DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, January 7, 2013

Schoolhouse Rock: Still Rocking at 40

In 1971, jazz pianist and composer Bob Dorough received an odd commission - he was asked to set the multiplication tables to music. The request came from a top New York city advertising executive who was upset that his son could sing the lyrics of countless rock songs, but couldn't comprehend simple math. In a few weeks, Borough returned with a demo of  "3 Is a Magic Number."

With storyboards and music in hand, the agency approached one of its clients ABC television. And thus was born ABC -TV's Schoolhouse Rock!, a series of short educational videos that entertained and instructed youngsters in between Saturday morning cartoons from 1973 until 1985. The songs became burnished into the brains of their listeners. The short animated cartoons returned for 5 more years in the 90s and are now seen by millions on YouTube.

Last night, Dorough and the popular D.C area kids band Rocknoceros celebrated the 40th anniversary of Schoolhouse Rock! by performing songs from the series on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.

Dorough, accompanied only by himself on a Steinway piano, opened the show with, as he says, "the song that started it all - 3 Is a Magic Number." He followed up in succession with other favorites such as "Conjunction Junction," "Figure Eight," and "I'm Just a Bill." The crowd, which literally ranged from infants to octogenarians, sang along with their favorites.

After Dorough's half-hour opening, Rocknoceros took the stage to perform a 4-song Schoolhouse Rock set: "Electricity, Electricity," "Energy Blues," "Fireworks," and "Unpack Your Adjectives." Dorough then returned to the stage to join in the finale - "Interjections."

On the way out, the delighted crowd was treated to video versions of "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here," "Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla," and "Verb; That's What's Happening."

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If you would like to see the Schoolhouse Rock! concert in its entirety, you can do so by clicking here. You can view the original Schoolhouse Rock! videos on YouTube by clicking here.

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