Bob Dorough, who died yesterday at his Northeastern Pennsylvania home at 94, never became a Johnny Mercer or Hoagy Carmichael. Nonetheless, his music, tinged with gentle humor, educated and inspired generations of American kids who heard his brilliant, witty songs compositions for Schoolhouse Rock!, which ran on ABC from 1973 to 2009. Dorough sang many of those songs behind the animation or enlisted other talented singers such as Blossom Dearie and Jack Sheldon.
He developed a jazz following for his non-Schoolhouse Rock material, reflecting the same eccentricity and wit. Two of his numbers have become jazz favorites: "Comin' Home Baby" and "I'm Hip."
Amid all the Mickey Rooney film comedies and his Emmy-award winning starring role as a mentally disabled man in the TV movie Bill, one of his most memorable roles is often forgotten, and it's my personal favorite: his portrayal of ruthless, psychotic comic and TV mega-star Sammy Hogarth, a former vaudeville funnyman, in Rod Serling's teleplay The Comedian, adapted from Ernest Lehman's 1952 novelette. This 1957 dramatic presentation that was one of the high points of the prestigious 1950's live TV dramatic anthology Playhouse 90, a program considered a gem of the first Golden Age of Television. Other memorable Playhouse 90 adaptations by Serling included Requiem For A Heavyweight, starring the late Jack Palance.