RIP Bob Dorough

You might not know his name, but you would recognize his voice. If I named one of his hits, you’d be able to name several more.

He set an skater on ice with a song that, despite its simple subject matter, sounded magical and bittersweet.

He reminded the world that zero is a powerful number – superhero powerful.

He sold the world on enriching their language with adverbs.

He taught the legislative process through a first person perspective and a few catchy rhymes.

He modeled a train that hooked up words, and phrases, and clauses.

His name was Bob Dorough. If you haven’t started singing yet (you’re welcome), he was the creative genius behind Schoolhouse Rock.

He was a session player, lyricist, songwriter, and all around talented musician. Dorough was tasked with creating a song based on multiplication facts – eventually, several songs with several sets of multiplication facts. His job was simple: write something memorable for the kids who don’t know their multiplication tables, but can rattle off any song on the radio.

Boomer children heard his three minute tunes in between the pre-cable era Saturday morning cartoons. As the math series proved popular, Dorough branched out with (my favorite) Grammar Rock. America Rock, the American history series that followed, helped many a child comprehend the three ring circus made up of our three branches of government. Hey, he said it first, folks. Three may be a magic number, but Schoolhouse Rock didn’t stop there. Remember Interplanet Janet? She’s a galaxy girl, and she was part of Science Rock.

I use his music in my virtual classes – English Language Arts and Music. I haven’t brought them into the ancient history of middle school social studies, but give me time. I’ll find a way. Schoolhouse Rock songs were written to be entertainment, and also to be memorable. That’s where the teaching value comes from. That, and the idea that and, but, and or will get you pretty far.

No matter why you remember these short animated pieces, it’s certain that you will at least be able to hum a few bars.

In Schoolhouse Rock, Bob Dorough left a legacy that has already lasted through generations, and is destined to last through many more. Any questions? Oh, I forgot to remind you: Mr. Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says he does.

Indubitably.

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