Sesame Street remains the gold standard for children’s television, but it also boasts some of the best original music and parodies of the past 43 years. It’s garnered more Emmys than can fit in Hooper’s Store, and it’s phalanx of celebrity guests is staggering. Last week writer Judy Freudberg, who wrote for the show for 35 seasons, died of a brain tumor at age 62, which got me thinking about the show’s wonderful past. Today, let’s revisit the show’s 10 greatest (and arguably, in many cases, gayest) musical moments. Those hyperlinks within the subheads link to the original video. Jamming yet, fellow Cookie Monsters?
1. Neil Patrick Harris finally admits that he’s the Shoe Fairy
Yep, that’s Neil Patrick Harris adorned in wings and a creamy suit (with some nutty Charles Nelson Reilly neckwear!) singin’ about shoes. He’s like Telly’s personal shopper here, which is nothing short of spectacular. If he were an official pop star, I’d call him Lady Foot Locker.
2. Grover learns about echoes and glamor from Madeline Kahn.
Madeline Kahn, the great character actress who I cannot shut up about, has just about the loveliest singing voice imaginable. So when she puts Grover on her lap and sings an “echo song” with him, you know you can expect a cheery, blissful duet. Less expected is the maternal energy she just radiates here, though it’s mixed in with her unmatched comic kookiness.
3. Madonna and Cyndi Lauper get the Muppet treatment with “Cereal Girl”
Sure, this wild-eyed Muppet is toasting Madonna’s “Material Girl” with a similarly squawky parody called “Cereal Girl,” but the tribute to pop superstars of 1984 doesn’t end there: Clearly, this clip’s look mimics “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and our bopping star is dolled up like Cyndi Lauper herself. I only wish a sassy Deniece Williams puppet could’ve popped up to add a verse of “Let’s Hear It for the Bran.”
4. Melissa Etheridge Comes to the Window of “U”
The most righteously out artist of the ’90s sounds amazing, looks gorgeous, and is downright sweet when serenading the letter “U” in 1996. It’s a direct parody of her hit “Like the Way I Do,” but the lyrics are so cute: “Ohhh, I love your “uhh” sound! / Did I ever tell you that I’d be upset / if you left the alphabet?” A total triumph.
5. The mesmerizing calm of the classic jam “Sing”
Homos, back me up: “Sing” is a very cute Carpenters song — and I’m a diehard Carpenters fan, so that’s a serious evaluation — but it sounds a little cloying coming out of Karen’s mouth. However, on Sesame Street where the song originated, it’s a beautiful jam that epitomizes great ’70s kid records. On this early rendition of the track, series regulars Bob (Bob McGrath) and Luis (Emilio Delgado) unleash their gorgeous balladeer skills and beautiful guitar work, respectively. For a specifically gay version, please observe Nathan Lane’s snappy turn with the track.
6. REM enchants “Furry Happy Monsters,” and Kate Pierson is immortalized in felt.
There is no more polarizing REM song than “Shiny Happy People,” but gay gnome prince Michael Stipe is just adorable when he sings this fuzzy version with the Two-Headed Monster and crew. Could you just DIE at that Kate Pierson puppet? So outrageously cool. She’s sporting some major Jeannie C. Riley cred, if you ask me.
7. Aaron Neville gets dreamy with Ernie on “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” and is foppish for the hell of it.
In the annals of fabulous Sesame Street songs, none is quite as poignant, whimsical, and melancholy as “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.” First of all, check out Aaron Neville: The man is throwing around some serious lavender. Then there’s Ernie, who can’t be gay because he’s just a puppet, but if he were a human being, he’d be — you know — gay. At least I think! Together, these two trill up a dreamy ballad about appreciating your life and surroundings. When Ernie dances on the moon, it gets trippy and perfect.
8. Crybabies unite! “It’s Alright to Cry”
God, I love this song. For those of us who cried at just about everything growing up (::sheepishly raises both hands::), “It’s Alright to Cry” was a power ballad worthy of “Free Bird” stature. If only Elton John could’ve followed up with an officially gay version called “Saturday Night’s All Right for Crying,” that’d be my personal anthem.
9. Queen Latifah arranges herself in a buffalo stance for the letter “O.”
Hell yes to lady rap on Sesame Street! Queen Latifah took her (onetime) edge to Oscar’s neighborhood for a slammin’ ode to “O.” You’ll notice that the backdrop is very Neneh Cherry, which means that — yes — Queen Latifah’s lookin’ good in every way. So don’t! Don’t mess with her. Or her “safari sisters” Mary and Prairie.
10. Good golly, “Rubber Duckie”!
I could’ve simply included the original “Rubber Duckie,” the one that Ernie took to the Billboard Top 20 in 1970, as a fine and arguably gay choice (BATHS, anyone?), but I sprang for the ludicrous Little Richard rendition. First of all: This man is a comic genius. When he introduced his washcloth and tub, I howled with laughter. And the boogie-woogie “Rubber Duckie” is no less exhilarating. Can we get this man a sitcom? I’m serious.
Now yours: Which Sesame Street songs do you still cherish? Do you also judge people who don’t consider Grover the greatest?