In case you missed the news yesterday from Stephanie Smittle over on our Rock Candy blog, Arkansas native Bob Dorough, the jazz pianist and arranger who wrote many of the classic songs on the cartoon series “Schoolhouse Rock!”, has passed away at 94.

Smittle recounts her interview with Dorough last May:


Here’s that conversation, in which he explains his middle name (Lrod), sings an unreleased song about the square and admires Igor Stravinsky’s work ethic. 

In addition to being a world-renowned jazz composer and performer, Dorough, from Cherry Hill in Polk County, wrote “Three is a Magic Number,” surely one of the greatest songs ever recorded. He also wrote the masterpieces “Conjunction Junction What’s Your Function?” and “I’m Just a Bill.” Incredible.

Lots of charming details in the obit from Talk Business. A sample:


Mantels said she thinks Dorough’s last concert was March 31 at the Deer Head Inn, a jazz and blues club in Delaware Water Gap, Pa. It’s the oldest continuously operating jazz club in the U.S., and might be the oldest in the world, she said. He is well-known throughout the world for the Schoolhouse Rock! franchise, but he is an international jazz icon, she said. He had battled prostate cancer the past several years, and she spoke with him on the phone last month, she added.

“He was a truly unique and multi-talented jazz vocalist, pianist and composer,” she said.

Dorough’s father was a traveling salesman and the family moved often when he was a child, he said. The Depression made his childhood tough, but he learned how to play multiple instruments including the violin, harmonica and the clarinet.

A woman who owned a local grocery store in Cherry Hill owed Dorough’s father money, and she offered to give the budding musician piano lessons to pay off the debt. Dorough received six lessons, and it was the only formal musical training he got during his youth. He learned how to sing during church services on Sundays. The family eventually moved to Texas and during high school Dorough played in the band. Some of the places they moved had a piano, and some didn’t, he said. 

There’s too many delightful bits to summarize, go read it. Here’s more from NPR and CNN.

One way to mourn this loss: A YouTube rabbit hole awaits you.