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Lloyd Morrisett, who helped launch ‘Sesame Street,’ dies

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Lloyd Morrisett, who helped launch 'Sesame Street,' dies

Lloyd Morrisett, the co-creator of the beloved children’s education TV series “Sesame Street,” which uses empathy and fuzzy monsters like Abby Cadabby, Elmo and Cookie Monster to charm and teach generations around the world, has died. He was 93.

Morrisett’s death was announced Tuesday by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit he helped establish under the name the Children’s Television Workshop. No cause of death was given.

In a statement, Sesame Workshop hailed Morrisett as a “wise, thoughtful, and above all kind leader” who was “constantly thinking about new ways” to educate.

Morrisett and Joan Ganz Cooney worked with Harvard University developmental psychologist Gerald Lesser to build the show’s unique approach to teaching that now reaches 120 million children. Legendary puppeteer Jim Henson supplied the critters.

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“Sesame Street” is shown in more than 150 countries, has won 193 Emmys, 10 Grammys and in 2019 received the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime artistic achievement, the first time a television program got the award (Big Bird strolled down the aisle and basically sat in Tom Hanks’ lap).

Born in 1929 in Oklahoma City, Morrisett initially trained to be a teacher with a background in psychology. He became an experimental educator, looking for new ways to educate children from less advantaged backgrounds. Morrisett received his bachelor’s at Oberlin College, did graduate work in psychology at UCLA, and earned his doctorate in experimental psychology at Yale University. He was an Oberlin trustee for many years and was chair of the board from 1975 to 1981.

The germ of “Sesame Street” was sown over a dinner party in 1966, where he met Cooney.

“I said, ‘Joan, do you think television could be used to teach young children?’ Her answer was, ‘I don’t know, but I’d like to talk about it,’” he recalled to The Guardian in 2004.

The first episode of “Sesame Street” — sponsored by the letters W, S and E and the numbers 2 and 3 — aired in the fall of 1969. It was a turbulent time in America, rocked by the Vietnam War and raw from the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the year before.

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Children’s programming at the time was made up of shows like “Captain Kangaroo,” “Romper Room” and the often violent cartoon skirmishes between “Tom & Jerry.” “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was mostly teaching social skills.

“Sesame Street” was designed by education professionals and child psychologists with one goal: to help low-income and minority students aged 2-5 overcome some of the deficiencies they had when entering school. Social scientists had long noted kids who were white and from higher-income families were often better prepared.

The show was set on an urban street with a multicultural cast. Diversity and inclusion were baked into the show. Monsters, humans and animals all lived together peacefully.

It became the first children’s program to feature someone with Down syndrome. It’s had puppets with HIV and in foster care, invited children in wheelchairs, and dealt with topics like jailed parents, homelessness, women’s rights, military families and even girls singing about loving their hair.

It introduced the bilingual Rosita — the first Latina Muppet — in 1991. Julia, a 4-year-old Muppet with autism, came in 2017 and the show has since offered help for kids whose parents are dealing with addiction and recovery, and children suffering as a result of the Syrian civil war. To help kids after 9/11, Elmo was left traumatized by a fire at Hooper’s store but was soothingly told that firefighters were there to help.

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The company said upon the news of his death that Lloyd left “an outsized and indelible legacy among generations of children the world over, with ‘Sesame Street’ only the most visible tribute to a lifetime of good work and lasting impact.”

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Feroze Khan’s lawyer files defamation suit against Muneeb Butt

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Feroze Khan's lawyer files defamation suit against Muneeb Butt

Faique Ali Jagirani, Feroze Khan’s advocate, filed a defamation suit against actor Muneeb Butt saying that the actor had tried to bring disrepute to his firm.

Actor Muneeb Butt took to Instagram and alleged that the lawyer of Feroze Khan was trying to increase his followers on YouTube.

Jagirani has now approached the FIA for action against Butt for “defaming” him and his firm.

The complaint was submitted on Friday by Jagirani to the FIA’s cyber crime wing. “Mr Muneeb Butt who is working in showbiz industry is defaming my law firm, namely Coopers Law Firm, and myself as a lawyer, without any reason on various social media platforms such as Instagram. Such act of Muneeb Butt has violated by constitutional right saved under Article 14 of the Constitution of Pakistan of 1973, inviolability of dignity of men etc. as well his malafide intention with ulterior motives to defame me and my law firm,” he wrote.

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Motown’s Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy celebrated at pre-Grammy gala

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Motown's Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy celebrated at pre-Grammy gala

Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, the visionary creative duo behind the revolutionary Motown genre, saw their legacy play out onstage Friday at a pre-Grammy gala honoring their life’s work.

From Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears” to “My Girl” songs, Motown defined the 1960s and influenced scores of artists that followed.

Gordy’s now iconic Motown Records, which the 93-year-old founded in Detroit in 1959, also played a pivotal role in uniting Black and white music fans in a decade convulsed by racial divisions.

Robinson was only 17 years old when he was recruited to join the label, where the balladeer became a prolific songwriter and seminal figure of the early days of R&B and soul.

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“There had never been anything like Motown before Motown,” the now 82-year-old artist told AFP on the red carpet. “There will never be anything like Motown again.”

The star-studded gala that this year included Motown prodigy Stevie Wonder is an annual pre-Grammy tradition from MusiCares, the charitable wing of the Recording Academy that raises money to help musicians in need.

Friday marked the first time the show honored two artists, a decision MusiCares said was necessary to fete the two musical legends “of equal and parallel esteem.”

“Both loom so large in music, and their stories are so intertwined, that picking just one as the MusiCares Person Of The Year — an honor previously bestowed on Joni Mitchell, Quincy Jones, Aerosmith, and other luminaries — would be a half-measure,” the institution said.

‘Motown family’

Industry darlings turned out in full Motown swing with performers including the Four Tops, the Isley Brothers, Dionne Warwick, John Legend and Brandi Carlile.

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The Temptations opened the show with a rollicking rendition of their smash hit “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and later crooned “My Girl” as Gordy and Robinson flashed megawatt smiles and bopped along.

Sheryl Crow belted out Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” in a feathered, sparkling minidress, and Jimmie Allen performed “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Valerie Simpson, who co-wrote that hit, which Marvin Gaye and later Diana Ross made famous.

A trio of Best New Artist Grammy nominees — DOMi and JD Beck, Samara Joy, and Molly Tuttle — did a genre-bending medley of Motown classics.

“How in the world did I get to be in the Motown family? How in the world did I get a chance to have a catalog and be sitting here in front of my two amazing mentors?” said Lionel Richie in a heartfelt tribute.

“You guys mean the world to me,” he said before singing “Easy,” the beloved track he made famous with the Commodores in a performance that bought the room to its feet.

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Wonder had the room standing once again as he delivered a reggae-tinged version of “Tears of a Clown.”

“I wouldn’t be here” without Robinson and Gordy, said Wonder — the virtuoso and music luminary who auditioned for Motown at just 11 years old.

“I can never repay you,” he said. “Thank you, I love you, thank you, I love you.”

“We should write a song like that!”

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Legendary singer Malika Pukhraj remembered on 19th death anniversary

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Legendary singer Malika Pukhraj remembered on 19th death anniversary

The 19th death anniversary of legendary folk and ghazal singer Malika Pukhraj is being observed on Saturday, Feb 4.

She was given the title of Malika due to talent and popularity. Her best work includes ghazals such as “Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon”, “Mare Qatil Mare Dildar Mere Paas Raho”, “Lo Phir Basant Aaye” and “Piya Baaj Piyala Piya Jaye Na”, among many others. These songs are still famous amongst music enthusiasts in Pakistan.

Pukhraj was born in 1912 in Hamirpur to a family of musicians. She was named Malika by a spiritual guru while her aunt, who was also a famous musician, gave her the name of Pukhraj.

The singer had been interested in music ever since her childhood and wanted to follow in her family’s footsteps. She received her early music education from Ustad Ali Baksh Kasuri, the father of famous vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.

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At the age of nine, Pukhraj performed in front of a huge crowd at the coronation ceremony of Maharaja Hari Singh. He was instantly impressed by the young talent and appointed her as a court singer in his darbar where she served for the next nine years.

After that, Pukhraj began singing professionally. During the 1940s, she emerged as a big singer and her popularity peaked on both sides of the border. After the creation of Pakistan, she chose to settle in Lahore and restarted her career in here with Radio Pakistan, receiving a great response. Pukhraj also branched into folk singing alongside her classical music.

In 1977, the singer was invited by the Indian government (as she worked at All India Radio before Partition) and was awarded the Legend of Voice Award. Following that, in 1980, Pukhraj was given the Pride of Performance Award by the government of Pakistan as well.

Pukhraj passed away in Lahore on Feb 4, 2004. She was survived by her daughter Tahira Syed, who is also an accomplished singer herself.

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