The world’s most beloved street lost another creative voice behind it. Stephen J. Lawrence, composer of many classic songs for the show Sesame Street, died on December 30th. He was 82 years old. This news comes from Variety, confirmed by his wife Cantor Cathy Lawrence.
Lawrence was born on September 5th, 1939, and has made quite a name for himself in the world of music. His most famous work was his contribution to the gold album Free to be… You and Me, of which he was the music director. He also co-produced the album with Bruce Hart. Lawrence composed the album’s title song, along with the tracks “When We Grow Up” and “Sisters and Brothers.”
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Lawrence’s largest library of work, however, seems to belong to Sesame Street. Lawrence composed over 300 songs for the beloved preschool show over the span of 30 years. Some of his songs include “Broken and Beautiful,” “If Moon Was Cookie,” “If I Were,” and “I’m Your Mommy Now.” His contributions earned him three Daytime Emmy Awards for outstanding achievement in music direction and composition. He began working on the show in 1980 and ended in 2012.
This wouldn’t be the only time Lawrence was involved with the Jim Henson company, either. His contributions to Sesame Street led him to working on The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss. He is credited with composing the score for the show.
Lawrence’s career also jumped from the small screen to the silver screen as well. He is credited for composing the score for numerous films, such as 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly, 1976’s One Summer Love. He also is credited for composing the score for the 1976 cult slasher film Alice, Sweet Alice, which won the music award at the Paris International Festival of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He also composed the score for 1987’s Red Riding Hood and the animated HBO special The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
In 1998, Lawrence and Granville Burgess co-founded the Quill Entertainment Company, a nonprofit that creates American historical musicals for children. He is credited for composing songs for these musicals such as Everybody’s Watching: The Making of the Constitution, Glory Road (Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad), and Dream (Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott). Lawrence was also the music director at Temple Sinai in Stamford, Conn. from 2003 to 2022.
Lawrence is survived by his wife, Cantor Cathy Lawrence, his brother Robert, daughter Hannah Jones Anderson, his son-in-law Seth Anderson, his grandson Arthur, and stepsons Sam and Nick Kline. Music has always played a big part in children’s television. Sometimes a song helps us learn how to spot the difference between “fast” and “slow”. Sometimes a song helps us learn to count to the number five. Sometimes a song helps us understand what is going on in a new mom’s head after she’s adopted a baby. Sesame Street will always have a long, and very well-loved, musical history. Stephen J. Lawrence’s contributions will be forever remembered. Rest in peace.
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Caroline is a longtime admirer of film, music and the arts. She’s been giving movie opinions online (warranted or not) for over a decade, and putting those thoughts to Movieweb since early 2021.
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