Sesame Street composer Stephen J. Lawrence died, and the show gave a very moving tribute

4 January 2022, 11:31 | Updated: 4 January 2022, 12:50

Sesame Street 1969
Sesame Street 1969. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Stephen J. Lawrence, a celebrated composer best known for his award-winning work on the children’s show, Sesame Street, has passed away at the age of 82.

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Born in 1939, Stephen J. Lawrence was an American composer, conductor, music director and arranger specialising in music for film and television.

His decades-long work with Sesame Street landed him three Emmys for ‘Outstanding Music Direction and Composition’ for the children’s show.

From 1980 to 2012, Lawrence wrote over a staggering 300 songs and scores for the television programme.

The official Twitter account for Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street, tweeted a moving tribute along with one of Lawrence’s most famous songs, ‘Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange)’.

“We are saddened by the passing of our friend Stephen Lawrence, who composed more than 300 beloved songs and scores in over 30 years on Sesame Street, like the classic ‘Fuzzy and Blue’,” the tweet read. “Thank you for bringing smiles, laughter, and the gift of music to our neighbourhood.”

Watch: When Andrea Bocelli sang a tender ‘Time to Say Goodnight’ to Elmo on Sesame Street

Alongside Lawrence’s 32-year-long stint on Sesame Street, he also worked on other children’s media including composing the music for Cartoon Network’s Big Bag, HBO’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and an episode of Nickelodeon’s The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss.

He also served as the music director for the beloved 1972 children’s album, Free to Be...You and Me. Due to the project’s message of equality and tolerance, the album was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry in 2021.

Lawrence also co-founded Quill Entertainment Company alongside Graville Burgess, a non-profit which creates musicals about American history for children. Since 1998, the project has entertained and educated over 40,000 people.

Away from children’s entertainment, Lawrence also scored for film, including the 1973 sports drama Bang The Drum Slowly starring Robert DiNiro.

Read more: 10 best pieces of classical music for kids

So Near And Yet So Far

In 2019, the New York Times wrote that “Sesame Street Started a Musical Revolution”, and Lawrence will have had a big part to have played in that.

First aired in 1969, Sesame Street “redefined what it means to teach children through TV, with music”.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote music for the show, told the Times in 2019 that Sesame Street was “one of the earliest examples of a musical [he] experienced”.

“I learned from ‘Sesame Street’ that music is not only incredibly fun, but also an extremely effective narrative and teaching tool. On top of that, their songs are the closest thing we have to a shared childhood songbook.”

Since the show’s inception, over 80 million Americans have watched Sesame Street, and we’re certain Lawrence’s legacy will continue to live on in the hearts of viewers everywhere.