I got the idea to do this post after I put up the Village Choir’s “The Switch”. Sesame Street has a long history with music and musical guests. The multicultural children’s learning show on public access has had an affiliation with music since it’s inception. With everyone ranging from Tony Bennett to Cab Calloway to Stevie Wonder to Johnny Cash to Ray Charles to Paul Simon to Herbie Hancock and beyond, Jim Henson’s creation has become a world wide sensation for kids and adults alike. Take that and add the Muppet Show into the mix (not to mention feature films, etc.), and music and entertainment guests would have been honored to be on the daily and weekly shows. I mean, who wasn’t funkier than Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem? At any rate, here’s Matt Robinson with “Roosevelt Franklin Counts” from the My Name is Roosevelt Franklin Lp on Children’s Records of America from 1974.
Now I know what you’re saying? Why the hell is he doing this goofy novelty children’s record? Why not! Just because it’s a child’s record, it can be funky! For those of you not in the know, Roosevelt Franklin was a character on Sesame Street from 1970 to 1975. Modeled after an African American child, Roosevelt Franklin was always talking about Black History, life lessons, family, and geography. He was voiced by Matt Robinson who played Gordon. He also did the voices of Roosevelt Franklin’s younger brother Baby Ray, and mush mouthed Mobity Mosely. Robinson stated “”Somewhere around four or five,” “a black kid is going to learn he’s black. He’s going to learn that’s positive or negative. What I want to project is a positive image.” And project that image he did. Robinson wrote movies and television after he left Sesame Street (most notably Sanford and Son), and is the father of actor Holly Robinson-Peete (of 21 Jump Street fame). Sesame Street was indeed ground breaking television, teaching children (and some adults) through their educational, multi-racial skits about life, and the lessons that go with it. To me, after digging deeper and finding out about the Village Soul Choir and their affiliation with Sesame Street, I thought I’d throw something out there a bit different. Children’s records are no stranger to breaks, I mean from the Brady Bunch to Zoom to The Banana Splits to Bugs Bunny to British Stuff like Ragtime, while campy, are some funky ass shit. I mean Prince Paul even sampled Harrell and Sharron Lucky when he produced Three Feet High and Rising for De La Soul. They may have been imitating Sesame Street in a low budget way, but it was so good that Stones Throw reissued it. The funkiest Sesame Street song in my opinion was done by The Pointer Sisters, ( Pinball Number Count), but I believe it was just on the show, not an Lp. I’m just saying, there’s Funk and Soul in lots of things, even kid’s albums.
“Roosevelt Franklin Counts” is a goofy, if not cool little side helping kids to know the importance of counting. The decent drum beat, horn part, and bass line are pretty good for a kid’s Lp in 1974. Franklin likes to “scat, rhyme, and sing the Blues” according to his biography, and that he does. Matt Robinson and Joe Raposo composed the lyrics and Robinson handled vocals (with help from Rosalind Cash). This is just another example of a record, that’s not necessarily a record you might pick up. I picked it up because I remember RF from when I was a kid. I was pleasantly surprised at the sampling material on it. I used to actually play this out when I DJ’d in NYC. A certain bar owner (who no longer owns the bar), tried to steal this record, claiming he just wanted to make a T-Shirt. Likely story. I got the thing back quickly. That’s your midweek treat, so enjoy it while you can. Keep Diggin’!
Pointer Sisters Meet Sesame Street Pinball Count