Jazz Musician Bob Dorough, Best Known For 'Schoolhouse Rock!,' Dies At 94 Bob Dorough was a bebop pianist and a jazz musician who recorded with Miles Davis. But he'll be best remembered for Schoolhouse Rock! — he sang and composed many of the programs songs. He died Monday at 94.
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Jazz Musician Bob Dorough, Best Known For 'Schoolhouse Rock!,' Dies At 94

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Jazz Musician Bob Dorough, Best Known For 'Schoolhouse Rock!,' Dies At 94

Jazz Musician Bob Dorough, Best Known For 'Schoolhouse Rock!,' Dies At 94

Jazz Musician Bob Dorough, Best Known For 'Schoolhouse Rock!,' Dies At 94

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/605401491/605401492" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Bob Dorough was a bebop pianist and a jazz musician who recorded with Miles Davis. But he'll be best remembered for Schoolhouse Rock! — he sang and composed many of the programs songs. He died Monday at 94.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Musician Bob Dorough died yesterday in Mt. Bethel, Pa. He was 94. A lot of Gen Xers and millennials will know his work.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!")

BOB DOROUGH: (Singing) As your body grows bigger...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) Your mind must flower.

DOROUGH: (Singing) It's great to learn...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) 'Cause knowledge is power.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) It's Schoolhouse Rocky, the chip off the block.

SHAPIRO: Michael Hibblen of member station KUAR tells us how the acclaimed jazz musician made the turn to children's television.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: The British are coming. The British are coming.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN, BYLINE: The goal was to educate and entertain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD")

DOROUGH: (Singing) Now the ride of Paul Revere set the nation on its ear.

HIBBLEN: Bob Dorough composed and sang many of the songs for "Schoolhouse Rock!" In 2003, he told WHYY's Fresh Air that the idea came from an advertising executive he worked with.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DOROUGH: He said, my little boy can sing along with Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, but he can't memorize his multiplication tables. So I had the idea of why not put them multiplication tables to rock music and call it multiplication rock? What do you think?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!")

DOROUGH: (Singing) Three times 10 is...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: Thirty.

DOROUGH: (Singing) Three times 9 is...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: Twenty-seven.

DOROUGH: (Singing) Three times 8 is...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: Twenty-four.

HIBBLEN: The timing was lucky. TV producers had been hearing complaints from parents all over the country. Dorough told KUAR about it in 2006.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DOROUGH: By the time they sold it to ABC there was a huge uproar from parental groups writing letters. You're giving our children this crappy stuff every Saturday morning. Can't you do something good? Then we walked in with this storyboard of "Three Is A Magic Number."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!")

DOROUGH: (Singing) Now, the multiples of three come up three times in each set of 10. In the first 10, you get 3, 6, 9. And in the teens 10, it's 12, 15 and 18.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DOROUGH: Then suddenly I was in television. Then all of the songs had to be exactly three minutes. And it was like I was in a factory.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #3: Now multiply from 10 backwards.

DOROUGH: (Singing) Three times 10 is 30. Three times 9 is 27.

HIBBLEN: Bob Dorough was born in 1923 in Cherry Hill, Ark. In the '50s, he got involved in the New York jazz scene where he recorded with Miles Davis, like on this classic, "Blue Xmas."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLUE XMAS")

DOROUGH: (Singing) When you're blue at Christmastime you see right through all the waste, all the sham, all the haste and plain old bad taste.

HIBBLEN: Bob Dorough continued to perform into his 90s. For NPR News, I'm Michael Hibblen in Little Rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CONJUNCTION JUNCTION")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #4: (Singing) Sing a song. Conjunction Junction, what's your function?

DOROUGH: (Singing) Hooking up two boxcars and making them run right, like this one. Bread and butter, milk and honey...

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