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The Late Movies: Musicians and Their Awesome Sesame Street Appearances

I keep coming across musicians who have appeared on Sesame Street (usually singing the Alphabet Song), and the performances are uniformly awesome. (One of the best videos from my Late Movies segment last week was Stevie Wonder live on Sesame Street, and in a previous week, Paul Simon was on Sesame Street.) I've collected some favorites here for your viewing enjoyment.

Feist, "1 2 3 4"

Feist performs her hit "1 2 3 4" with a twist -- it's now more specifically about counting than about growing up. Totally adorable.

Queen Latifah, "The Letter O"

Safari Sisters in the house! "Now, one day I was chillin' on Sesame Street, hanging wit' my homegirls, rockin' to the beat, when Telly came along and he was feelin' kinda blue, he said, 'I lost my Letter O, what should I do?'" Latifah's advice: learn some words that include the letter O!

R.E.M., "Furry Happy Monsters"

They pulled some monster Muppets out of storage (including a B-52's Kate Pierson monster) for this Sesame Street-ified rendition of their hit "Shiny Happy People."

Norah Jones, "Don't Know Y"

This is pretty cute -- "Don't Know Why" becomes a song about missing the letter Y, spelling words like Yarn and Yet.

Ray Charles and Friends, "The Alphabet Song"

Only Ray Charles can make the Alphabet Song soulful and sort of wistful. Includes guest appearances by Patrick Stewart, Ellen Degeneres, Tony Bennett, and more. "Won't you sing along with me?"

Patti LaBelle, "The Alphabet Song" (Gospel Version)

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kermit the Frog, "African Alphabet Song"

Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, "The Alphabet Song"

Slightly similar to the above, but with no Kermit and no fancy visuals.

Spin Doctors, "Two Princes"

Um. I guess the Spin Doctors' singer got a haircut and kinda needs work.

Tilly and the Wall, "The Alphabet Song"

Indie rock band Tilly and the Wall, most notable for its lack of a drummer (they use tap-dancers instead to keep the beat), perform a modified Alphabet Song.

Who Did I Leave Out?

Share your favorite musical memories of Sesame Street in the comments!

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Chloe Efforn
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Animals
John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady
Chloe Efforn
Chloe Efforn

John Lennon was crazy about cats, and though he owned a couple of dogs (Sally and Bernard) over the years, he was better known for getting by with a little help from his feline friends.

1. ELVIS

Growing up, Lennon's beloved mother, Julia, had a named cat after Elvis Presley, whom Julia and John were both crazy about. The Lennons later realized they had misnamed Elvis when "he" gave birth to a litter of kittens in the cupboard, but they didn't change the cat's name based on that small mistake.

2. AND 3. TICH AND SAM

He had two other cats as a boy growing up in Liverpool: Tich and Sam. Tich passed away while Lennon was away at art school (which he attended from 1957 to 1960), and Sam was named after famous British diarist Samuel Pepys

4. TIM

One day, John Lennon found a stray cat in the snow, which his Aunt Mimi allowed him to keep. (John's Aunt Mimi raised him from a young boy through his late teenage years, and he affectionately referred to her as the Cat Woman.) He named the marmalade-colored half-Persian cat Tim.

Tim remained a special favorite of John's. Every day, he would hop on his Raleigh bicycle and ride to Mr. Smith's, the local fishmonger, where he would buy a few pieces of fish for Tim and his other cats. Even after John became famous as a Beatle, he would often call and check in on how Tim was doing. Tim lived a happy life and survived to celebrate his 20th birthday.

5. AND 6. MIMI AND BABAGHI

John and his first wife, Cynthia, had a cat named Mimi who was, of course, named after his Aunt Mimi. They soon got another cat, a tabby who they dubbed Babaghi. John and Cynthia continued acquiring more cats, eventually owning around 10 of them.

7. JESUS

As a Beatle, John had a cat named Jesus. The name was most likely John's sarcastic response to his "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" controversy of 1966. But he wasn't the only band member with a cat named Jesus: Paul McCartney once had a trio of kittens named Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

8. AND 9. MAJOR AND MINOR

In the mid-1970s, John had an affair with his secretary, May Pang. One day, the studio receptionist brought a box of kittens into the recording studio where John and May were. "No," John immediately told May, "we can't, we're traveling too much." But she picked up one of the kittens and put it over her shoulder. Then John started stroking the kitten and decided to keep it. At the end of the day, the only other kitten left was a little white one that was so loud no one else wanted it. So they adopted it as well and named the pair Major and Minor.

10. AND 11. SALT AND PEPPER

John owned a pair of black and white cats with his wife Yoko Ono. As befitting John's offbeat sense of humor, many places report he christened the white cat Pepper and the black one Salt.

12. AND 13. GERTRUDE AND ALICE

John and Yoko also had two Russian Blue cats named Gertrude and Alice, who each met tragic ends. After a series of sicknesses, Gertrude was diagnosed with a virus that could become dangerous to their young son, Sean. John later said that he held Gertrude and wept as she was euthanized. 

Later, Alice jumped out of an open window in the Lennons' high-rise apartment at the Dakota and plunged to her death. Sean was present at the time of the accident, and he remembers it as the only time he ever saw his father cry.

14., 15. AND 16. MISHA, SASHA, AND CHARO

In later years, John also owned three cats he named Misha, Sasha, and Charo. Always an artist at heart, John loved to sketch his many cats, and he used some of these pictures as illustrations in his books.

This piece originally ran in 2012.

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entertainment
The Time Sammy Davis Jr. Impersonated Michael Jackson
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Getty Images

Sammy Davis Jr. was known for his impersonations—check out his rendition of “As Time Goes By” as 13 different people. So when he hit the stage with Jerry Lewis for a 1988 TV special, he decided to show the audience that his talents weren’t just limited to acts from his era.

Though he briefly mentions Rod Stewart, his main target was Michael Jackson. Davis and Jackson were extremely close; when Jackson was just in his twenties, he would often show up at Davis’s house unannounced to immerse himself in the archives, a room downstairs that contained videos of Davis’s performances over the years.

“Michael Jackson is more than a friend," Davis—who was born on this day in 1925—explained, while also alluding to the fact that the King of Pop borrowed some dance moves from him. "He’s like a son.” And then he launched into this impression:

Jackson returned the favor during a special on February 4, 1990, in which Hollywood’s biggest stars gathered to honor Davis, who was celebrating six decades in show business:

Sadly, the anniversary show was the last time Davis would perform in public. Though throat cancer had mostly stolen his voice by this point, Davis let his tap shoes do the talking. He died on May 16, 1990—just three months after the tribute aired.

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