|Music by||Joe Raposo|
|Lyrics by||Jon Stone, Bruce Hart, Joe Raposo|
|Publisher||Sesame Street, Inc.|
The Sesame Street Theme (registered with ASCAP as "Can You Tell Me How To Get To Sesame Street") is the familiar opening theme song of Sesame Street. 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In an unpublished memoir, Jon Stone commented that he personally had come up with many of the ideas for the song: "An integral part of [set designer] Charlie Rosen's set was a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." Contrary to Stone's opinion, many of these so called "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. One of the earliest and most distinctive versions includes a harmonica solo performed by Toots Thielemans. For the 25th Anniversary version, the harmonica solo was performed by William Galison.
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).
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.
The song, as well as the phrase "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" have also been the subject of numerous in-jokes on the show itself. Notably, in a Sesame Street News Flash visit to Don Music] (EKA: Episode 1845), the famed composer finds himself stymied on the last line, "Sesame Street." Kermit the Frog suggests alterations, which culminate in the song (now set on a stormy night, not even a star in sight) asking directions to where the sky is dark. This, evidently, is Yellowstone Park.
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 rather than the more familiar children's chorus, the rendition includes the complete lyrics, as heard on albums and elsewhere, but seldom included on the show itself.
For most of the show's run, 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.
A new rendition of the theme song was used from 1992 to 1998, featuring a calypso beat. During this period the opening featured many more Muppet characters, and employed the use of numerous computer-animated effects. Muppets who appeared in this version of the opening include Big Bird, Grover, 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, featuring Zoe instead of Grover and Baby Natasha instead of Prairie Dawn, was sometimes shown.
In 1998 the opening reverted to footage featuring Big Bird and various children, and another recording of the theme song was used featuring a prominent harmonica overdub and resembling the original opening theme. This lasted until 2002, when the opening was changed yet again to feature Big Bird and various children following computer-generated bouncing-blocks animation, clips from the show, and an appearance by Super Grover. After Super Grover crashes to the bottom of the light pole of the "Sesame Street" sign, he gets back up with a sign of the episode number in his hand. Yet another version of the theme was also recorded, this version also including a prominent harmonica. It is shortened on reruns, except season 37, the last season to use this opening.
Starting with Season 38 in 2007 to 2008, another new opening was introduced, featuring a slightly-faster version of the theme with a minor hip-hop context to fit with the city setting, and 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 basis would also be used for the between-segment-bumpers and closing credits), and also had the episode number appearing on a sign next to the "Sesame Street" sign on the distinctive lightpole.
A new intro was created for Season 40 in 2009, featuring the Muppet characters in a chalk-drawn environment. Muppets who appears in this version of the opening include Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Super Grover, 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 remake of the 2007 opening theme, this time using mostly live instruments (i.e. acoustic drums, a horn section).
Like the opening, the closing has changed many times throughout the show's run. During the first and part of the third seasons, the action from the episodes that featured closing credits (until season 34 closing credits were generally featured only on Friday episodes) continued on as the credits rolled. The season 2 closing featured still shots of childrens' paintings.
By episode 355, the closing was an illustrated sequence scrolling the length of a tall apartment building down down to Sesame Street. Various characters were depicted in this closing: Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Kermit the Frog, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Little Bird, Herbert Birdsfoot, Lefty the Salesman, Roosevelt Franklin, Roosevelt Franklin's Mother, Herry Monster, Sherlock Hemlock, Professor Hastings, and the Anything Muppets. Grover appeared in various areas throughout this closing, while everybody else only appeared once. This closing was used for a few years during the early to mid-1970s.
For the 1974-75 season, the closing was changed to feature a live action drive through the countryside with the driver's hands being shown. This footage was combined with films of railroad tracks and a canyon in the 1978-79 season and this time, the driver's hands are not shown. New live action footage of The Kids playing with Barkley was introduced by the 1980-81 season and remained in use for twelve years up to 1992. Alternate closings with filmed sequences of New York City and upstate New York recorded during the pre-dawn hours and/or a dreamlike version of the main closing theme featuring a celesta were also occasionally used during this period, usually coinciding with episodes taking place at night. During the 1991-1992 season, starting with episode 2876, some of the episodes include live action footage of birds flying in the sanctuary.
A new, primarily-animated closing sequence was produced in 1992 to coincide with the new opening introduced in the same year, complete with a new upbeat version of the theme. Like the opening, this closing featured computer-animated effects and appearances by various characters, including Elmo, a Muppet pigeon, Big Bird, and various kids dancing. (In episode 3165, this was replaced with a different credit crawl with Big Bird walking through Central Park and downtown.) Unlike the 1992 opening sequence, this closing remained in use for fifteen years until 2007, making it the longest-running and most popular closing credit sequence used on the show, although it was progressively shortened in both 2000 (when references to "The Children's Television Workshop" were edited out) and 2003. Originally, the closing credits only appeared in every fifth episode. Starting in 1998, the closing credits would also appear on the season premiere, and this was continued until 2003 when the credits would appear at the end of each episode.
To coincide with the new opening sequence of 2007 and the "folding-city" bumpers used in-between segments, a new closing sequence was introduced in Season 38 with the camera panning around the CGI city, with appearances by Super Grover, Elmo, Big Bird and Abby Cadabby, accompanied by an urban-jazz instrumental version of the theme. It also ends with a customized Sesame Workshop logo instead of the animated one used since 2000 (Season 38 utilized an in-credit variant, and Season 39 featured a newly-animated variant with an appearance by Elmo and other Sesame Workshop characters).
In 2009, a new credit sequence was created to go along with the new theme. It features the same music as the 2007 edition, and features Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Zoe, Abby and Elmo dancing on and around the credits in a chalked background of each character.
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. An instrumental version of the song also appeared in the first and last street scenes in Follow That Bird. This song, usually in instrumental form, has also been included in many video releases.
All versions released are performed by The Kids, unless otherwise noted.
This song, or lyrics of this song (most notably the line "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?"), have been referenced quite a few times on Sesame Street, or in related productions.