1 9 7 3 – 1 9 8 5 (USA)
46 x 3 minute episodes
Schoolhouse Rock was a series of three-minute educational cartoons broadcast in breaks between Saturday morning kids’ TV shows.
It used catchy music to explain the basic principles of grammar, arithmetic, history, science, government, computers, and money management.
The idea for the show came when adman David McCall’s son had trouble remembering his multiplication tables.
Schoolhouse Rock was born with the help of Michael Eisner, who worked for ABC at the time and was looking to boost educational programming for kids to keep the FCC happy.
The musical segments included Multiplication Rock (1973), Grammar Rock (1974), America Rock (1975) and Science Rock (1977), all of which proved remarkably effective as learning tools.
The musical director behind the majority of the Schoolhouse Rock songs was jazz pianist Bob Dorough, who penned nearly all of the Multiplication Rock tunes and sang classics like My Hero, Zero; Lucky Seven Sampson and Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here.
Lynn Ahrens started as a secretary at McCaffrey and McCall, the ad agency that created and produced Schoolhouse Rock, and was asked to try a few Schoolhouse songs when people heard her playing her guitar on lunch breaks. That opportunity led to her creating favourites like Interjections!, A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing (both of which she sang) and Elbow Room.
Ahrens went on to write the Broadway musicals Once On This Island, My Favorite Year and Ragtime.
Jazz musician Jack Sheldon contributed some of the most memorable vocals to the series – singing Conjunction Junction and I’m Just a Bill – while lending his voice to several more.
Other songwriters and performers included Blossom Dearie, Grady Tate, Essra Mohawk, Dave Frishberg and George Newall.
The level of talent involved in the series is very impressive, considering that Dorough played with such greats as Charlie Parker, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong and sang with Miles Davis.
Sheldon’s résumé includes work with legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Chet Baker and Stan Kenton.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find an American adult over the age of 35 who doesn’t remember songs like Three Is A Magic Number.