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Where Are They Now - The Schoolhouse Rock Singers

Posted by Jellio on October 05, 2006.

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All I really need to know I learned from watching Schoolhouse Rock.

Why is it I can't remember ten things from four years of a pretty good liberal arts college, but I can recite every word of the preamble? A degree in Anthropology (don't laugh) and I still get the Incas mixed up with the Aztecs, but I know all there is to know about naughty, nasty, mean old number nine. I mean...how sad is that? (Umm...think it had anything to do with being high all the time, douchebag? Uhh...ever heard of a rhetorical question, asshole?)

Schoolhouse Rock was the nanny I never had, minus the sexual fantasies. It was home schooling before it became the in thing to do. Because my Saturday morning were spent glued to a television, I now know that and, but and or will get me pretty far, and that interjections are generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong. So, all things considered, I think I came out ahead.

So, who do I have to thank for this wealth of information. Who are the people attached to these voices inside my head, and are they still around today? Turns out, they are. And they're all still singing away. There are four main singers (jazz musicians, actually)responsible for almost all of the Schoolhouse Rock videos, with a few guest appearances here and there (Verb! That's what's happening!) So, let's take a look at some heroes from my youth...the Schoolhouse Rock Singers.

Bob Dorough - The Director
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Bob Dorough was the principal music director for Schoolhouse Rock. A well established figure in the jazz field, he wrote a large number of the Schoolhouse songs as well as perfoming many. To assist in the performances, he brought on board many of the friends he had made and performed with from the jazz world.

To this day, you can find Mr. Dorough touring hotel bars and jazz clubs near his home in upstate Pennsylvania. And according to his site, he's actually going to be at Joe's Pub in NYC on December 23rd. Sounds like a YesBut holiday interview to me. First question...who the hell is Lolly, and why's he hoarding all the God-damned adverbs?

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Lynn Ahrens - The Internal Hire
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Believe it or not, Lynn Ahrens was actually a secretary at the ad agency that created Schoolhouse Rock. Ahrens went on to write and perform the second largest volume of the Schoolhouse episodes behind Dorough. Check this out...Lynn got hired by playing a song she wrote called "You're Just a Phase" (I'm just a Bill?) about a woman who lets her ex-boyfriend know he's just a phase. From hearing that, the agency producers knew that she had the ability to write songs that tell stories. How freaking funny is that?

Today...well, for the past 20 years she's been one half of the team of Ahrens and Flaherty, one of the most prolific composing teams on Broadway. Ragtime, Seussical and My Favorite Year are justa few of their accomplishments. But for my money, putting The Preamble to music will always make her a legend.

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Blossom Dearie- The Siren
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Blossom Dearie had been a New York City jazz singer since the 50's, singing with the Woody Herman Orchestra. In the 70's, her good Friend Bob Dorough asked her to lend her voice to a certain Saturday Morning gig, and Mother Necessity, Figure Eight, and Unpack Your Adjectives were born.

Today, Blossom's voice can be heard on soundtracks such as Kissing Jessica Stein and The Squid and the Whale. And she also performs regularly at Danny's Skylight Room in New York City (another interview?) Don't know if she's still singing Figure Eight, but she may take requests if you ask.

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Ezra Mohawk - The Rocker
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Ezra Mohawk stands out as the rebel rocker in the group, having performed with everyone from Frank Zappa to Jerry Garcia. She also represents all the singers who might have worked on just one or two of the Schoolhouse songs. There was Verb, That's What's Happening, by Zach Sanders, Elbow Room by Sue Manchester, and a few others, But Liz is the only person I could find anything on, so she's the spokesperson by default, and a damn good one, as Interjections is a classic.

Today? Well she lives in Philly, and just released a new album called Love is Still the Answer. Still tours too, and if you check out the bio page on her site, you'll notice she likes to show off her cleavage...WOW!

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Jack Sheldon - The Star
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I'll bet if there's only one voice you remember when you think of Schoolhouse Rock, it's that of Jack Sheldon. Conjunction Junction...I'm Just a Bill...he was responsible for some of the classics. But aside from Schoolhouse, he was also pretty well known for his day gig, being one of the best jazz trumpeters in history, playing with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennett. Also did a little acting (mostly TV) and was recently on an episode of family Guy singing Vagina Junction (Vagina junction, what's your function. Taking in sperm and spitting out babies) so he's got a good sense of humor, too.

Today, well he's still singing, acting and playng trumpet. isn't that enough? Oh, and his 75th Birthday Beebop Bash is being hosted by the king of Hollywood, Merv Griffin. I'll pick out a nice tie and send it from the YesBut gang.

And with that, we say goodbye for now to the Schoolhouse Staff. But first, we'll leave you with a funny little train engineer who paints words on the side of all the cars.

If you enjoyed this story, read more like it in our Where are they now? section.

Reader Comments

OMG! I still have my school house rock mutlipication tables on VHS!!! talk about your blast from the past. Keep up the great work yesbut!!

Posted by luscious.

Interplanet Janet? She's a galaxy gal.

Posted by Your mom's new boyfriend.

It's amazing the crap that passes for children's programming these days, especially when you compare it to a well written entertaining show like Schoolhouse Rock.

Posted by Joey B.

haha elliot smith has a cover of figure 8 - if youre into his kind of stuff

Posted by you.

Actually, I believe it is "Verb, that's where the action is."

Posted by Kophring.

I love my copy of "Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks" ... I love hearind Man ... or Astro-man? playing Interplanet Janet, and Pavement playing No More Kings ...

Amazon has some up for sale, it's truly a good buy!

Posted by dead_red_eyes.

Videos are gone. :(

Posted by Ant.

My 5 year old daughter still watches the anniversary DVD I bought a few years back. Now that's staying power, considering I'm 39.

Posted by Kurt Sevick.

"Interjections show excitement or emotion.
They're generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong."

Whoever thought to put the above terse-textbook-text to music (and so successfully) is a GENIUS. Schoolhouse Rock rocked! I also have that anniversary DVD that came out a few years ago -- it's great.

Posted by bdl.

The 3rd song I figured out how to play on the banjo (after Wish You Were Here and the Wind Cries Mary) was the preamble to the constitution.

Sing it with me. Babum bum bum bum... In 1787 I'm told, our founding fathers all sat down...

Posted by Just Mark.

Mrs. Wilsons 8th grade history class, 1978.
While studying for the constitution test, Todd (the class clown) wouldn't stop talking and cuttin up.
Mrs. Wilson suddenly yells "Todd!, since you
seem to know all this what is the preamble to the
constitution?" Todd stands up and sings "We the
people" at which point the entire class joins in for the rest. When we're done all Mrs Wilson says is
"And hence isn't in the preamble"

Posted by bob.

Found this site from the Ahrens & Flaherty site, which I run. I just wanted to chime in and say that the first time I saw one of Lynn's shows and it was listed in her bio that she did SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK, I almost fell out of my chair! She was a hero of mine long before I ever knew her name.. The first time I met her, I blurted out "You are the reason I know the preamble to the Constitution", even though I promised myself I would not say that.

Lots of time has passed since that day, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to say she is still my hero; as generous and genuine as she is brilliant. I would encourage anyone who is only familiar with her SHR work to check out the cast recording of RAGTIME for a hint of how her brilliance has grown.

Posted by Ronni.

For years and years and years, I had a particular voice stuck in my head. And now, after 30 years, I find out it was Blossom Dearie.
My folks were big Jazz buffs, and I KNEW I had heard that voice before I ever saw a single episode (?) of School House Rock.

Posted by Barum.

Schoolhouse Rock helped me as much as any old textbooks... Quick, concise, memorable... LOVED 'EM!

Now... Who do I make a request to? I want the lowdown on where the cast of "Porky's" has gone and what they're up to...

Posted by Gigi.

Right now my daughter is learing multiplication in school & i am singing this to her. Would you believe i can still recite all of this & everything else word for word without even messing up? I dont think i even paid that much attention in school & she is loving it. She laughs even more when I sings it with the 30th anniversay dvd collection/set.

Posted by Rhudi.

Fall semester of high school AP Government:
A class of 20-16 year olds are watching "I'm Just a Bill"... in 1998, and singing along!

Cut to 2006:
My kids and I are now watching The Best of School House Rock!

Posted by brandi.

Three is the magic number... the magic number is threeee, man and a woman had a little baby. that makes three. threeeee in the family, it's the magic number.

and

conjunction junction, what's your function, hooking up words and making them sound right....

those were two of my favorites....

Love the 1996 remakes cd Schoolhouse Rock Rocks! too.

Posted by mellokitty.

My favorite song on the dvd, is Dollars And Sense! I learned how to play the pedal steel parts on my steel guitar cause "I Got A' Lotta Country Music In My Blood" like Alan and Waylon and Ricky Skaggs, and those steel guitar parts are much better than most country songs! Only wish I knew who was the singer for Dollars And Sense. When I was 10 Years old in 1973, I learned more from SchoolHouse Rock than from elementary school. It always was and will be The Best!

Posted by Music Maker Mark.

I think That we should be able to watch them online.

Posted by Sarah Cambell.

A friend's son was in a production of Schoolhouse Rock at his junior high and was playing a "Beatle." My friend said, "I don't remember the Beatles in Schoolhouse Rock." And I popped up with, "Oh, yeah, they're there in the Noun song, playing on the jukebox."

I loves me some Schoolhouse Rock, and like everyone above, my entire government class knew all the words to the Preamble, shocking the hell out of our teacher!

Posted by Shonda.