Sesame Street is now in its 45th season on PBS KIDS! In honor of Sesame and PBS’s commitment to help raise smarter, stronger and kinder kids, we’ve compiled a list of our 45 favorite musical guest stars* that have appeared on Sesame Street over the years. Find out more about Sesame Street’s new season or checking local listings.
In order of appearance:
1. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder appeared on season 4 of Sesame Street to sing “Superstition,” “1,2,3” and as seen below, teaches Grover how to scat. Wonder was also interviewed by Kermit the Frog and the Electric Mayhem in the Spring 1984 issue of “Muppet Magazine.”
2. Johnny Cash
It was a hard decision between “Five Feet High” and “Nasty Dan,” but we chose the latter of the two to feature Johnny Cash’s season 5 performances on Sesame Street. In the 90s, Cash was spoofed on Sesame Street with a Muppet singer named Ronnie Trash, who sang a Cash-inspired tune about the environment.
3. Lena Horne
Lena Horne appeared on Sesame Street in season 7 to perform a duet with Kermit the Frog, “Bein’ Green.” Before she passed in 2010, Horne also performed the ABC’s, a duet with Grover called, “How Do You Do?” and submitted a Strawberry and Champagne Sorbet recipe for Miss Piggy’s 1996 cookbook, “In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy.”
4. Paul Simon
Paul Simon’s earliest (and our favorite) appearance on Sesame Street is his performance of “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” in season 8. This clip is incredible not only because he’s one of the first musicians to perform on Sesame Street, but because one of the children who accompanies him improvises her own lyrics.
5. Ray Charles
Ray Charles appeared on season 10 of Sesame Street to sing “I got a Song” with Bert and Ernie. Charles was on the show in later seasons and is also well-known for performing “Bein’ Green” throughout his career, for example on “Cher,” and “The Cosby Show.”
6. Smokey Robinson
Motown crooner Smokey Robinson appeared on season 19 of Sesame street to perform a spoof of his hit song, “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me” entitled, “U Really Got a Hold on Me.” Robinson also appeared on the “Jim Henson Hour,” where he sang “Just to See Her” and “Jump (For My Love)” with the Muppets.
Robinson also recently performed on PBS’s Great Performances: Star Spangled Spectacular, which celebrated our nation’s 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner. Watch it now.
7. Billy Joel
Billy Joel appeared on season 20 of Sesame Street to perform “Just the Way You Are” with Marlee Matlin and Oscar the Grouch. Joel has appeared on the show several times and even referenced Sesame Street in his 1982 song “Pressure.”
Coming soon to PBS, a music special featuring an all-star tribute celebrating the 2014 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize recipient, Billy Joel.
8. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah performed a song about the Letter O on season 24 of Sesame Street. Queen Latifah returned the favor by inviting Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to appear on her talk show this year to promote “Muppets Most Wanted.”
9. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou appeared on the 25th season of Sesame Street to perform the song, “My Name.” She also narrated and appeared in the 1996 Sesame Street special, “Elmo Saves Christmas.”
10. Little Richard
Little Richard appeared on Sesame Street’s 26th season to sing a rock-and-roll rendition of “Rubber Duckie.” He also made a cameo appearance in the Muppets’ music video “She Drives Me Crazy” in 1994.
11. Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett performed the song “Little Things” with Lexine on season 27 of Sesame Street. In 1998, Bennett released a children’s album, featuring appearances by Kermit the Frog and Elmo.
See Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga perform their new album in Cheek to Cheek Live, coming to Great Performances on PBS October 24th.
12. Shari Lewis
Shari Lewis (and Lambchop) appeared on season 27 of Sesame Street to sing the song “How Do You Do?” with Big Bird. After Jim Henson’s death in 1990, Lewis was quoted saying “He raised puppeteering to an art form beyond people who just jiggle dolls” in USA Today.
13. The Spin Doctors
The Spin Doctors performed their hit “Two Princes” during the 27th season of Sesame Street, changing the lyrics to facilitate Zoe’s choice between Telly and Elmo. Sesame also parodied the Spin Doctors’ “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” calling it “Little Miss Count Along.”
14. Ben Stiller
Emmy Award-winning comic actor Ben Stiller stopped by Sesame Street’s 30th season to sing an old favorite, “People in your Neighborhood.” Stiller also provided the voice of the Muppet character Stiller the Elf in the 2007 special “Elmo’s Christmas Countdown,” and his parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, have appeared in the Israeli co-production, “Shalom Sesame.”
R.E.M. famously spoofed their hit “Shiny Happy People” in season 30’s “Furry Happy Monsters.” Sesame Street returned the favor and parodied the band with their own, “REM.”
16. The Goo Goo Dolls
The Goo Goo Dolls performed a parody of their hit song, “Slide,” entitled “Pride” during season 31 of Sesame Street. The lyrics were changed to be about things that give kids pride, like helping mom bake an apple pie.
17. Hootie and the Blowfish
Hootie and the Blowfish stopped by Sesame Street during season 31 to perform “Hold My Hand,” a variation of their famous hit, reworked to emphasize the importance of holding an adult’s hand while crossing the street. Frontman Darius Rucker talked about his experience on Sesame Street in VH1’s documentary “Sesame Street Music A-Z.”
*NYSNC appeared on season 31 of Sesame Street to perform, “Believe in Yourself.” The performance was popular and now appears on the Songs from the Street CD set.
19. Patti LaBelle
Patti LaBelle has appeared on Sesame Street three times, but our favorite performance is her Gospel Alphabet from season 31. She’s also performed numbers entitled “Oh, How I Miss My X” and “Take the Hand of Someone You Love.”
20. B.B. King
Not his first appearance on Sesame Street, B.B. King performed a tribute to the letter B in Sesame Street’s 32nd season. King’s first appearance on Sesame Street was in the first season!
21. Whoopie Goldberg
Whoopie Goldberg was a frequent guest to Sesame Street, but we’ve decided to feature her 32nd season performance of “Come and Play” with Elmo. According to Elmo’s first puppeteer, Kevin Clash, Goldberg babysat some of the kids on set before she became famous. Read more about Goldberg’s long history with Sesame Street.
22. Destiny’s Child
Before Queen Bey’s solo reign, her group Destiny’s Child appeared on the 33rd season of Sesame Street. Knowles, alongside group members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, performed a song called, “New Way to Walk.”
23. The Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks spoofed their song “I Can Love You Better” on the 33rd season of Sesame Street, calling it “No Letter Better than B.” They are backed up by muppets with B’s in their name, including Big Bird, Bert, Baby Bear and The Count (with his bats, of course.) The Dixie Chicks also battled the Muppets in a 2001 episode of Family Feud.
24. Aaron and Nick Carter
Brothers Aaron and Nick Carter appeared on season 34 of Sesame Street to perform “Loud and Soft.” We can only guess that Aaron is the bigger Sesame Street fan, as he danced to “The Muppet Show Theme” on Dancing with the Stars with his partner Karina Smirnoff.
25. Norah Jones
Norah Jones appeared on season 35 of Sesame Street singing a parody of her song “Don’t Know Why” entitled “Don’t Know Y.” The daughter of the late composer and sitarist Ravi Shankar, Jones has won so many awards that they have their own Wikipedia page.
26. India Arie
India Arie appeared in season 36 of Sesame Street to perform the alphabet with Elmo. It remains one of Sesame’s most viewed videos today.
27. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys stopped by Sesame Street during season 36 to sing a parody of her song “Fallin'” called “Dancin'” with Elmo. She also appeared in the Sesame Street holiday special Elmo’s Christmas Countdown singing with Elmo.
28. Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean joined Cookie Monster to sing about healthy eating on season 36 of Sesame Street. Jean was also a part of “Elmopalooza!” in 1998 and appeared onstage with the Swedish Chef at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Sweden in 2000.
29. John Legend
John Legend appeared on season 37 of Sesame Street, performing “It Feels Good When You Sing a Song” with Hoots the Owl. During an appearance on “The Queen Latifah Show” this year, he played the piano to and sang “The Rainbow Connection” with Queen Latifah, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
Feist appeared on season 39 of Sesame Street. She later called this experience a “career highlight.”
31. LL Cool J
LL Cool J stopped by Sesame Street during season 39 to go on an “Addition Expedition” with Elmo. While we may know him as “Ladies Love Cool James,” we’re sure his mother refers to him as “James Todd Smith.”
32. Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris appeared on the 39th season of Sesame Street as “The Shoe Fairy.” In a 2005 edition of the TV Guide, Harris named Jim Henson as his “all-time TV hero.”
33. Tilly and the Wall
Tilly and the Wall appeared on season 39 of Sesame Street to sing the ABC’s. The group is most noted for having a tap dancer instead of a drummer.
34. Ricky Gervais
Perhaps better known for his role in “Muppets Most Wanted,” Ricky Gervais stopped by Sesame Street’s 40th season to sing silly lullabies to Elmo.
35. Jason Mraz
Jason Mraz appeared in the 40th season of Sesame Street singing “Outdoors”, a parody of his song “I’m Yours”. In interviews, Mraz has credited the “Muppet Movie” as an inspiration for his interest and love of music.
36. Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler appeared on season 40 of Sesame Street to sing “A Song About Elmo.” Little known fact: the comedian previously auditioned for Jim Henson’s Handmade Video project!
37. Rev Run of Run-D.M.C.
Rev Run of Run-D.M.C. appeared on season 41 of Sesame Street to sing a parody called, “Hop This Way.” Originally sung by Aerosmith, Run-D.M.C. covered “Walk This Way” in 1994.
Will.i.am appeared on season 41 singing a song about pride called “What I Am.” The song won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2011 in the “Outstanding Original Song – Children’s and Animation” category.
39. Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello stopped by Sesame Street to sing a parody of his song “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” entitled “(A Monster Went and) Ate My Red Two” on season 42 of Sesame Street. In 2011, Costello performed at the Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala.
40. Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars appeared on Sesame Street during season 42, singing “Don’t Give Up.” One of our other favorite Mars moments? Teaching kids how to brush their teeth in Sesame’s Heathy Teeth, Healthy Kids PSA.
American pop group Train appeared in season 43 singing a parody of their song “Drive By” entitled “Five By” accompanied by Elmo and Count Von Count. Lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford was quoted as saying, “You know you’ve made it when you’re on Sesame Street.”
Train also recently performed on PBS’s Great Performances: Star Spangled Spectacular, which celebrated our nation’s 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner. Watch it now.
42. Jimmy Fallon and the Roots
Technically this entry wasn’t broadcast on Sesame Street, but in 2013, several of the Muppets stopped by “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to perform the “Sesame Street Theme” on classroom instruments. This clip was so popular, it was included in the 2014 prime-time special, “Best of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Fallon also petitioned (and won!) for NBC to include the Muppet Pipes as part of the NBC Studio Tour.
Did you see some familiar faces during last week’s “Late Night?” Watch the muppets read #WhenIWasAKid hashtags aloud HERE.
43. Dave Matthews
Dave Matthews performed and co-wrote a song for Sesame Street’s 44th season of Sesame Street called, “I Need a Word.” For this duet with Grover, Matthews plays the banjo instead of the guitar.
Pentatonix is an acapella group that rose to fame after winning NBC’s “The Sing Off.” They continue to cover popular songs on YouTube and stopped by Sesame Street during season 44 to perform this amazing number medley, reminiscent of an old Sesame skit called “pinball animation” from the 1970s.
Pentatonix also recently performed on PBS’s Great Performances: Star Spangled Spectacular, which celebrated our nation’s 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner. Watch it now.
Usher has appeared on Sesame Street several times over the years, but our favorite is his rendition of the alphabet in season 44! We probably don’t need to say any more about Usher, because, well, he’s Usher.