Great Iconography! Schoolhouse Rock!

Written By: Greg Howell - Apr• 28•18

There are many people today, upon hearing someone speak of the Boston Tea Party, immediately visualize a giant, animated cup filled with tea, setting on a saucer, floating around the Boston Harbor! Schoolhouse Rock!, the brainchild of jazz musician and Miles Davis sideman, Bob Dorough, offered up three minute blocks of educational animation with some of Saturday morning’s all-time best sonic and visual treats. Airing on ABC, each season Schoolhouse Rock! featured themed segments of approximately 9-12 episodes. Season one was subtitled “Mathematics Rock,” season two featured “Grammar Rock,” and season three featured “America Rock” and so on through each of its seven seasons.

With emphasis on the songwriting, the tunes became classic, well-loved symbols of Americana and dabbled in such popular genres as jazz, funk, and rock. Bob Dorough created the songs upon seeing his son struggle with his multiplication tables, yet seemingly having no problems remembering the lines to his favorite rock songs. His first song, Three is a Magic Number, was released as a children’s record in 1972, and landed into the hands of ABC’s ad agency, McCaffrey and McCall. This was the perfect solution for the recent FCC requirement for networks to improve their children’s programming!

Soon, McCaffrey and McCall established a stable of talent that included their then-unknown guitar strumming secretary, Lynn Ahrens. Besides her addition of such classics as “Figure Eight” and “The Preamble,” Miss Ahrens would go on to win many accolades for her theater work, including a Tony award.

Singer and cast member Jack Sheldon, famous as Merv Griffin’s sidekick, was also brought aboard, and was the voice of classic segments such as “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction.”

Popular jazz singer and pianist Blossom Dearie performed episodes for the show, including “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives.”

While the iconic imaging is well remembered, it is the cleverly written song lyrics that are the essential elements of Schoolhouse Rock! Lyrics like

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses
In complex sentences like:
[spoken] In the mornings, when I’m usually wide awake, I love to take a walk through the gardens and down by the lake, where I often see a duck and a drake, and I wonder, as I walk by, just what they’d say if they could speak, although I know that’s an absurd thought.

From “Elbow Room”

One thing you will discover
When you get next to one another
Is everybody needs some elbow room, elbow room.

It’s nice when you’re kinda cozy, but
Not when you’re tangled nose to nosey, oh,
Everybody needs some elbow, needs a little elbow room.

And this eyebrow raising classic, “Verb,” which writer Dorough thought wouldn’t pass ABC censors; but, it did!

I get my thing in action >> Verb!
To be, to sing, to feel, to live… >> Verb! That’s what’s
>> happenin’!
I put my heart in action >> Verb!
To run, to go, to get, to give… >> Verb! You’re what’s
>> happenin’!

Schoolhouse Rock premiered January 13, 1973 and ran from 1973-1985, and returned with new segments from 1994-1996, and another 11 episode batch in 2009; ultimately, the show produced 64 episodes. These are available by DVD and the songs are available on Itunes and on CD by Rhino. A tribute album was released in the 1996, and included artists such as Deluxe Folk Implosion, Better Than Ezra, Pavement, Ween, The Lemonheads, Moby and Blind Melon.

Bob Dorough passed away last week, April 23, 2018 at the age of 94!

View several of the most-beloved segments from the shows first three seasons on our Facebook page.

Great Iconography! Schoolhouse Rock! Premiere January 13, 1973

Great Iconography! Schoolhouse Rock! Premiere January 13, 1973There are many people today, upon hearing someone speak of the Boston Tea Party, immediately visualize a giant, animated cup filled with tea, setting on a saucer, floating around the Boston Harbor! Schoolhouse Rock!, the brainchild of jazz musician and Miles Davis sideman, Bob Dorough, offered up three minute blocks of educational animation with some of Saturday morning’s all-time best sonic and visual treats. Airing on ABC, each season Schoolhouse Rock! featured themed segments of approximately 9-12 episodes. Season one was subtitled “Mathematics Rock,” season two featured “Grammar Rock,” and season three featured “America Rock” and so on through each of its seven seasons.With emphasis on the songwriting, the tunes became classic, well-loved symbols of Americana and dabbled in such popular genres as jazz, funk, and rock. Bob Dorough created the songs upon seeing his son struggle with his multiplication tables, yet seemingly having no problems remembering the lines to his favorite rock songs. His first song, Three is a Magic Number, was released as a children’s record in 1972, and landed into the hands of ABC’s ad agency, McCaffrey and McCall. This was the perfect solution for the recent FCC requirement for networks to improve their children’s programming!Soon, McCaffrey and McCall established a stable of talent that included their then-unknown guitar strumming secretary, Lynn Ahrens. Besides her addition of such classics as “Figure Eight” and “The Preamble,” Miss Ahrens would go on to win many accolades for her theater work, including a Tony award.Singer and cast member Jack Sheldon, famous as Merv Griffin’s sidekick, was also brought aboard, and was the voice of classic segments such as “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction.”Popular jazz singer and pianist Blossom Dearie performed episodes for the show, including “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives.”While the iconic imaging is well remembered, it is the cleverly written song lyrics that are the essential elements of Schoolhouse Rock! Lyrics like:Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?Hooking up words and phrases and clausesIn complex sentences like:[spoken] In the mornings, when I’m usually wide awake, I love to take a walk through the gardens and down by the lake, where I often see a duck and a drake, and I wonder, as I walk by, just what they’d say if they could speak, although I know that’s an absurd thought.From “Elbow Room”One thing you will discoverWhen you get next to one anotherIs everybody needs some elbow room, elbow room.It’s nice when you’re kinda cozy, butNot when you’re tangled nose to nosey, oh,Everybody needs some elbow, needs a little elbow room.And this eyebrow raising classic, “Verb,” which writer Dorough thought wouldn’t pass ABC censors; but, it did!I get my thing in action >> Verb!To be, to sing, to feel, to live… >> Verb! That’s what’s>> happenin’!I put my heart in action >> Verb!To run, to go, to get, to give… >> Verb! You’re what’s>> happenin’!Schoolhouse Rock premiered January 13, 1973 and ran from 1973-1985, and returned with new segments from 1994-1996, and another 11 episode batch in 2009; ultimately, the show produced 64 episodes. These are available by DVD and the songs are available on Itunes and on CD by Rhino. A tribute album was released in the 1996, and included artists such as Deluxe Folk Implosion, Better Than Ezra, Pavement, Ween, The Lemonheads, Moby and Blind Melon.Bob Dorough passed away last week, April 23, 2018 at the age of 94!Bob Dorough passed away last week, April 23, 2018 at the age of 94!Read the Greg Howell article here… http://greghowelldesign.com/iconservation/great-iconography-schoolhouse-rock-premiere-january-13-1973/

Posted by Television's Greatest Events & Iconography on Saturday, April 28, 2018

 

 

 

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.