Jazz musician and creator of Schoolhouse Rock Bob Dorough died at the age of 94 on Monday. Dorough’s brainchild — an educational children’s show conducted in sing-song — spanned three decades, originally running from 1972-1985, and coming back for another 5-year run during the Nineties.
Featured in a wide variety of songs on topics ranging from grammar to finances, Dorough’s voice cemented itself in children’s minds for generations. Here are nine of Dorough’s best songs for Schoolhouse Rock:
9. Naughty Number Nine
Anyone who’s had to memorize multiplication tables knows that nine is the trickiest of the single-digit numbers — perhaps because humans didn’t evolve to do math. In this tune, which was written but not performed by Dorough, a bluesy cat croons about the best way to multiply by nine without getting frustrated. Come for the knowledge, stay for the animated game of cat-and-mouse billiards.
8. The Body Machine
Taking the materialist stance is a pretty bold move on a children’s program, but Dorough doesn’t shy away from explaining the mechanisms of the body in this performance. Learn about how food turns into energy — you are what you eat, after all — and bob your head to this bouncy jingle.
7. Busy Prepositions
This song was written and performed by Dorough during the Nineties run of Schoolhouse Rock. This one is for the word nerds.
6. This for That
In another Nineties tune, Dorough gives a brief history of human commerce. He starts by explaining the barter system and its shortcomings (you can’t carry yaks in a wallet) and eventually gets to the apotheosis of the marketplace — a shopping mall.
5. Electricity, Electricity
Dorough wrote this jazzy doo-wop number about how the electricity grid is a pivotal resource for, you know, every modern person. Someone show this to FEMA!
4. Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’
Another grammar lesson set to music, Dorough wrote this classic in 1973 near the beginning of Schoolhouse Rock. It’s an important song dedicated to perhaps the most important part of speech. In Dorough’s words: “A verb tells it like it is.”
3. Sufferin’ Till Suffrage
A socially conscious ditty, this song taught kids in the 1970s about the women’s suffrage movement. Not-so-fun fact: the 19th amendment, which extended voting rights to women, was passed in 1920. Somewhat-fun-fact: this woman ran for president before women could vote!
2. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here
Everytime I use an adverb, two different refrains run through my head. One is my high school english teacher telling me to never use adverbs, and the other is the catchy chorus from this classic jam written and performed by Dorough.
1. Conjunction Junction
Call me a traditionalist, but Conjunction Junction is the best song in the blues/grammar mash-up canon. Listen to it again, and again, and again.