Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

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"Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?"
Song by Joe Raposo
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.[citation needed][1]


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

Uses within the series[edit]

Opening sequences[edit]

In the test shows, the theme song lyrics were sung by Bob McGrath. The theme during the test shows was sung in its entirety.

For the first 23 seasons of Sesame Street, the theme song in the opening credits and the show's start was untouched, featuring footage of children playing in certain neighborhoods. Sometimes, Big Bird would appear in these intros playing with some of the kids. 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, on November 9, 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 from November 9, 1992 through April 28, 1993 (episode 3006 to 3128) the harmonica music used at the beginning and end of each episode still remained throughout most of the season until April 29, 1993 starting with episode 3129, when the harmonica music was changed to calypso. Even though the vocal calypso theme was discontinued after Season 29 from November 17, 1997 to May 15, 1998, the instrumental calypso theme was still used at the beginning of street scenes up to Season 37 from 2006, the final season to use the instrumental opening. After the episode number was shown, Big Bird appeared briefly laughing. Then, from November 9, 1992, to May 20, 1994, Grover notices a group of children along with Oscar the Grouch (in his trash can) either running or skating beside a neighborhood mural. Then, Grover summons a monkey on the mural, which came to real life. From November 21, 1994, to May 14, 1998, Zoe notices kids feeding CGI circus animals that came to real life from circus posters on a construction site board. Cookie Monster would then wave to the viewers in a submarine in a pool, followed by children sleep in the mattress, pillow and blanket. Count von Count accompanying on Classical guitar plays and sings Brahms Lullaby and laughs to transition to the next scene. From November 9, 1992, to May 15, 1998, Prairie Dawn would spin around with a girl who did a cartwheel. From November 21, 1994, to May 15, 1998, some kids would run a race while Baby Natasha pulls down the finish line rope. Next, a group of children play baseball where Elmo catches a swirly ball and cheers. Meanwhile, another group of kids cheer while watching the game on TV at a video store. However, Ernie switches the channel to a confused Bert. Telly and a girl bounce on a trampoline after Ernie points the remote towards the screen. Finally, Big Bird walks across the screen and tells the viewers to come with him as he and a group of kids walk down Central Park.

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 from New Mexico in December 1, 1975, the song was augmented to reflect its setting so that New Mexico was incorporated into the song's lyrics. Years later, a slightly modified version of this variant would be used when the series did an episode from David's grandmother's farm on January 15, 1982, which was later aired as a repeat on January 27, 1984, and again for a visit to Montana in November 1991.

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 1993 remained in use during street scenes, and the closing theme from 1992 was still used during the end credit sequence. Basically, it featured footage of children playing with each other and walking around with Big Bird.

Again, the theme was given a complete makeover in season 33 to coincide with the revamping of the show's structure. It features footage of Big Bird and some kids playing in the park, while blocks featuring clips from the main segments of the season appear as a way to introduce the show's new format. 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 34–37, the theme was modified with more instruments.

Drastic changes were once more instituted for the opening song for seasons 38 and 39. 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. This sequence 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. The graphics for this sequence were designed by Magnetic Dreams. In season 40, the opening sequence changed to the Muppet characters in a chalk-drawn environment. Muppets who appear in this version of the opening include Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Ernie, Bert, Grover (and his super-hero alter ego), 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 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.

Beginning in season 46, on January 16, 2016, another new arrangement was introduced, reverting to a more classic tone. Traditionally, the song started with "Sunny day" and "Come and play", but now only the first stanza is sung.

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. For the most part in the early seasons, the closing sequences showed the kids playing while the credits rolled. Sometimes, in season 2, children's paintings were shown while plastered on the credits. Starting in Season 3, the camera panned down on a mural of the brownstone 123 Sesame Street apartment as credits were written on the walls and sidewalks. This lasted until season 6, when that sequence was replaced with someone driving down a country road. In Season 12, the closing sequence featured Barkley playing with some kids in a park, which lasted until the end of season 23.

Alternate closings with filmed sequences of New York City and upstate New York recorded during the pre-dawn hours were also occasionally used during this period, usually coinciding with episodes taking place at night. A lullaby version of the theme featuring a celesta often accompanied these closings. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, a different arrangement was occasionally used to close out episodes taking place at night (This version originally included a children's chorus repeating "How To Get To Sesame Street?" which was later removed).

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 this sequence, an animated film of the muppet and kid characters are shown dancing in an animated city.

During seasons 24 and 25, a more "old-fashioned" alternate credit crawl appeared exclusively on repeats from preceding seasons. This closing, using footage from Episode 2525, featured Big Bird walking through Central Park and downtown with a group of children accompanied with the classic harmonica instrumental.

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. In season 40, the theme was remixed, with mostly live instruments (i.e. acoustic drums, a horn section). The theme was remixed again for the series' 42nd season. (See above.) Basically, the characters danced around while the credits rolled.

Starting in season 46, the new closing theme is the original closing song "Smarter, Stronger, Kinder," as the credits play during the song. HBO edits of pre-2003 episodes also used the Friday credit sequences at the end of every episode, including those that originally aired from Monday to Thursday.

The Smart E's cover[edit]

The theme was "remixed" in 1992 by British rave group The Smart E's. "Sesame's Treet" reached No. 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]


  1. ^ "Sesame Street debuts". HISTORY. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Michael Davis (2008). Street gang: The complete history of Sesame Street. Viking Penguin. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0. "The result was a musical masterpiece and a lyrical embarrassment," Stone said. "Trite and thoughtless" was how he described Hart's work on the assignment, resulting in "platitudinous kiddie-show lyrics." While Stone acknowledged that ...
  3. ^ "Harmonica legend Toots Thielemans on piano jazz". NPR. June 24, 2004. Retrieved August 10, 2009. Thielemans' harmonica was also heard on the opening theme song to Sesame Street and his whistling appeared on a widely recognized "Old Spice" commercial.
  4. ^ David Roberts (Managing Editor) et al., Guinness World Records: British Hit Singles & Albums (Eighteenth Edition), 2005, ISBN 1-904994-00-8
  5. ^ Frank Lee (July 28, 2010). "Dancemania Speed Series Complete Songtrack List – een knol van Frank Lee". Google. Retrieved February 9, 2012.[permanent dead link]