Bob Dorough died last week at the age of 94.
Odds are you don’t recognize the name Bob Dorough. But if you’re in your 40s, or 50s, there’s a pretty good chance he helped you pass history, grammar, and math.
Born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, Bob Dorough fell in love with music early, playing in his high school band and later serving as a composer, arranger, and player in the Special Services Army Band. A Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas followed and then, like many jazz musicians in the late 1940s, Bob made his way to New York City to find work as a player and singer.
In 1956, Dorough wrote a bouncy track called “Devil May Care” that caught the attention of Miles Davis who turned it into a jazz standard. But by the early 70s, Dorough found himself supplementing his record work with music composition for New York ad agencies, specifically, a small agency called McCaffrey & McCall.
As the story goes, one day Bob got a call from agency principal David McCall who said he needed help with a special project. Frustrated that his son could remember every Rolling Stones and Jimmi Hendrix lyric he heard, but not his multiplication tables, McCall challenged Bob to help his son by putting the multiplication tables to music.
Bob accepted the challenge and two weeks later, came back with a song called “Three Is A Magic Number” — a sweet, infectious song extolling the virtues of the trinity, the family, and the ease of multiplying by threes. Before Bob even finished playing, David McCall saw the vision for what they had and insisted they present the song to ABC television, another of their clients.
At the time, ABC’s head of children’s programming was a young executive named Michael Eisner, who would one day become CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Eisner, too, saw the brilliance in Bob Dorough’s music and lyrics, and quickly thereafter “Schoolhouse Rock” was born.
LEGACY IS BUILT ON BEING THE ONE TO SAY YES
Over the next decade, Bob Dorough would serve as composer, lyricist, and singer on more than a dozen “Schoolhouse Rock” songs and acted as music director for the entire series – in all, more than 60 songs teaching math, history, grammar, science, and finance.
What started as a small, unpaid favor became some of the most beloved children’s programming in history, educating millions and millions of children and spreading an immeasurable amount of joy in the world — all because Bob Dorough said “Yes, I will” when he just as easily could have said, “I don’t have time.” That’s the legacy of an opportunity taken.
What opportunities that could help define your legacy are sitting in front of you waiting for a “yes?” What tiny moves could you make today that given time, focus, and some joyful collaboration, could make your company, your family, your corner of the world a little better?
Give it a few minutes thought, and I’ll bet you can come up with one, or two. Maybe even three.
It is a magic number.
TINA TACKETT is the executive creative director at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. For more about challenger branding, subscribe to our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog
Want to relive the Saturday mornings from your youth? Grab a bowl of your favorite cereal and go back with these “Schoolhouse Rock” hits written, performed and/or produced by Bob Dorough
Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’
Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here
My Hero Zero
Elementary My Dear
Three Is A Magic Number
The Four Legged Zoo
Ready or Not, Here I Come
I Got Six
The Shot Heard Round The World
I’m Just A Bill