arranger, conductor, keyboardist and singer-songwriter from Fall River,
Massachusetts, who attended Harvard college and wrote music for Hasty
Pudding. He also studied in Paris,
France, under the watchful eye of Nadia Boulanger.
In the 1960s,
he dickered around in musical theatre and piano bars until Jonathan
Schwartz urged him to move to the Big Apple. It was here he met Jim Henson, who
recruited him to write songs for the children’s TV program, Sesame Street, including “Bein’ Green”, “Sing” and the
famous theme song. Joe worked
on the show in various capacities from 1969 to 1974 and from 1984 to
1989. From 1971 to 1977, he
appeared on and composed music for The
Electric Company, another brainchild of the Children’s Television
Workshop. For the first three
of those years, he also acted as music director.
In 1973, Frank
Sinatra included four of Joe’s compositions on his comeback LP, Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back. He continued to work in television
and film in the 1970s, writing the theme song for Three’s Company and music for a cartoon feature entitled Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure. It would later become a stage
musical—perhaps foretelling a trend—with the help of playwright
William Gibson. In 1986, it
enjoyed some modest success on Broadway. It also had the distinction of being
the first U.S. theatrical production to open behind The Iron Curtain.
‘70s and ‘80s, Joe worked on a series of Dr. Seuss specials,
including The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, Halloween is Grinch Night, and Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?.
Not only did he write music for these short films, but frequently he
would provide voice-overs for the different characters. In 1981, he was nominated for an
Oscar for Best Song for “The First Time it Happens”, which was
featured in The Great Muppet Caper.
He spent the
bulk of the ‘80s working in television, although he found time to
write music for a stage adaptation of It’s
a Wonderful Life, in tandem with Fiddler
on the Roof scribe, Sheldon Harnick. The show debuted in 1986 at the
University of Michigan. In
1991, it would enjoy some success on the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.
Joe would not live to see the D.C. production. On 5th February 1989, he
died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
His musical legacy, however, lives on, in the ubiquitous Sesame Street theme song, and in
sheet-music form. Aspiring
composers will be pleased to know that fifteen of his songs have been
published in the Joe Raposo Songbook. Other manuscripts have been
enshrined in the Georgetown University Library in Washington, D.C.
The Oscar Peterson Trio and The Singers
Sesame Street (Bruce Hart/Joe Raposo/Jon