Usually, Tuesdays are for piggybacking The Man Who Ate the Town, but we didn’t do a podcast today so we’re not piggybackin’.
But, yesterday, a very important figure in my childhood passed away. Bob Dorough, the main songwriter behind the very popular 70s/80s children’s interstitial program, Schoolhouse Rock passed at the age of 94. He was also the musical director for the series. Some of his most famous tunes for this was “Conjunction Junction,” “Three is a Magic Number,” “My Hero, Zero,” “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here,” “The Shot Heard Round the World” and “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.”
But, Dorough wasn’t just about Schoolhouse Rock. He was a darned fine jazz musician that wrote for and played with Miles Davis, Sugar Ray Robinson (when he got into music) and Blossom Dearie, with whom he worked a few times on the Schoolhouse Rock. He was very accomplished by the time that advertiser David McCall called him in to help his kids learn their multiplication tables. They couldn’t remember the tables but knew the lyrics to every song by the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix by heart. So, then according to a TedX video from 2016, Dorough wrote “Three is a Magic Number.” That led to 11 more tunes about multiplication, including one for zero.
I have been collecting Schoolhouse Rock items for a long time. I had all of them on VHS when they first came out in the 90s and then, in the 00s I purchased the special edition DVD. But, I also have a four-disc box set of the songs on CD and I have a lyrics book as well as sheet music for selected songs from the series. I still watch them now and I still listen to them now.
Even the songs that he didn’t write were made possible because of his initial run of math-driven tunes. I know quite a few people who in ninth grade civics class had to recite the Preamble of the Constitution and the only way they got through it was by singing the song (“Preamble”) written by Lynn Ahrens. She was still under the direction of Dorough when she wrote that.
He sang a lot of the tunes that he wrote and even a few that he didn’t. He did the grandfather, father, and son, all three, for “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here.”
He was active very late in life and did functions for schools, groups and fundraisers. He did TedX Talks and public appearances. He loved what he did and we loved him for it, at least we children of the late 70s/80s. Rest well, Old Friend and thank you for bringing so much joy to my life.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“And the shot heard ’round the world was the start of the Revolution. The Minute Men were ready, on the move. Take your blanket, and take your son. Report to General Washington. We’ve got our rights and now it’s time to prove.” – “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” (Dorough)