The Late Movies: Celebrities Reciting the Alphabet on Sesame Street

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If you can read this, thank the gang at Sesame Street. Since 1969, they've been cranking out episode after episode of quality, entertaining children's programming—with some fun stuff for adults too. In the four decades since its debut, Sesame Street has hosted hundreds of celebrity guests to teach the basics. Though we've loaded you up on Sesame Street clips in the past, here's something a little different: 10 of our favorite instances of celebrities reciting (or singing) the alphabet. Do you have a favorite that didn't make the cut? Tell us in the comments.

James Earl Jones

As an adult I find this mildly creepy. As a child, I suspect I would run screaming from the room. Ironically, Jones thought the same thing about the Muppets themselves. This video is one of several shot and sliced into the unbroadcasted test pilots of Sesame Street. The clips were later included, beginning with episode 0002. However, Jones reportedly told Matt Robinson (who played Gordon) that he didn't think the show would last and recommended axing the Muppets. "This Muppet business has got to go," he said. "Kids will be terrified."

Jackie Robinson

The 1949 National League MVP recorded this insert, which was later included in many shows, beginning with episode 0054.

Lena Horne

I thought the first time I heard of Lena Horne was in a holiday-themed Gap commercial, but I had an instant flashback to my childhood when I saw this clip. Her earliest known appearance on the show was singing "How Do You Do?" with Grover and she later returned to film this gospel version of the alphabet song.

Richard Pryor

The late, great comedian has a storied history with the Muppets, including a brief appearance as a balloon salesman in The Muppet Movie. He recorded this alphabet insert in the 1970s.

Bill Cosby

The Coz filmed this, the first of many inserts, in 1970 for Sesame Street's season two premiere. Following the success of Sesame Street, Cosby appeared as a regular in the first season of The Electric Company, where many of his segments included "twins" by using a split-screen, an idea that originated in this alphabet skit.

Patti LaBelle

The Philadelphia gospel queen made her way to Sesame Street in 2001 for episode 3922.

Lou Rawls

Rawls sang the alphabet in an insert from episode 0043. Years later, he performed his hit "Groovy People" on the show.

Judy Collins

This season eight clip features Snuffy as you've never seen him before. Arranged by Big Bird, he sings a madrigal rendition of "The Alphabet Song" with American folksinger Judy Collins.

Billy Joel

In 1988, Billy Joel made his Sesame Street debut singing "Just the Way You Are" with Marlee Matlin. He also filmed this clip singing the alphabet song.

Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Though Ladysmith Black Mambazo originally performed "African Alphabet" with Kermit in January 1988, they returned a few months later to perform it with Paul Simon, who signs the alphabet while singing. In 1997, Ladysmith Black Mambazo were spoofed by Sesame Street's worm band, Wormsmith Black Mambazo, when they performed "African Alphabet" at the Worm World Music Festival.

February 19, 2010 - 4:00pm
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