You may not recognize the name, but you’ve heard his harp work.

Toots Thielemans, the jazz harmonica virtuoso perhaps best known for his theme music for Sesame Street, has died at age 94.

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans, also known as Toots, was broad-ranging in his music. He played with traditional jazz masters like Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Quincy Jones. Thielemans also added his distinctive harp work to electric jazz artists like Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius.

In pop and rock, Toots played on tracks by Billy Joel (Leave A Tender Moment Alone), Paul Simon (Night Game) and Julian Lennon (Too Late For Goodbyes).

Thielmans liked to describe his playing style as “between a smile and a tear”. The tune for which most probably know him best was Sunny Days, the wah-wah-ing harmonica closing credits theme for Sesame Street. With its bluesy main line, played just a fraction of a beat behind the main rhythm, the theme is just as much a jazz classic as it as kid’s song.


Leave a reply