It’s hard to find anything in pop culture as constant and reassuring in our lives as Sesame Street. Sure, the people pulling the strings (both literally and figuratively) has changed over time, but the true purpose behind Sesame Street never has.
For over 45 years, Sesame Street has been an educational tool, the launching pad for beloved characters, and, of course, some truly great music.
In honor of our oral history of Sesame Street and its legacy as the definitive children’s program, we’re counting down (ah, ah, ah) the best songs in the show’s history.
12. “One of These Things is Not Like the Other”
Like any proper Sesame Street tune, it sticks in your mind well into adulthood. Case in point: if you’ve ever seen a collection of things and one of them is not like the other… well, you’re gonna have this memorable ditty pop right into your head.
11. “Sunny Day” (Sesame Street theme song)
As far as TV theme songs go, it’s not great as, say, The Sopranos (though, that’s a mash-up worth trying on for size), but it sticks with you and it’s hard not to get those happy pangs of nostalgia when you hear it.
10. “Born To Add”
Sesame Street has plenty of parody songs, but the truly great ones not only pay homage to their originals (in this case, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”) but they are classic in their own right. Even the Boss must occasionally sing the “Born to Add” lyrics in his head. And look at that cover art. Brilliant.
Sure, it’s folksy and hokey, but it’s as synonymous with the show as letters, numbers, and a giant yellow bird. And it terms of sheer star power, “Sing” has got it. The Joe Raposo-penned tune has been covered by everyone from the Carpenters to Kristin Chenoweth to The Dixie Chicks.
8. “Rubber Duckie”
No offense to “Do De Duckie,” but if you think of a bath-themed song about the cleanliness habits of Ernie, it’s going to be this one.
7. “Doo-Wop Hop”
Kermit’s got rhythm, tho.
6. “Letter B”
This Beatles parody actually attracted a lawsuit from Northern Songs, the band’s publisher. Eventually Michael Jackson acquired the Beatles’ catalog and settled the case for a mere $50.
5. “Nasty Dan”
Sesame Street has had just about every performer under the sun(ny day) stop by the neighborhood, but none were as awesome as Johnny Trash — er, Johnny Cash — who provided one of the all-time great tracks, “Nasty Dan.” This could have been a proper Johnny Cash single, and it would have been just as essential to his collection.
4. “Pinball Number Count”
Between the trippy 1970s animation and the funky style of The Pointer Sisters, this 12-minute jam session following the journey of a pinball is a time capsule that’s somehow even cooler today than when it was released.
3. “I Love Trash”
This is the one Sesame Street song that truly transcends time and meaning, speaking to the listener over the course of their lifetime. We all love our own form of trash, and Oscar allowed us to embrace the hell out of it.
2. “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”
As far as heart-wrenching songs go, this harrowing Ernie opus isn’t even Sesame Street specific in terms of all-time musical tearjerkers. This can turn anyone, young or old, into a puddle.
1. “Bein’ Green”
Sure, you can argue that this is as much a Muppet Show song as it was a Sesame Street song until you’re green in the face, but there’s no denying it’s arguably the best song any television character has ever had. Van Morrison even covered it during his ’70s heyday!