Google is honoring Toots Thielemans, the legendary jazz harmonica player whose most widely known contribution is to the Sesame Street theme song.

Toots Thielemans was born on April 29, 1922 in Brussels, Belgium. From a young age, Thielemans found his joy in music, first playing the accordion at the age of three and later learning harmonica and guitar.

Following World War II, Toots Thielemans began his career as a full-time musician, inspired by jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, and Benny Goodman. As fate would have it, Thielemans played a show at a small New York jazz club, and Goodman’s agent was in attendance. When Goodman later planned tours of Europe in 1949 and 1950, Thielemans was invited to play guitar with the band, jump starting his career.

Over the years, Toots Thielemans played with legendary musicians like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and George Shearing. It’s said that while touring with the George Shearing Quintet, Thielemans played a Rickenbacker guitar for a crowd containing a young John Lennon who was inspired by both Toots and his instrument.

In the early 1960s, Thielemans wrote and recorded a song called Bluesette, which he considered to be his signature work. After its release, it went on to become a jazz standard, covered by hundreds of jazz artists over the following decades.

Toots Thielemans also provided the soundtrack to numerous films, television shows, and commercials from the 60s to 90s. Even if you haven’t heard of Toots Thielemans, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard his work, as he provided the harmonica solo heard during the iconic Sesame Street theme song.

Thielemans ultimately retired from his jazz career in 2014 as one of the most revered harmonica players of all time. Toots Thielemans died two years later on August 22, 2016.

The Google Doodle displayed in his honor features a fantastically colorful and chaotic arrangement of jazz instruments, all around which are the letters of “Google.” At the center, in the spotlight, you can see Toots Thielemans concentrating on playing his harmonica.

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Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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