ENTERTAINMENT
04/24/2018 02:50 pm ET Updated Apr 24, 2018

'Schoolhouse Rock' Composer Bob Dorough Dead At 94

The jazz musician also wrote classic kids songs like "Three Is a Magic Number" and "Conjunction Junction."

Jazz musician Bob Dorough, the chief composer of the “Schoolhouse Rock” cartoon series, died Monday at the age of 94.

Dorough died of natural causes at his home in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, according to The Associated Press.

Born in Arkansas, Dorough was able to make a living as a pianist and composer from the time he moved to New York in 1949.

Although he worked with greats like Miles Davis in the 1950s and ’60s, it was in the early 1970s with “Schoolhouse Rock” that Dorough made his biggest pop culture impact.

In 1971, Dorough was working a day job at a New York advertising company when his boss asked him to set the multiplication tables to music, figuring if kids could remember rock lyrics, it might help them learn math, according to NPR.

“I got the idea that three is a magic number,” Dorough told NPR in 2013. “Then I looked in the magic book and sure enough, three is one of the magic numbers.”

Dorough turned that concept into a ditty called “Three Is a Magic Number,” and it became the first step for a project first known as “Multiplication Rock” and, later, “Schoolhouse Rock.”

Then-ABC executive Michael Eisner turned the songs into a series of animated videos that appeared between Saturday morning cartoon shows for 12 years. The series was revived for five years in the 1990s.

Dorough continued performing, but in the 1990s started noticing adults were requesting the “Schoolhouse Rock” songs at his shows after they recognized his voice.

“I am not surprised at all [that the videos still resonate],” Dorough said, according to WNEP-TV. “I learned, when performing at elementary schools, that they were ‘getting through,’ so to speak, and the children would readily recognize my voice on such vocals as ‘Three Is a Magic Number’ and others that I sang.”

“However, what surprised me most was the impact of network television, which kicked in years later, after we’d been on air at ABC-TV,” he said. “Thirteen years, plus a second round, helped us to reach literally thousands, in a rather broad age spectrum.” 

Dorough remained active all his life. Two weeks ago, he was a “scheduled performer” at the School of Visual and Performing Arts in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, according to the Allentown Morning Call.

A funeral is tentatively scheduled for Monday in Mount Bethel. 

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