My my my, are you in for a treat! Stevie Wonder bringing THE FUNK to Sesame Street!
April 12, 1973, Season 4, Episode 0513. About to enter high school, I was supposed to have outgrown Sesame Street by now, but nobody should outgrow THIS: Stevie Wonder fully into the peak of his powers, leading a scorching jam on “Superstition”, the most blazing funk you may ever behold.
There’s so much to love about this video! One of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard (every instrument is crystal clear, a true feat for early 70s TV), a 19 year old Ray Parker (who’d write and perform the original Ghostbusters theme) on guitar, these two guys seriously bringing the horns, this kid on the balcony at :39 and again at 4:10 who’s dancing for us all, multiple shout-outs to Sesame Street along the way, and not one but TWO false endings ‘CAUSE STEVIE AIN’T FINISHED JAMMING YET.
The thing is, Sesame Street was more than a TV show to me. It inspired me. It shaped my career choices (I became a teacher, worked in the inner city in Baltimore and DC, and later made nature documentaries shaped by those amazing little animal shorts on the show), but more broadly, Sesame Street was a vision of the urban utopia I wanted to live in.
This was true for the performers in some ways, too. Sonia Manzano (”Maria”) joined the show in 1971, and when asked in 2015 about the single most standout moment in her 44 years on the show, this is the one she chose.
“The whole studio rocked out and it was great because, white people, black people, young people, old people — everybody was on the same page,“ she said.
“It was a moment of clarity. You know, we started this show, we thought we were going to end racism, we were going to close the education gap. … We had big dreams! And moments like Stevie being on the show gave us a glimpse of the way things could be.”
So prepare to jam, yes, but also open yourself to the possibilities of this world of Wonder.