In a time of musical segmentation and stratification, there remains a place where artists of all genres can play on common ground: "Sesame Street." In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the semina

In a time of musical segmentation and stratification, there remains a place where artists of all genres can play on common ground: "Sesame Street." In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the seminal -- and seminally hip -- children's show, Legacy/Sony Wonder will on Sept. 2 release the three-CD boxed set "Songs From the Street."

The commemorative box features 63 digitally remastered artist tracks, 22 of which are being released for the first time and 12 of which are no longer commercially available.

The set, which also includes an extensive booklet with liner notes from Grammy- and Emmy-winning songwriter/composer/producer Christopher Cerf, kicks off a year-long campaign sponsored by "Sesame Street" creator company Sesame Workshop. Slated to roll out throughout 2004 are a new teen-oriented clothing line, a separate video project, a possible Hollywood Bowl concert and a new series of classic artwork.

From its inception in November 1967, "Sesame Street" began building a musical guest roster without rival. The likes of Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Celine Dion, Lena Horne, Billy Joel, B.B. King, R.E.M., Paul Simon, James Taylor, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Stevie Wonder have all stopped by to mingle with the Muppets.

"I'll tell you why 'Sesame Street' is so cool," says longtime fan Tony Bennett, whose 1995 performance of "Little Things" is featured on the new set. "When I play with my quartet, the music is very much in the moment. And they are doing the same thing at 'Sesame Street' with words. It's spontaneous; it comes right from the head and the heart, and it is just wonderful."

"Being on 'Sesame Street' was one of the biggest highlights of a career that's had many; I got to sing with Grover -- how cool is that?" Trisha Yearwood says of her 1998 version of "I'm Talkin' Love." "There is a magic about 'Sesame Street' that endures no matter what your age. I'm honored that I got to be a part of it."

Sometimes an appearance on "Sesame Street" has also been career-defining. "We've had the privilege of playing at Woodstock ['94], opening for the Rolling Stones and getting a Grammy nomination, but more people come up to me and comment on our appearance on 'Sesame Street,' " says Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors, who performed "Two Princes" in 1993. "To be included on this album with these musical giants, I'm thrilled all over again."

Music will also have a starring role in the preschool-focused "What's the Name of That Song," a commemorative VHS/DVD slated for release in January that weaves 12 clips of musical guests and culminates with a celebrity pastiche of the anthemic "Sing."

Although the nonprofit Sesame Workshop has released countless titles into the early-childhood market, its only other project with mass-market appeal is 1999's "Elmopalooza." Released in conjunction with a television special, "Elmopalooza" has sold 172,000 copies on audio and 229,000 on video/DVD, according to Nielsen SoundScan/VideoScan.

The opportunity to be included in a "Sesame Street" tribute is sweet for "Elmopalooza" alumni the Fugees, whose 1993 performance of "Just Happy to Be Me" is featured on the new set.

"It's funny, because kids see me now, and they know me from 'Sesame Street,'" former group member Wyclef Jean says. "Doing the show was great; it gave me a childhood vibe. Every time you do something, you want it to be simple enough for a little kid to understand. Then it's easy to take it to the world."

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