“Sesame Street” Composer Stephen J. Lawrence Dead At 82

Stephen J. Lawrence | Variety

Stephen J. Lawrence, a legendary musical talent whose fame included 1972’s “Free to Be… You and Me” and a productive run on “Sesame Street,” has died on Thursday at Clara Maas Medical Center in Belleville, New Jersey.

He was 82 years old.

His death was confirmed by his wife Cantor Cathy Lawrence while speaking to the media.

The late composer was born on Sept. 5, 1939. Lawrence accomplished a body of work as a musician that stretched over five decades. He is best known for his work as musical director and co-producer with Bruce Hart on the gold album “Free to Be… You and Me.” Lawrence composed the album’s title song, as well as the tracks “When We Grow Up” and “Sisters and Brothers.”

Lawrence similarly served as composer, music director, arranger and conductor on the children’s television series “Sesame Street” for over 30 years and composed over 300 songs and scores for the program, including “Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange),” which he co-wrote with David Axelrod. In his time, Lawrence received three Daytime Emmy awards for outstanding achievement in music direction and composition during his tenure on the show.

Lawrence’s creative investment in children’s entertainment and education led him to work with the Jim Henson Company, composing the score for “The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss.” In 1998, he and Granville Burgess co-founded the nonprofit Quill Entertainment Company, which works to create musicals about American history for children.

Other merits from Lawrence involve the score for 1979’s “Sooner or Later” and its single “You Take My Breath Away.” He also composed scores for “Bang the Drum Slowly,” “One Summer Love,” “Alice, Sweet Alice,” 1987’s “Red Riding Hood” and the animated HBO musical “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Lawrence also served as 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; son-in-law Seth Anderson; grandson Arthur; and stepsons Sam and Nick Kline. 


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