Photo courtesy of PBS
Feist on "Sesame Street" in 2008
"Sesame Street" Turns 50: Remembering The Series' Greatest Musical Parodies
From Feist's "1234" to Norah Jones' "Don't Know Y," here are 10 parodies of other people’s songs that the fantastic songwriting crew at "Sesame Street" have lovingly made their own through the years
The two most enduring and unshakable attributes of "Sesame Street"'s 50 years on the air have been multicultural unity and education in the creative arts. And it was music that’s proven to be the quintessential conduit connecting these two primary factors in the program's half-century of success throughout its entire run on television.
Whether it was the creative use of analog synthesizers at the beginning of the very first episode aired on Nov. 9, 1969 to the Pointer Sisters’ pinball song to the guest appearances from such superstars as Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Cher, Cab Calloway, Chaka Khan, Linda Ronstadt and so many more on through to the numerous GRAMMY Awards the show's music department has won over the decades, music has always been the nucleus that keeps the power charged at 1234 Sesame Street.
But perhaps the most appealing aspects of the show’s lifelong love affair with recorded sound has been the virtual songbook that’s been created through the years of Sesame’s world famous song parodies—utilized to put a child-friendly and educational spin on a current hit song of the day.
Here are 10 parodies of other people’s songs that the fantastic songwriting crew at "Sesame Street" have lovingly made their own through the years.
"Two Princes" by The Spin Doctors
"I happened to be watching television one day and as I flipped through the channels I saw Peter Sellers on 'Sesame Street,'” recalls Spin Doctors frontman Chris Barron to the Recording Academy about the band’s appearance on Episode 3450 in Feb. 1996. "'Classic,' I thought, and I watched the rest of the segment. Peter Sellers was followed by Aretha Franklin, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Bruce Springsteen. I called my agent and asked her to call them and see if they wanted Spin Doctors. They got right back and said they'd love to have us.
"Standing on my mark with Telly, the Muppet, I confided to him that I had never worked with puppets before. He put his paw on my forearm, leaned it conspiratorially, and said, 'To tell the truth, neither have I.'"
The show has an amazing creative department who came up with the 'cooperation' version 'Two Princes.' When we arrived on the set, I tweaked a few of the lines to make them sing a little bit better. Standing on my mark with Telly, the Muppet, I confided to him that I had never worked with puppets before. He put his paw on my forearm, leaned it conspiratorially, and said, 'To tell the truth, neither have I.'
You can see that I’m laughing at the beginning of the clip as I walk on camera. I’m very proud to have been a part of that show. Not only because of the great people who have also made appearances, but to be a part of some of the greatest educational programming ever, not to mention, 'Sesame Street' was a big part of my childhood."
"Happy, Furry Monsters" by R.E.M.
It’s hard to really pinpoint what makes this "Sesame Street" version of what many R.E.M. fans consider the group's biggest sonic faux pas so wonderful upon its premiere on Episode 3829 in 1998. Maybe "Daysleeper" from their then-new album Up didn’t jibe with the Muppets. Perhaps it was all centered around that Muppet version of Kate Pierson of the B-52's. When we asked the men themselves, however, this even shinier, happier version of their 1991 hit single had always made sense as a "Sesame" song.
"We might not have done other songs with the Muppets but that one fitted," Mike Mills told the Sun in 2016. "They had already rewritten it as 'Furry Happy Monsters' and we said, ‘All right, why not?’ It’s not as if we were tarnishing its legacy.” That same year, Michael Stipe told NBC's Willie Geist, "It was a song written for children, and it’s still enjoyed in elementary schools around the world as far as I know.
"1234" by Feist
In the Aug. 22, 2019 edition of the New York Times, Leslie Feist spoke at length with writer Melena Ryzik about how her 2007 indie-pop smash "1234" has become more renowned among preschoolers than hipsters in the decade since the tune received its Muppet makeover in 2008 on Episode 4161, the first episode of the show's 39th season that year.
"Do you mind, my 3-year-old has watched it 7,000 times," Feist told the Times in regards to the countless instances she’s been stopped by parents for an autograph. "And I say yes, but I always joke: You notice me because you’re a grown-up—the 3-year-olds are really only interested in the puppets. And without fail, the kids are just sort of looking at me like, who is this weird lady in the airport?’"
But the proof is in the viewer numbers on YouTube. As it stands at press time, the "Sesame" version of "1234" has 281,064,113 views, while the original is capped at 13 million.
"Wrong" by Waylon Jennings
"Sesame"'s first foray into movie theaters with 1985's "Follow That Bird" indeed teemed with heavyweight cameos by such comedy legends as Chevy Chase, John Candy and Sandra Bernhardt. But for young music heads, it was the appearance of the late, great Waylon Jennings as a truck driver who picks up Big Bird along the way, and the two sing a duet together on a song called "Ain’t No Road Too Long" written by the songwrtiting team of Jeff Pennig, Jeff Harrington, and Steve Pippin with additional vocals by Gordon, Grover, Olivia and the Count.
But it was in 1990 when Jennings made his official debut on the Street, appearing on episode 2850 to perform "Wrong," a song from the country great’s then-new album The Eagle, retooled to encourage Big Bird to build a properly standing block tower. Waylon and Big Bird puppeteer Carroll Spinney became pals, with Spinney going on tour with Jennings in the early '90s, where he'd make a cameo as Oscar the Grouch, the other main character he controlled. "It was more like rock 'n' roll than country," Spinney told the Muppets-based blog Tough Pigs. "And when we were in Nashville, he asked me to have Oscar ask him, 'Hey Waylon, what's the best thing about Garth Brooks?’ And then I’d answer him, 'He ain't here!'"
"Just The Way You Are" by Billy Joel
"You hear the song and then you get the piano," Billy Joel assures Oscar the Grouch when he guest starred on Episode 2533 alongside actress Marlee Matlin, mere months removed from her role as a member of the cast for Alex Cox's 1987 Joe Strummer-soundtracked masterpiece Walker. That was the deal the Piano Man set for the Grouch in order to let the beloved garbage monster keep the keys, and Oscar then begrudgingly sat through Joel serenading him with a sweet version of his 1977 hit ballad "Just The Way You Are" as Matlin translated the lyrics in American Sign Language.
Joel's appearance in 1988 came at a time when he had installed a bit of a moratorium on "Just The Way You Are," following his 1982 divorce from first wife Elizabeth Weber. But given he had a little three-year-old Alexa Ray Joel was undoubtedly an avid viewer of the show must have surely cajoled him into changing his tune.
"Don’t Know Y" by Norah Jones
“You came!” smiled Norah Jones to the Letter Y after leading a chorus of all the surviving members of the original "Sesame Street" cast through a welcome song that brought in HBO's 50th Anniversary special on Veteran's Day weekend 2019. It was the perfect little cherry on top of an already impossibly endearing segment that lovingly harkens back to her first appearance on the show on Episode 4081 in May 2004 when she serenaded Elmo with a vowel-friendly version of the song rewritten by longtime "Sesame Street" songwriter Christine Ferraro. "I was supposed to meet my friend today, the Letter of the Day," she told Elmo before breaking into the song. "But Y never showed up." Then they start reflecting on all the "Y" words they know until the penultimate letter in the alphabet finally showed up.
"Hold My Hand" by Hootie & The Blowfish
Even the most ardent Hootie hater cannot help but get the feels for this insanely sweet reworking of their biggest hit, effortlessly rewiring it into a song about—what else?—practicing safety when crossing the street. "I don't know how that came together, but it was really fun," recalls guitarist Mark Bryan, speaking to the Recording Academy. "And they re-wrote the lyrics, not us. We were working off of an instrumental track so we had to re-sing everything, backgrounds and all. On set, I got to pop up through Oscar's trash can, and sit in Big Bird's nest. Literally felt like a little kid."
"There was a palpable magic being on the set of 'Sesame Street' that morning, even as an adult," adds Hootie's chief songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Jim Sonefeld. "It was only slightly dulled by the physical state I was in after another late night in Manhattan. This was a big stretch to have someone change our lyrics this drastically, especially after three self-penned platinum albums. The only reason we did it was the special place in our hearts we all still held for 'Sesame Street.' I remember the producers being grateful for our willingness and ability to adjust to the new lyrics so quickly. They did not have the same level of thanks after seeing our acting skills."
"Barn In The U.S.A." by Bruce Stringbean And The S Street Band
This farm animal singalong from Episode 2991 in 1991 highlights the talents of "Sesame Street"'s longtime in-house lyricist Emily Perl Kingsley, who worked on the show from 1970 to 2015 when she retired having one 21 Emmy Awards for her efforts through the years. As one YouTube viewer commented, this version of the Bruce Springsteen anti-war anthem has a little darkness on the edge of its town in this version led by "Bruce Stringbean And The S Street Band" featuring performances by such Sesame power players as show songwriter Christopher Cerf, the Voice of Elmo himself Kevin Clash, Elmo's World creator Jim Martin and Avenue Q puppeteer Rick Lyons, among others. The song would also be featured on the Children’s Television Workshop album Sesame Street: Born To Add.
"Letter B" By The Beetles
Many "Sesame Street" viewers might not immediately know the name Richard Hunt without Googling. But they will most certainly know many of the beloved Muppets he had voiced in his all-too-short life after succumbing to an AIDS-related illness in 1992. Scooter, Janice, Statler, Beaker and Junior Gorg from "Fraggle Rock" were just some of the characters he portrayed through the years. But one of his truly best works just turned 40 this year when he captained an insect beat group called The Beetles through a rewiring of the title track to the Fabs' 1970 swan song to celebrate everyone's favorite first consonant in the alphabet. You can really hear the Harry Nilsson influence in Hunt’s voice as he sings as well, allowing the song to seamlessly survive ear appeal beyond the visual aspect, giving light to his immense talent taken from us far too soon.
"Don't Take Your Ones To Town" by Johnny Cash
One of the more harrowing gunfighter ballads in the Johnny Cash canon is the cautionary tale "Don't Take Your Guns To Town" from the Man in Black's 1958 LP The Fabulous Johnny Cash. But in 1991, Cash saw his classic tune retold on Episode 2982 into "Don't Take Your Ones To Town," penned by in-house lyricist Christopher Cerf. The "Sesame Street" version finds Big Bird playing "Birdie-Big," a cowpoke who counts to 1 all over town in lieu of Cash's warning until he meets the Count and the Countess, who teach him to count higher.
Revitalized Sesame Street Records Is Stepping Into The Streaming Age
Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images
9 Artist-Hosted Podcasts You Should Check Out Now: Sam Smith, David Guetta, Norah Jones & More
From Dua Lipa to Joe Budden, some of music's biggest names have added "podcast host" to their impressive resumes. Grab your headphones and take a listen to nine of the most insightful and creative shows led by artists.
As podcasts have become increasingly popular among listeners, they've also become a preferred playground for music makers to express themselves — and in turn, show a new side of their artistry.
Whether it's hours-long interviews courtesy of early adopter Questlove, breezy conversations with a musical accompaniment by Norah Jones, or a vital history lesson from Sam Smith, podcasts are allowing artists to further connect with their fans. And though there's already a disparate array of musician-led shows out there, it's seemingly just the beginning of a new podcast wave.
Below, get to know nine of the most interesting artist-hosted podcasts available.
Norah Jones is Playing Along
A relatively new addition to the podcast sphere, Norah Jones is Playing Along is exactly what it sounds like. Hosted by the "Come Away With Me" crooner, the show features Jones jamming on a piano with a cadre of her musician friends and colleagues. The show's guest list is similarly varied, with recent episodes including memorable conversations with indie folk artist Andrew Bird, country singer-songwriter Lukas Nelson and jazz virtuoso and Robert Glasper all of whom took viewers on a musical journey through their catalogs and beyond.
Broken Record with Rick Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell
Known as music's wise sage, legendary music producer Rick Rubin showcases his zen energy and insatiable passion for music on this informative podcast, which he hosts alongside journalist-author Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times editor Bruce Headlam and producer Justin Richmond. Much like Rubin's list of collaborators — which has ranged from everyone including Johnny Cash, Adele and Rage Against the Machine — the show zig-zags between insightful interviews with a range of music's most accomplished names, including Giles Martin, Feist, Usher, The Edge, Aaron Dessner, and Babyface.
Dua Lipa: At Your Service
Aside from her GRAMMY-winning music career, pop icon Dua Lipa has a bubbling entrepreneurial streak in the form of Service 95, a multi-platform lifestyle brand which includes a newsletter and special events. It also produces the popular podcast At Your Service, on which Lipa interviews a diverse range of personalities including musicians (collaborators Charli XCX and Elton John), cultural luminaries (Dita Von Teese) and activists (Brandon Wolf) for laidback conversations about their respective careers.
Amid his roles as a founding member of the Roots, bandleader on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," a prolific filmmaker and a best-selling author, Questlove adds podcast host to his rich cultural tapestry with Questlove Supreme. The show prides itself on loose, intimate and in-depth conversations with a who's who of music's luminaires, whether a multi-hour, emotional chat with Mariah Carey, an insightful conversation with trumpet legend Herb Alpert, or icons ranging from the late Wayne Shorter to Bruce Springsteen and manager Shep Gordon.
Table Manners with Jessie and Lennie Ware
British songstress Jessie Ware teams up with her mother, Lennie, on this effervescent podcast, which showcases the "Free Yourself" singer munching on a delicious home cooked meal while having a conversation that's equally scrumptious. Whether the two are having pink salmon with Pink, eggplant pie with Shania Twain or spinach pie and florentines with Kim Petras, it all makes for an extremely listenable (and hunger-inducing) spin on the medium.
Flea's This Little Light
Earlier this year, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Flea launched the interview series This Little Light, which zeroes in on the importance of music education. In short order, the podcast has already boasted heavy-hitter guests, including Cynthia Erivo, Patti Smith and Margo Price. "I wanted to do This Little Light to benefit my music school, the Silverlake Conservatory of Music," he said in a statement upon its release. "The idea behind it being music education, falling in love with music and embarking on a musical journey for your life. Everybody's path is so different, and it's fascinating to learn how every musician came to music and developed their study of it over time."
Sam Smith Presents A Positive Life: HIV from Terrence Higgins to Today
Five-time GRAMMY winner Sam Smith hosts a touching and informative history of the AIDS crisis from a UK perspective — from the earliest, heart-wrenching days of the disease to modern-day tales, including the death of Terry Higgins (one of the region's earliest deaths) as well as breakthrough treatments. Meticulously researched and told in a documentary-style, the BBC podcast is equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking — but above all, demonstrates that artists can effectively tell stories beyond the realm of music, while raising awareness at the same time.
David Guetta: The Podcast
A departure from every other podcast on this list, dance music king and David Guetta strays from the interview format and lets the music do the talking. Guetta hosts this weekly hour-long podcast doubles as a playlist, which features a selection of songs handpicked by Guetta himself. Typically opening with a remix from Guetta himself (he recently featured his spin on Kim Petras' and Sam Smith's GRAMMY-winning hit "Unholy,") the show then explores a variety of electronic tracks from a disparate list of artists, including tracks from dance music mavens Olivier Giacomotto, Idris Elba and Robin Shulz.
The Joe Budden Podcast
Still going strong eight years after its launch, The Joe Budden Podcast is hosted by the eponymous rapper and his friends as they talk through matters of hip-hop and their own lives, with recent topics focusing on everything from Cher's love life to the Met Gala. Each episode — which regularly hovers around the three-hour mark — is like being a fly on the wall to Budden and friends. Of course, there's celebrity interviews along the way, with headline-making chats with the likes of Akon and N.O.R.E.
10 Music Books To Dig Into This Summer: A Kate Bush Bio, A First-Hand Account Of The Grunge Scene & Feminist Punk Histories
Photo: Sara Melvin & Colby Richardson
Feist On Her New Album 'Multitudes,' Instinctual Writing & The Innate Integrity Of A Song
“I was taking real pleasure and care in finding new hand shapes, interior narrators, ways to spend the three to five minutes that this form called song usually fits into," Feist says about her hushed yet potent new album, 'Multitudes.'
Feist's first album in six years, Multitudes, is full of negative spaces, but don't mistake that for vacancy. The implications are massive, but they're just that — implications. Something profound is brewing just out of frame.
"The last few years were such a period of confrontation for me, and it feels like it was at least to some degree for everyone," the mononymous singer said in a press release. "We confronted ourselves as much as our relationships confronted us… whatever was normally obscured — like a certain way of avoiding conflict or a certain way of talking around the subject — [was] all of a sudden thrust into the light."
Yet to look Multitudes in the face would be to do it a disservice. Take "I Took All of My Rings Off" — its central image of a wedding ring seems to suggest an unshackling from so many constructs and boxes. But when the song's meaning is broached, Feist demurs.
"I can't unpack that for you, because songs are very delicate mobiles that dangle to hold their own concept and interior logic," Feist tells GRAMMY.com. "While they spin in your ears, they come near, then swing away far and stay in a self-evident logic that can hopefully become familiar and your own — as long as someone doesn't try and break the spell by explaining them."
Perhaps hushed yet potent tunes like "I Took All of My Rings Off" — as well as "Love Who We Are Meant To," "Of Womankind" and other highlights — are best listened to rather than dissected or psychoanalyzed.
For Multitudes, Feist has some of the best and brightest in her corner, like multi-instrumentalists Blake Mills and Shahzad Ismaily. Best of all, she's matured immeasurably — if you're unfamiliar with her trajectory, and your image of the happy-go-lucky "1234" singer on "Sesame Street" remains, Multitudes is the timely update you need.
Read on for an interview with Feist about her thinking behind — and execution of — Multitudes, which spins off into themes of family, loss and creating with intentional limitations.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
I love the negative space on Multitudes. Even when very little is happening, a massive expanse is implied. Can you talk about how you achieved, or landed on this feeling?
It's easy to be tempted to evoke the idea that I knew exactly what I was going for, but so much of the process is a kind of pure-instinct decision making. So much of what works or doesn't, or belongs — or is clearly going to need to get muted — is clear as day in an instant, and self-defining.
Slowly, it evolves to become an atmosphere that knows its own laws. So, in that way, the process is guided as much by out-the-gate production plans, like microphone choices and where and with who to work, as are these ever-evolving, rolling decisions.
Tell me all about Multitudes’ "intensely communal experimental show of the same name."
Well, yeah there's a record called Multitudes now, but that project has been a few things along the way.
To build a show that lifted out of the assumed constructs of touring was something I'd wanted to do for a long time. Not to assume a bigger experience can only be found with bigger production, but to see what could be found by pulling down some of the baked-in walls that exist between the watcher and the do-er.
Like, how to really meet this unprecedented moment where a concert was a radical idea. It turned out to be a lot of people's first show back, and how many times will we get to feel a first again of something that used to be so familiar?
The feeling I was hoping to have shift under people was that after a global event like that, nothing that any one person has to say, or sing, is any more important than what anyone else would have to say. Except maybe someone who worked in an emergency room.
The above aspect, along with the caliber of out-there musicians who accompany you on the record, like Blake Mills and Shahzad Ismaily, suggests to me that you're advancing precipitously lately, from a conceptual standpoint. Can you talk about the juncture you're at in your evolution?
I'm not sure I have perspective on myself from the outside per se, but I've certainly admired Blake and Shahzad, as well as Mocky and Todd Dahlhoff and Amir Yaghmai and Gabe Noel — all of whom I've gotten musically obsessed with and in some cases played with over the years.
These songs were written in a lockdown level of solitude, I was taking real pleasure and care in finding new hand shapes, interior narrators, ways to spend the three to five minutes that this form called song usually fits into… but in making them bigger, I got a lot out of hearing where their hands took things.
In almost all cases, it was about the player even more than what instrument they played; we weren't in a "Now we add the drums, now we add the bass" mindset. Like, I'd say "Let's get Gabe to do a pass on this one," and he'd walk in and pick up any amount of instruments and just free-associate.
You made this music after losing a parent and having a child. Can you talk about what you drew from these twin experiences?
Birth and death are two sides of the same coin. And though it seems radical to my Western-raised mind, one doesn't exist without the other.
I happened to stand at the juncture of those two in quick succession, like a lot of people do. The way they converged gave me a pretty undeniable sense of the continuum of time — the great unknown that precedes us getting to be alive and what happens after.
I'd need to be an animator to illustrate the way it's all appeared to me since then. Our roles are interchangeable — the babies and parents and grandparents and ancestors and the stardust that begins the cycle again, the orbiting lives that touch each other like solar systems and time as the most abstract but binding force of all.
It's breathtaking and yet so deeply normal, I just had no choice but to look really closely at it.
I love your harmonies on "Hiding Out in the Open"; they feel companionable. Tell me what that song means to you, and how you executed it — along with that radiant harmony stack. How did that one grow?
I was playing a game with some friends called "Song A Day," where we dare each other to wrote a song a day for seven days.
It's captained by a producer in NYC named Phil Weinrobe, and "companionable" would be the right word to describe this ultra-positive peer pressure, and the momentum that starts to build up after a few days.
Sometimes, it's terrible, and sometimes, it's like an aperture opens on the top of my head and a song just arrives instant, mercifully, because their muse somehow knows I'm taxed and its day six and I don't have anything left — so instead of laboring over a phrase or a pattern, it just shows up.
That's how "Hiding Out" arrived. I use a little digital eight-track called the Spire that's very useful and very simple. It's essentially a toy and has many limitations, but what it can do is help me take an initial aperture arrival and expand upon it.
Your concept of "womankind" in "Of Womankind" is fascinating; in the press release, it's said to encompass "any adaptive and intelligent strength." How has your concept of womankind shifted amid shifting the cultural sands of sex and gender?
The umbrella of "mankind" had traditionally encapsulated everyone, a grandfathered in — there's another one — use of language that isn't often scrutinized.
Womankind is a provocative work because it's shaped in a similar presumption what would imply it encapsulates all of humanity within it, something that wouldn't be so easily adapted to, I believe.
Without knocking the mobile off its axis, I can say that this song showed up and felt to be a sort of collective conversation with myself at 23, 43 and 93. Cross-generational women discussing the background noise.
Finally, what is Multitudes a launching pad to? Where do you see yourself going now that you've rounded this corner and made this particular, highly personal statement?
I can't say. I suppose I'm looking forward to living, which leads to writing, which leads to recording — which usually surprises me with an album I couldn't have planned to make.
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Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
5 Memorable Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys": Weezer, St. Vincent, John Legend & More
Drawing generation-spanning connections, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," which rebroadcasts Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and is available on demand on Paramount+, was a world-class tribute to America's Band. Here are five highlights.
Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will re-air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
That's a wrap on "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," an emotional, star-studded toast to America's Band — as the core lineup of the legendary group bore witness from a balcony.
From its heartfelt speeches and remarks to performances by John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Weezer, and other heavy hitters, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" served as a towering monument to these leading lights on the occasion of their 60th anniversary.
If you missed the CBS telecast, never fear: the thrilling special is rebroadcasting on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream on demand on Paramount+.
Below are some highlights from the Beach Boys' big night.
Read More: How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," Featuring Performances From John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, Weezer & More
Weezer Gave "California Girls" A Shot In The Arm
The Weez was a natural choice for a Beach Boys bash — the GRAMMY winners have worn that influence on their sleeve throughout their career — from the harmony-stuffed Blue Album. to their love letter to the West Coast, the White Album.
And while Fall Out Boy's transmutation of "Do You Wanna Dance" into supercharged pop-punk was a joy, Weezer's version of "California Girls" was satisfying in a different way.
Therein, frontman Rivers Cuomo threaded his chunky power chords into the familiar arrangement masterfully. His head-turning, song-flipping guitar work in the outro was also gracefully executed.
John Legend Sang A Commanding "Sail On Sailor"
The rocking-and-rolling "Sail On Sailor" leads off the Beach Boys' deeply underrated 1973 album Holland. On that cut, the lead vocal isn't taken by an original member, but one of their two South African additions at the time: the brilliant Blondie Chaplin.
Fifty years ago, Chaplin channeled the stouthearted tune through his punchy midrange; John Legend possesses a similar one. In his hustling, wolfish performance at the piano, the 12-time GRAMMY winner gave this dark-horse Beach Boys classic the gusto it deserves.
Read More: The Beach Boys' Sail On Sailor Reframes Two Obscure 1970s Albums. Why Were They Obscure In The First Place?
Brandi Carlile Stunned With A Capella "In My Room" Verse
Nine-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile is an eminent and versatile creative force; it's easy to imagine her nailing almost any song in the Beach Boys’ catalog — even the weird ones.
That said, this was more or less a night of hits — so Carlile took "In My Room" head on, and the results were spectacular. Even better was when the backing band dropped out for a verse, highlighting the song's proto-Pet Sounds solitude and introspection.
"Now it's dark/And I'm alone, but/I won't be afraid," Carlile sang, only joined by two harmonists. Mostly unadorned, she radiated a sense of inner strength.
Norah Jones Gorgeously Pared Back "The Warmth Of The Sun"
"The Warmth of the Sun" has always been a fan favorite for its radiant vocal interplay, but Norah Jones proved it's just as powerful with one voice front and center.
Sure, the nine-time GRAMMY winner had harmonists behind her. But while Brian Wilson shared the spotlight with the other Boys in the original tune, she was front and center, teasing out its mellow, jazzy undercurrents.
St. Vincent & Charlie Puth Plumbed The Atmosphere Of Pet Sounds
The Beach Boys' most famous album by some margin, 1966’s Pet Sounds, was well represented at "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
Beck performed a witty "Sloop John B"; Mumford & Sons drew hymnal energy from "I Know There's An Answer"; LeAnn Rimes drew lonesome power from "Caroline, No."
But two performances in particular captured the singular atmosphere of the album — whimsical, hopeful, melancholic, longing, sophisticated, strangely exotic. One was Charlie Puth's "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which strapped on the album's aesthetic like a rocket and took off.
The other was St. Vincent’s captivating take on "You Still Believe In Me," which highlighted the harpsichord melody to spectral effect.
Near the end, when the three-time GRAMMY winner launched into the "I wanna cry" outro, it was hard to not get chills — the kind the Beach Boys have given us for 60 years.
How Brian Wilson Crafted The Beach Boys' Early Sound: A Symphony Of Inspirations, From Boogie-Woogie To Barbershop
Photo Credit: CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," Featuring Performances From John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, Weezer & More
The re-aired tribute to the Beach Boys will also feature performances from St. Vincent, My Morning Jacket, Norah Jones, Charlie Puth, and many others, as well as special appearances by Tom Hanks, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and more.
Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will re-air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
After six decades of game-changing innovation and culture-shifting hits, the Beach Boys stand tall as one of the most legendary and influential American bands of all time.
Now, the iconic band will be honored by the Recording Academy and CBS with a star-studded "Beach Boys party" for the ages: "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," a two-hour tribute special featuring a lineup of heavy hitters, including John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Weezer, and many more, who will perform all your favorite Beach Boys classics.
Wondering when, where and how to watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys"? Here's everything you need to know.
When & Where Will The Special Air?
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.* A one-hour version of the tribute will air on MTV at a future date to be announced.
Who Will Perform, And What Will They Perform?
The following is a list of artists and performances featured on "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys":
Andy Grammer performing "Darlin'"
Beck performing "Sloop John B"
Beck & Jim James performing"Good Vibrations"
Brandi Carlile performing "In My Room"
Brandi Carlile & John Legend performing "God Only Knows"
Charlie Puth performing "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Fall Out Boy performing "Do You Wanna Dance"
Foster The People performing "Do It Again"
Hanson performing "Barbara Ann"
Norah Jones performing"The Warmth of the Sun"
Lady A performing "Surfer Girl"
John Legend performing "Sail on Sailor"
Little Big Town performing "Help Me Rhonda"
Luke Spiller & Taylor Momsen performing "Surfin' USA / Fun Fun Fun"
Michael McDonald & Take 6 performing "Don't Worry Baby"
Mumford & Sons performing "I Know There's an Answer"
My Morning Jacket performing "I Get Around"
Pentatonix performing "Heroes and Villains"
LeAnn Rimes performing "Caroline No"
St. Vincent performing "You Still Believe in Me"
Weezer performing "California Girls"
Read More: 5 Memorable Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys": Weezer, St. Vincent, John Legend & More
Who Are The Special Guests & Presenters?
In addition to the musical performances, the special features appearances by Drew Carey, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Jam, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, John Stamos, and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr.
Beach Boys core members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks are featured guests.
What's The Context For The Special?
Filmed at the iconic Dolby Theater in Los Angeles after the 2023 GRAMMYs, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" airs during the year-long celebration of the Beach Boys' 60th anniversary. Counting more than 100 million records sold worldwide and recipients of the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of all time, and their music has been an indelible part of American history for more than six decades.
Keep an eye on GRAMMY.com for more exclusive content leading up to "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
*Paramount+ Premium subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service as well as on-demand. Essential tier subscribers will have access to the on-demand the following day after the episode airs.
Watch backstage interviews & exclusive content from "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys”