The Cosby Show’s 12 Best Musical Moments
12 of 12
Back to the Intro

Cosby Show's 12 Best Musical Moments

12

Lena Horne sings for Cliff's birthday.

12

Lena Horne sings for Cliff's birthday.

Season: One

Song: "I'm Glad There Is You"

Cosby called in the legendary Lena Horne to cap off a ridiculously successful first season (the show trailed only Dallas and Dynasty in the ratings), having her sing at Cliff's birthday in the finale. It's an intimate performance that deserves a place on this list for Horne's fantastic voice, but it doesn't rank any higher because, unlike most of the songs below, it doesn't bring the laughs.

11

Lipsticks play for Cliff and Clair.

11

Lipsticks play for Cliff and Clair.

Season: Five

Song: "Locomotion" 

The antithesis of the Lena Horne clip, this one has awful singing but a few laughs. But it's not just the singing that's bad. Look at the outfits! And the hair! This is among the few, if not only, intentionally bad musical sequences The Cosby Show ever aired, earning it a spot outside the top ten.

10

Grandpa Huxtable plays with jazz legends.

10

Grandpa Huxtable plays with jazz legends.

Season: Two

Song: Jazz jam session

Over the years, The Cosby Show became famous for inviting on real-life music legends that most people never recognized. This is a prime example. Who are those old dudes onstage with Grandpa "Slide" Huxtable? Why, it's Art Blakey on drums and Tito Puente on timbal and Jimmy Heath on saxophone and Joe Wilder on trumpet. That much jazz-world star power deserves a top-ten placement.

9

Olivia sings the blues.

9

Olivia sings the blues.

Season: Seven

Song: "I'm a Woman"

Among the many, many things The Cosby Show got right in its eight-season run were lip-synched songs with cute kids pretending to have adult voices. In this clip, Olivia (Raven-Symone) belts out Koko Taylor's "I'm a Woman,” accompanied by “guitarist” B.B. Hooker (Cliff in sunglasses!) and “drummer” Dame Rudith (Rudy in sunglasses!). It's cute, to be sure, but with the lip-synching bar set so high in earlier seasons, this one had a hard time rising above ninth on this list.

8

Dizzy Gillespie on the mouth harp.

8

Dizzy Gillespie on the mouth harp.

Season: One

Song: "I Love You Rudy"

Most of the musicians who popped by for an episode of The Cosby Show played the music that made them famous (see above), but not Dizzy G. The trumpet great, who guested as Vanessa's music teacher, shows up at the Huxtable home, delights Rudy by filling his basketball-size cheeks with air, and then cuts a rug while jamming on the mouth harp. He deserves this spot just for being able to make a sound with that thing. They're impossible to play.

7

Cliff feeds Clair cake.

7

Cliff feeds Clair cake.

Season: Five

Song: "Look at This" 

Scenes like this are why The Cosby Show was special. What other sitcom could sustain a four-minute instrumental while its stars get laugh after laugh with little more than facial expressions and a few cakes? This tender moment from season five makes the list instead of a similar one from the first season, because Cliff and Clair were eating an apple in that one. Cakes always beat apples.

6

Theo and Cockroach's Shakespeare rap.

6

Theo and Cockroach's Shakespeare rap.

Season: Four

Song: "Julius Caesar Rap"

Hip-hop had a good year in 1987. Eric B. & Rakim's Paid in Full came out, Public Enemy released its debut, and Theo and Cockroach wrote a rap about Julius Caesar. For a couple of rich kids in high school, it's pretty damn good. Like a lot of things on this show, the clip is made better by Cliff's evolving reactions, from skepticism to disbelief to acceptance. The only thing this rap is lacking is a Rudy cameo, which could have bumped it into the top five.

 

5

Kenny and B.B. King sing the blues.

5

Kenny and B.B. King sing the blues.

Season: Six

Song: "How Blue Can You Get"

Broken hearts produce the best art, as two of the next three entries on this list show. The first involves Kenny, the undisputed best non-Huxtable in the history of The Cosby Show (sorry, Peter!), and B.B. King. Great things about this clip include everyone's surprise that Kenny knows the lyrics, the kid singing the song from deep down in his guts, and Rudy fleeing when she realizes she's the reason for the young man's blues.

4

The family lip-synchs to James Brown.

4

The family lip-synchs to James Brown.

Season: 3

Song: "I Got the Feelin'" 

If the "Julius Caesar Rap" didn't prove it to you, this undoubtedly will: Malcolm Jamal-Warner is a performer. This scene captures the Huxtable family performing James Brown's "I Got the Feelin'" for grandma and grandpa's 50th anniversary. Cliff's air bass and howls followed by an expressionless face are hilarious. And, as always, Rudy is adorable. But Theo's silky smooth dance moves are the star of the show here. Clearly the kid can move. As we're about to find out, he can sing too.

3

Theo's song for Justine.

3

Theo's song for Justine.

Season: Five

Song: "Justine, Justine"

A season before Rudy broke Kenny's heart, Theo suffered the same fate at the hands of his girlfriend Justine. But the blues didn't come as naturally to the eldest Huxtable boy, so Cliff had to coax them out of him. His "you're a dog" pep talk, his enthusiasm as Theo gets it, and his guitar noises are all so perfect. But it's Theo going from timid teenager to Howlin’ Wolf that makes this top-three material.

2

Clair sings with Stevie Wonder.

2

Clair sings with Stevie Wonder.

Season: Two

Song: "I Just Called to Say I Love You"

Maybe you've noticed, but the top half of this list has been all silly stuff. Until now. It took Stevie Wonder and his duet with Clair to break the trend. Phylicia Rashad sang a lot over the course of The Cosby Show but never as well as she does here. Stevie feeding her lines, her modesty, and the kids joining in — this is the stuff that gives Jennifer Lopez goosies.

1

The family lip-synchs to Ray Charles.

1

The family lip-synchs to Ray Charles.

Season: Two

Song: "Night Time Is the Right Time"

The family Huxtable would go back to the highly choreographed lip-sync routines a few more times in the series, but it would never be as successful as it was the first time. Theo's smooth feet are once again on display here, as is Cliff's rubber face. But let's not kid ourselves here — Rudy absolutely steals the show with her screams of "baybay!" The girl is feeling the music like music has never before been felt. For that, this lands at No. 1.

SPONSORED MESSAGE

Latest News from Vulture

Eva LeWitt’s Career Blossoms

She has an exhibition at the Jewish Museum.

Hillary Clinton Still Haunts the GOP Like an Actual Ghost

Somehow all of this is her fault.

A New Meek Mill Album Is Coming and Cardi B Is On It

Surely this won’t lead to any drama. Surely.

Kanye West and Mark Zuckerberg Are Doing Karaoke Together

Ok.

Isabel Allende’s Speech at the National Book Awards Was Hilarious and Emotional

The first ever Spanish language author to receive the lifetime achievement award brought the crowd to their feet.

The Real Housewives of Dallas Recap: Schnapps, Lies, and Videotape

Is LeeAnne pretending to be zen or actually succeeding at being zen?

Here Are This Year’s National Book Award Winners

It includes a few surprises and the return of the Translated Literature category.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey Recap: Old Battle-Axes

A hatchet-throwing party and an Easter Sunday celebration prove to be equally ideal venues for working out aggressions.

Riverdale Recap: O Archie, Where Art Thou?

The gang rallies together for a not-unridiculous human heist to free the Red Paladin — er, Archie.

Theater Review: The Minor-Key K-Pop of Wild Goose Dreams

Hansol Jung’s play gets a fantastic, enveloping production.