Bob Dorough, the musician best known for writing and performing some of the most beloved Schoolhouse Rock songs, has died at 94. For anyone who grew up learning grammar and multiplication tables by listening to songs like “Conjunction Junction” or “Three Is a Magic Number,” it’s like a light in our childhood playrooms has gone out.
Generations of kids have been introduced to the tracks Dorough wrote or sang, including all 11 of the songs on Multiplication Rock (which kick-started the Schoolhouse Rock phenomenon in 1973), as well as several favorites that were part of the collections that focused on grammar, American history, science and, later, money and ecoconsciousness. But for people who grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, when the original Schoolhouse Rock shorts were shown during Saturday morning cartoon commercial breaks, Dorough’s death has particular poignancy. Listening to these songs today is a reminder of what a talent he was: Yes, all these tunes about pronouns and women’s suffrage were designed to educate children, but they succeeded because they were really good, really catchy, and smartly crafted pieces of music.
As a tribute to Dorough, here’s a ranking of all 33 of the Schoolhouse Rock songs to which he contributed, either as a composer, performer, or both. It’s a testament to his genius that if you asked me to rank these again tomorrow, I’d probably put them in a slightly different order. They’re all, to borrow a Dorough lyric, magic numbers… read more >