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Sesame Street: Rubber Duckie

The year was 1970 and the hippie era of the 1960s was being replaced by rock, heavy metal, soul, funk and ballads. The US charts was filled with hits by the likes of the Jackson Five, the Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross and Edwin Starr.

Suddenly, on 25th February, a new pop star emerged on the scene - an orange puppet who was singing about his love for a rubber duck. The ditty was performed by Bert, one of the main stars of the television series, Sesame Street. His apparently reggae-inspired song, Rubber Duckie, revealed his love for his small yellow toy.


Love a duck

While the Jackson Five sang about the end of a relationship in I Want You Back, Simon and Garfunkel released the legendary Bridge Over Troubled Water and the Beatles sang the iconic Let It Be, Ernie sat in the bathtub squeaking his duck and uttering the legendary line, "Every day when I make my way to the tubby, I find a little fellow who's cute, yellow and chubby."

The segment of Sesame Street showing Ernie's bath-time song was so popular that it was released as a single, which made it to number 16 in the US Hot 100 singles chart in September 1970! Today, almost five decades later, the video on YouTube has had 2.7 million hits and remains as popular as ever.

Sesame Street had been on air in the United States since 1969. Created by Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, the show featured Jim Henson's Muppets - a group of lifelike puppets created in 1955 that became a Disney media franchise in 2004.


Golden anniversary

Sesame Street has continued for an amazing 48 seasons and is still in production today. Due to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, it's the 15th highest-rated kids' TV show in history in the United States and a survey has shown that 95% of all Americans have watched it!

It has been broadcast all over the world, including in the UK, with its use of puppets and emphasis on fun aimed at also educating young viewers. It was created with the view that if you can grab children's interest, then you can educate them.

During the 1980s, the show changed its format to incorporate the real-life experiences of the cast and crew into the sketches. It also addressed real news stories, including disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, to make it contemporary and current.


Main characters

There are several main characters, who appear every week. Ernie is part of a comic duo, Bert and Ernie. Bert has bushy eyebrows that meet in the middle and a tuft of spiky hair right on top of his head, giving him a permanently shocked and angry expression. He is portrayed as being world-weary.

Ernie is rather naïve and is unintentionally a troublemaker. He has a distinct chuckle and is famous for his horizontally-striped shirt, contrasting with Bert's shirt with vertical stripes. Ernie is famous for his fondness for baths and his ongoing adoration for his rubber duckie.

Other lead characters include Elmo, a furry red monster with a funny voice who first appeared in 1972; Big Bird, a giant bright yellow bird who's about 6ft tall; and the Cookie Monster, who's on a never-ending search for cookies - he even has his own Twitter feed today!

Music and songs have been used throughout the series to educate the young viewers. Initially, it encouraged children to learn the alphabet and taught them how to count. However, as the series progressed, it also introduced new lessons, encouraging the tolerance of diversity, social competence and teaching non-aggressive ways to resolve conflict.


Rubber duck sales boom

Ernie's famous Rubber Duckie song was written by the then head writer of the show, Jeffrey Moss, who also played a part in the performance, as he squeezed the toy duck to make it squeak! According to Sesame Street legend, the same duck toy was used throughout recording and in every show, as Moss said no other duck had quite the same sound.

Rubber ducks had been popular bath-time toys in the 1940s, but had fallen in popularity since then. However, Ernie's song led to a resurgence in rubber duck sales in the 1970s, as parents realised they were the perfect bath toy for young children - they were cheap, durable, made a funny noise and kept the kids entertained!

The song Rubber Duckie has appeared on a variety of Sesame Street compilation albums over the years and is still racking up those hits on YouTube.

Here at Coruba, we don't sell squeaky rubber toys for your bath - but we do make a whole range of other rubber products! We are a leading UK provider of high-quality rubber safety matting and rubber products for various applications and sectors. For enquiries, please call 01702 560194.

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