The Pointer Sisters
Songs from the Street: 35 Years of Music
1-20 Raga (YouTube)
Sing it to anyone who grew up in America who grew up in the 1970s and their eyes light up: "One-two-three-FOUR-five, six-seven-eight-NINE-ten, eleven-twelve!" This gem of a segment is quite possibly the funkiest music ever produced for children — funkier even than Roosevelt Franklin, that now-bizarre Muppetary exemplar of Black Power — and it has stuck with us through all these years, lodged firmly in our imaginations. (Click here and here to see examples of the shorter original segments.)
It wasn't just the music, of course. Those animations are seriously groovy. But the music was key. And those solo sections aren't exactly easy listening, either. Sesame Street was training our ears for the sophisticated sounds of post-Bitches Brew electro-jazz.
Less widely remembered is the "1-20 Raga," a nugget of sitar-driven psychedelia that may well have been my first exposure to South Asian culture. Whether the pungent atmosphere of Marin County in those days contributed to my particular appreciation of this clip is an open question, but certainly it stayed with me. In fact, it's the Indian bits that remained in my memory all these years — the sitar, the morphing Mughal patterns; I had forgotten the insipid vocal and the number-factory setting.
Sesame Street was and remains an extraordinary tool for reaching out to the very young with challenging material. As music classes are cut across America, it may be one of the last places capable of reaching little kids with sophisticated music.
Bonus for Jenny: How Crayons Are Made (YouTube)