Bob Dorough, composer and performer, best known for his educational “Schoolhouse Rock” films died Monday afternoon in Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania at the age of 94. NPR announced the sad news after confirmation from his wife, Sally Shanley Dorough.
According to his website, Bob Dorough was born in Arkansas in 1923 and grew up in Texas. His musical career started in his high school band, gained momentum in the Army Band Unit, and was finely honed at the University of North Texas and Columbia University, where he got involved in jazz’s bebop revolution. Besides composing, arranging and singing, he also played saxophone and piano. He released his own records before and after Schoolhouse Rock, and he composed and provided vocals on two songs for Miles Davis.
In 1971 he was hired by advertiser David McCall to “set the multiplication tables to music.” He began the series “Multiplication Rock” with “3 is a Magic Number.” As we all know, it didn’t stop there. The series continued with “Science Rock,” “Grammar Rock,” and “America Rock.” Many of us grew up watching “Schoolhouse Rock,” this collection of short animated educational films that aired between Saturday morning cartoons. Schoolhouse Rock ran from 1973-1985 and was resurrected during the 90s, adding “Earth Rock” and “Money Rock.” The catchy jingles, along with charming animation by Tom Yohe have made the series a beloved memory from many a childhood.
We were fortunate to catch a live show at The Echoplex in November of 2014:
“When first arriving at the Echoplex Monday evening it was surprising to discover that “Schoolhouse Rock” had such a cultish following. But it soon became apparent that the excitement of the crowd was only partially due to the familiar songs; Bob Dorough was the real draw. The singer and keyboard player elicited true affection from the audience with his friendly patter and easy humor … Audience participation was highly encouraged and watching the crowd desperately trying to remember their multiplication tables was kind of adorable … We may all have fond memories of “Schoolhouse Rock,” but anyone lucky enough to see him live will definitely have a soft spot in their heart for Bob Dorough.”