40 Years Ago Today: The Debut Of Schoolhouse Rock!
If you're an American of a certain age, surely you remember the series of educational short films that played every Saturday morning on the American Broadcasting Company from 1973 to 1985. Collectively known as "Schoolhouse Rock!", the series made its debut with "Three is a Magic Number" on this day forty years ago.
The series was the brain child of advertizing agent David McCall who was irked that his son knew the words to all the current pop songs but couldn't remember his multiplication tables. He called in Bob Dorough, a jazz pianist and occasional jingle writer, to come up with something. Dorough wrote most of the classic Schoolhouse Rock! jingles, and along with Jack Sheldon, sang many of them.
The series eventually expanded beyond math to include grammar, history, science, computers and economics.
Now, I have to admit that as a kid I was skeptical at first. There had been a move afoot for a couple of years by that point to tame Saturday morning cartoons, transforming them from the pure entertainment of Bullwinkle, Jonny Quest and Looney Tunes into bland nuggets of wholesome goodness—and trust me, kids weren't fooled one bit. As (I think) Shakespeare once said, that which sucks, sucks regardless of whether it's "good" for you or not.
Besides, who's to say that the cynically witty "Fractured Fairytales," for example, didn't serve me better in the long run?
But despite my initial resistance, Schoolhouse Rock quickly won me over and as with many kids my age, became a permanent part of the cultural flotsam and jetsam bobbing around in my brain.
If you don't know Schoolhouse Rock, or even if you do, here are three of the best:
The jazzy "Conjunction Junction":
The classic civics lesson, "I'm Just a Bill":
And a personal favorite, "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here":
Haven't had enough? You can catch all the Multiplication Rock videos here and Grammar Rock here. And I'll bet the rest are floating around out there, too!
Named for Katie-Bar-The-Door, the Katies are "alternate Oscars"—who should have been nominated, who should have won—but really they're just an excuse to write a history of the movies from the Silent Era to the present day.
To see a list of nominees and winners by decade, as well as links to my essays about them, click the highlighted links:
Look at me—Joe College, with a touch of arthritis. Are my eyes really brown? Uh, no, they're green. Would we have the nerve to dive into the icy water and save a person from drowning? That's a key question. I, of course, can't swim, so I never have to face it. Say, haven't you anything better to do than to keep popping in here early every morning and asking a lot of fool questions?