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January 24, 2011

Sesame Street’s Tony Geiss, 1924-2011

Filed under: News — Tags: — Ryan Roe @ 1:06 pm

TonyGeissWe’ve received some sad news: Veteran Sesame Street writer and composer Tony Geiss has passed away at the age of 86. Geiss worked on Sesame for years, right up to the most recent seasons, and among many other things, he’s credited with coming up with the ideas for Abby Cadabby and the Honkers.

At a 2009 panel discussion for the show’s 40th anniversary, Street Gang authorMichael Davis asked Geiss how he approached writing for children, to which Geiss replied that it’s impossible, that instead he wrote for “people.” His work is evidence of that — songs like “Frogs in the Glen” and “I’m Proud to Be a Cow” truly embody the Sesame Street standard of appealing to kids while also entertaining grown-ups. Just take a look at the list of his composer credits on his Muppet Wiki page, and you can’t help but marvel at how many great songs he wrote in so many varied styles.

In addition to all those songs, Geiss wrote numerous scripts for the show, and co-wroteFollow That Bird with Judy Fruedberg. But perhaps the single best example of the man’s talent isDon’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a special Geiss scripted and wrote or co-wrote all the songs for. All the major characters get stuff to do, there are lots of funny moments, the music is good, and it nudges the kids at home toward art appreciation without being boring. Here’s the title song from that production, which Geiss wrote with Christopher Cerf:

In 2004, Geiss was interviewed for the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television project. He spoke at length about his life and his work for Sesame Street, as well as his other work for film and television. You can see the whole thing (the entire interview runs an hour and a half) by clicking here.

Click here to remember Tony Geiss on the Tough Pigs forum.

by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com

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