Before those less than sunny days when the show became a revolving door of celebrity guest appearances—and Elmo pretty much taking over every facet of the show—Sesame Street was a wonderland for pop culture aficionados, demonstrating such keen savvy unheard of for a program geared towards preschoolers. No cultural institution was safe from a Sesame Street parody, not even the eclectic musical landscape of the ‘70s into the ‘90s. From Madonna to Bruce Springsteen, treat your ears to the top five song parodies from Sesame Street. Hey, you might just learn something if you do.
1) “Little Miss Count Along” (“Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” The Spin Doctors)
Primarily relegated to the underground scene of the ‘80s, it took the music industry nearly a decade to discover the untapped market potential of alternative rock in the early ‘90s, with Sesame Street jumping at the chance to parody this budding genre. Utilizing The Spin Doctors’ smash hit single “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” the show’s composers turned a ditty originally about lead singer Chris Barron’s step-mother (true story, look it up) into one about the joys of counting to ten. And Sesame Street even managed to use it as a platform to popularize their newest Muppet at the time: Zoe.
4) “Cereal Girl” (“Material Girl,” Madonna)
When it came to the culture of the ‘80s music scene, Sesame Street was a veritable beast off the chain running wild. Plenty of artists and bands at the time underwent the series’ trademark Muppet makeover, and it really isn’t at all surprising that Madonna’s hit song “Material Girl” would have that honor. What is surprising, on the other hand, is that Sesame Street's executives gave the thumbs-up to use Madonna as an inspirational muse, especially when considering the fact that she and family value advocates have a relationship every bit as cordial as a mongoose and rattlesnake. Or a killer whale and baby seal. We could go on.
3) “Letter B” (“Let It Be,” The Beatles)
Here’s a fun story regarding Sesame Street’s educational pastiche of The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” Obvious opponents of expanding the minds of children everywhere—and apparently ignorant of the protective stipulations of fair use—Northern Songs, the erstwhile owners of The Beatles' entire music catalog, sued Sesame Street producer Children’s Television Workshop for $5.5 million in 1981 over alleged copyright infringement, irregardless of "Letter B's" being a parody. By the whim of pure chance, Michael Jackson purchased the catalog before the incident went to trial, resulting in “Letter B’s” songwriter, Christopher Cerf, paying a piddly $50, thus sweeping the little incident under the rug.
2) “Born to Add” (“Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen)
It was an unspoken rule of thumb among Sesame Street songwriters back in the day: if tasked with composing a contemporary song parody, always bet on Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen. Because it may very well earn you a Grammy nod. “Born to Add” and its titular album release were nominated for the award for Best Recording for Children in 1983, only to be robbed of the glory by Michael Jackson’s narration of the E.T. read-along album. Which, if you think about it for a second, was based on a film millions of people already saw, rendering the concept of an audio version absolutely useless. Given the choice, though, how could industry experts not give the award to the one song that makes you want to hit the streets with your main squeeze and count things in a rush of youthful exuberance?
1) “Rebel L” (‘Rebel Yell,” Billy Idol)
Never has their been a song parody on Sesame Street, before or since, that’s as hard-hitting and punk as “Rebel L.” Even Billy Idol himself would have to applaud a parody that pays such a reverent homage to his music and the entirety of a genre. Although there's one glaring inaccuracy about the whole thing that makes it difficult to enjoy it to the fullest. Being the anarchistic rock legend that he his, Idol—or rather his Muppet counterpart—would sooner don a suit and tie than call the police on a rebellious letter L disturbing the peace. In reality, wouldn't he hop out the window to join him on a night of keeping his neighbors awake?
Which song is your favorite?