Bob Dorough was a prolific bebop and jazz musician whose popularity and talent earned him spots as a sideman alongside the likes of John Zorn and Miles Davis. But the talented jazzman got his start in music as a pianist, clarinetist, saxophonist, and arranger for the U.S. Army’s Special Services Band toward the end of World War II.
He died in Pennsylvania on April 23, 2018, at age 94, NPR reports.
(Photo by Brian McMillen)
Though his jazz career blossomed after the war, what became his life’s work didn’t start until 1973, when he was first asked to take the musical reins of a show that was to “set the multiplication tables to music.” Thus began the decades-long, beloved show Schoolhouse Rock! A program that educated and entertained generations of American kids.
Dorough didn’t sing all the songs performed on Schoolhouse Rock!, but he did have a hand in the music and lyrics, either in whole or in part, for every iteration of the show. Multiplication Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock, Science Rock, Money Rock, and Earth Rock are just a few of his best.
5. “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote To College”
“I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College” was the Schoolhouse Rock! way of explaining the Electoral College system. The song’s music and lyrics were written by George R. Newall and Bob Dorough and it was performed by Jack Sheldon (of “I’m Just A Bill” fame) and Bob Dorough.
4. “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”
“The Shot Heard Round the World” first aired in 1975 and is part of Schoolhouse Rock!’s telling of the American Revolution, from Paul Revere’s ride to the shots fired at Lexington. Bob Dorough was responsible for the music, lyrics, and vocals in this gem.
3. “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”
Dorough also did the lyrics, music, and vocals for this 1974 primer on the use of English adverbs. It was with this number that Sheldon and Lynn Ahrens became regulars to the series alongside Dorough.
2. “Conjunction Junction”
Jack Sheldon, Terry Morel, and Mary Sue Berry did the vocals on this catchy Dorough song about the many grammatical uses of conjunctions. To this day, Sheldon’s memorable voice plays in many of our minds when we think back to the rules of conjunction.
1. “Three Is A Magic Number”
“Three Is A Magic Number” was the pilot for the entire Schoolhouse Rock! series. It first aired in February 1973 and led to Bob Dorough’s decades-long career of educating children like nobody else could.