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Toots Thielemans Dies at 94

Jazz harmonicist’s “Bluesette” became a jazz standard

Toots Thielemans at Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC, September 2012
Toots Thielemans

Toots Thielemans, the Belgian-born jazz harmonica master who, among many other gigs, played the harmonica on the Sesame Street theme song, died on Aug. 22 of old age, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was 94.

Born Jean-Baptiste Thielemans in Brussels on April 29, 1922, Thielemans’ first instrument was the accordion, which he picked up at the age of 3, after hearing it at his parents’ café in Brussels. Thielemans told Josef Woodard, for a 1998 profile in JazzTimes, that his first experience in hearing the harmonica was with Larry Adler. “I saw him in the movies when I was a kid, at 15 years old,” he said. “Then I bought a harmonica for fun. I didn’t know anything about jazz. I just listened to things like boogie-woogie.”

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