Bob Dorough, the jazz pianist, vocalist, and composer behind the music of Schoolhouse Rock!, has passed away. A spokesman for Dorough confirmed the news today, telling the Wrap that he died Monday at his home in Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania. He was 94 years old.
Born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, Dorough fell in love with music after joining the band at his high school in Plainview, Texas. After spending three years serving in a special services army band unit as an arranger, clarinetist, saxophonist, and pianist, he studied composition and piano at the University Of North Texas and then moved to New York City in 1949 to continue his studies at Columbia University.
Dorough soon abandoned academia to pursue a career as a professional jazz musician, performing at various clubs around the city, recording with Blossom Dearie, and playing in between sets by comedian Lenny Bruce. His first album as a bandleader, 1956’s Devil May Care, attracted the attention of the legendary Miles Davis, and the two went on to record “Nothing Like You” and “Blue Xmas” together, both composed by and featuring vocals from Dorough.
In 1971, a New York advertising executive whose son was having trouble with math asked Dorough to set the multiplication tables to music. He ended up writing and recording “Three Is A Magic Number” and became the musical director of Schoolhouse Rock!, the educational cartoon series that originally ran from 1973-1985 on ABC before being revived for five years in the 1990s.
In addition to writing and performing for Schoolhouse Rock!, Dorough continued to record as both as a sideman and a bandleader. His most recent album, But For Now, was released in 2015. Revisit some of his work below.