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the music for hundreds of Sesame Street songs. He also served as music director for Free to Be... You and Me, the beloved children's music album conceived and produced by actress Marlo Thomas, and composed songs for the project, including the title track, with the late lyricist Bruce Hart.

Lawrence died on December 30 at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, N.J. He was 82. His wife, Cathy Lawrence, tells NPR that he suffered "puzzling symptoms for years that got sharply worse in the last few months."

Stephen J. Lawrence was tremendously proud to have provided the melodies and harmonies to songs performed by vocalists he admired.

"What do Marlo Thomas, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Dionne Warwick, Mel Brooks, Rosey Grier, and Harry Belafonte have in common?" he wrote on his website. "They all performed on the million selling record and/or Emmy winning special, 'Free to Be...You and Me.' I was the Music Director and composed the title song and four others for the landmark project and I am going to tell you, from the beginning, how we created the music."

Sony Music EntertainmentYouTube

"He was adorable and fun, but he was very serious about the music," Marlo Thomas tells NPR. Free to Be... You and Me was "a project for children that was non-sexist and non-racist, and would give them a feeling of power, both boys and girls," Thomas explains.

She remembers when Lawrence and Hart first played her the title track. "They had called it 'Free to be you and me, Gymboree'—you know, lyricists love those little triplets," Thomas remembers, "And I didn't like the gymboree part, but I loved it right away. I loved the lyric. I love the idea of the horses running free, but the music was so perfect."

Stephen Lawrence grew up in Great Neck, N.Y. His father worked at a glue factory. His wife, Cathy Lawrence, a New York cantor, says Stephen "was one of those five-year-olds who could walk to the piano and play anything." He wasn't much of a sight-reader, she elaborates, but could pick up just about anything by ear.

His father, who also was a musician, "loved to show Stephen off," she says. When friends were over, "he would have Stephen sit under the piano and his father would play a chord and Stephen would call out the notes," she says. Cathy says one of Stephen's closest friends growing up was Joe Frank, who would later become a cult favorite on KCRW and public radio nationwide. She says Stephen and Joe shared a "goofy and mischievous" sense of humor. On their wedding day, Cathy says, Lawrence serenaded her with "If I Were," the song he originally wrote for Kermit.

It was Sesame Street colleague Carole Hart who recommended her husband Bruce and Stephen Lawrence for Free to Be... You and Me. Lawrence talked about the process of writing the title track with WNYC Soundcheck host John Schaefer for a 40th-anniversary tribute to the album. "Banjo was perfect" for the intro, he said, "It is sort of timeless. It says joy," Lawrence continued, "It says 'Listen-up, this is an unusual instrument you don't hear every day.'"

Lawrence went on to say the record company figured the album would sell about 15,000 copies. It went on to sell well over a million and counting.

"It's a phenomenon. It doesn't go away," Lawrence told Schaefer. Much like the composer's work itself.

Stephen LawrenceYouTube

For his 82nd birthday, Stephen Lawrence posted a seven minute YouTube video of some of the music for which he was most proud: "Free to Be... You and Me," Rex Smith singing "You Take My Breath Away" from the TV movie Sooner Or Later, Mama Cass' "One Way Ticket," Olivia Newton John's "Who Are You Now," Sesame Street numbers "If Moon Was Cookie," "If I Were," and "Fuzzy & Blue," and music for the Robert DeNiro film Bang the Drum Slowly and the horror flick Alice Sweet Alice.

In a statement, Sesame Street alum Sonia Monzano wrote of Lawrence, "He wrote music that was accessible to the young and yet sophisticated enough to engage adults." Sesame Workshop tweeted, "Thank you for bringing smiles, laughter, and the gift of music to our neighborhood." Cathy Lawrence says her husband loved being recognized for his work...and would be "so happy" with what people are saying now.

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Be on KRCB 104.9...answer this month's "Talk to Me" question: With fire season upon us, are you having second thoughts about Sonoma County?
You can do a recording right from your computer or smartphone, but please use an external microphone (ear buds are good enough). Don't worry, you can try as many times you like until you get a "good take." We won’t hear any of the bad ones. After you finish, the page will give you a chance to listen and decide if you like it. Once you get a good one, you'll be asked for your name and email address. Then hit "Send.” (Click "reset" if you would rather try again.)
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Listen to the Sonoma County Birdwatch!

fullerThroughout the week, we play short segments about what birds are out in Sonoma County and what they sound like, from Harry Fuller. Here's what we've aired so far. Harry spent his working career as a TV and Internet newsman in the Bay Area.  He’s been leading bird trips and writing about birds for thirty years.  He has written three natural history books: Freeway Birding, I-5 San Francisco to Seattle; San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars; Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon & Washington. He blogs regularly about birds:  And he frequently leads birding trips on the Pacific Coast. Check him out at

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We've got a new thing: text KRCB to (707) 606-0911. Or just add your cell number below. We'll text you back when we have something special on the radio--so you can listen live or with a link to listen later. No spam! Not more than once a week or so. Try KRCB-Me.

8ff1 Asset 6 p 500Our podcast "Living Downstream" has been named by the Global Center for Climate Justice as one of "Five Climate Justice Podcasts You Need to Follow." Wow:

Listen to some recent episodes! Generations in Houston's Fifth Ward Contend with Contamination, Cancer Clusters will break your heart, and perhaps solidify your resolve to make change. The Sea Next Door is told in true partnership with the community living near California's Salton Sea, an environmental powder keg, where the state has no idea how to avoid a coming health disaster.

Get them here, or wherever you get your podcasts.



Postcards from Sonoma County...
        ... What people are talking about, direct from the locals.
Each week, our correspondents from all over Sonoma County check in with a weekly "postcard" of what people are talking about in their area. Not always "news," but still worthy of a mention. It's our way to give voice to communities that may not make it into the standard news cycle.
We play these in a random rotation throughout the week. Generally, each postcard airs from Sunday morning at midnight thru Saturday at 11:59:59 pm.
We archive all our postcards here. Have a listen!

 Week of Sunday, January 9th, 2022:
Greetings from Healdsburg
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Sebastopol
Greetings from Windsor

Week of Sunday, January 2nd, 2022:
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Windsor

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