the Sesame Street theme on "Crookie Monster". Agallah also rapped in the voice of Cookie Monster on the track, and the track used other vocal samples from other Sesame Street characters such as Grover and Herry Monster.

Reno, Nevada-based rock band Fall Silent recorded a novelty cover of the song in a hardcore punk style, which was released on their 2001 compilation album Six Years in the Desert under the title "Sunny Days (Sesame Street)".

R&B group Lyric sampled the theme for their song, "Sunny Days".[6]

American officials indicated U.S. interrogators subjected prisoners to the Sesame Street theme song in long sessions during the Iraq War.[7]

In 2009, Joshua Radin performed a cover version of the song for the episode "My ABC's" of Scrubs.

The theme was also covered by reggae musician Sly Dunbar.[8]

The Tonight Show band with Jimmy Fallon covered the song on in 2013. It received over 23 million views on[9]