12 December 1923
Cherry Hill Township, Perry County, Arkansas, United States
23 April 2018 (aged 94)
Bob Dorough (December 12, 1923 – April 23, 2018) was an American bebop and cool jazz pianist, singer, composer, songwriter, arranger and producer.
He is perhaps best known as composer and performer of songs from Schoolhouse Rock!, a series of TV cartoons that appeared on Saturday mornings in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He worked with Miles Davis and Blossom Dearie, and his adventurous style influenced Mose Allison.
Dorough was born in Cherry Hill, Arkansas, and grew up in Texas. During World War II, he participated in Army bands as pianist, clarinetist, saxophonist, and arranger. After that, he attended North Texas State University, where he studied composition and piano.
From 1949–1952 Dorough was a graduate student at Columbia University in New York City, and on the side played piano at local jazz clubs. He was hired for a tour by boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who had interrupted his boxing career to pursue music. In Paris from 1954–1955 he worked as a musician and musical director, recording with jazz vocalist Blossom Dearie.
When Dorough returned to the U.S., he moved to Los Angeles, where he performed in various clubs, including a job between sets by comedian Lenny Bruce. His first album, Devil May Care, came out in 1956 and contained a version of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" with lyrics added by Dorough. Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis liked the album, and in 1962 when Columbia Records asked Davis to make a Christmas record, he sought out Dorough to provide lyrics and vocals. Blue Xmas appeared on the compilation album Jingle Bell Jazz. During that session Dorough recorded another song for Davis, "Nothing Like You," which appeared a few years later at the end of the Sorcerer album, making Dorough one of the few musicians with a vocal performance on a Miles Davis record.
From 1972 to 1996, and for direct-to-video releases in 2002 and 2009, Dorough wrote and directed episodes of Schoolhouse Rock!, an educational animated series that appeared on TV. He got the job when advertiser David McCall asked him in 1969 to put the multiplication tables to music, with "Three Is a Magic Number" earning him the job as the series' musical director. Dorough wrote all the songs for Multiplication Rock, the first of six eventual subject areas (the others being Grammar Rock, America Rock, Science Rock, Money Rock and Earth Rock, to which he also contributed songs and performances).
With his friend Ben Tucker, Dorough wrote the song "Comin' Home Baby", which gave Mel Tormé a Top 40 hit and two Grammy Award nominations. He was a partner for many years with Stuart Scharf, producing two albums for the folk-pop band Spanky and Our Gang and adding jazz arrangements to their sound.
Dorough was the vocalist for The 44th Street Portable Flower Factory, recording cover versions of popular music for Scholastic Records in the early 1970s. Dorough remained with the show from 1973 to 1985.
From 1985 to 1993 he toured Europe several times with the saxophone player Michael Hornstein, bassist Bill Takas and drummer Fred Braceful.
Dorough worked with Nellie McKay on her 2007 album Obligatory Villagers as well as her 2009 release Normal as Blueberry Pie – A Tribute to Doris Day.
He continued to do occasional work intended for children. He wrote an illustrated book of Blue Xmas and three songs to accompany Maureen Sullivan's books about Carlos the French bulldog: Ankle Soup, Custard and Mustard and Christmas Feet.
In December 2007, Dorough was honored by East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania with a Doctor of Fine Arts honorary degree. He has received the Pennsylvania Governor's Artist of the Year Award and was named to the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame.
Dorough died on April 23, 2018, at his home in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, at the age of 94.
Artist descriptions on Last.fm are editable by everyone. Feel free to contribute!
All user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.