Bob Dorough: Three Is A Magic Number


Three Is A Magic Number


Bob Dorough (vocals)


The Best of Schoolhouse Rock (Kid Rhino 75315)

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Bob Dorough (vocals),

others unidentified


Composed by Bob Dorough


Recorded: unknown location, 1973


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

"Three is a Magic Number" was the first piece Bob Dorough wrote after being hired to create an educational recording to teach kids the multiplication table. Luckily, the project got picked up by ABC-TV, and Dorough became musical director from 1973-1985 for a series of 3-minute animated instructional cartoons on various subjects telecast on Saturday mornings. Contributors to the series overall included Grady Tate, Blossom Dearie, Dave Frishberg, and Jack Sheldon, but Dorough's personal focus was on Multiplication Rock. Countless children were helped to learn math by his clever and often amusing lyrical lessons, and as adults many sought him out years later in jazz clubs to request their childhood favorites.

The original short Dorough vocal of "Three is a Magic Number," backed chiefly by an electric piano (his?), a drummer, and a chorus of singers, sounds much like Paul Simon, with the added homespun sentiment of Mister Rogers. At its folksy, lighthearted core is a simple lesson in multiplying by the number three. However, Dorough's lyrics leave the challenges of elementary math behind at the very end: "A man and a woman had a little baby, yes they did, they had three in the family, that's a magic number."

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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