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'Schoolhouse Rock!,' the iconic children's show that made learning fun, celebrates its 50th anniversary

The show premiered on January 6, 1973, and used to run every Saturday morning until the mid-1980s.

'Schoolhouse Rock!,' the iconic children's show that made learning fun, celebrates 
 its 50th anniversary
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Disney

It's the 50th anniversary of "Schoolhouse Rock!," one of the most iconic children's shows of the '70s and early '80s. The show, which premiered on January 6, 1973, and ran every Saturday morning until the mid-1980s, taught an entire generation of Americans that "knowledge is power." It made learning fun through animated shorts covering topics like math, grammar, science and more, reports TODAY.


One of the episodes called, "Unpack your adjectives," talks about what are adjectives and where they can be used. It gives several examples of adjectives and also asks children to use them whenever they go on trips to describe everything they saw. "You can describe people, places, and things. Simply unpack your adjectives, you can do it with adjectives," a girl sings in the episode. The show's idea came from advertising executive David B. McCall who was surprised to see his son's ability to memorize song lyrics even though he struggled to remember math equations. He approached singer-songwriter, Bob Dorough, about giving education a musical spin, according to The New York Times.

Some popular songs from the show, including "Conjunction Junction," were written by Dorough. In the song, a train conductor explains conjunctions through these lyrics: "Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?/ Hooking up words and phrases and clauses/ Conjunction Junction, how’s that function/ I got three favorite cars that get most of my job done/ Conjunction Junction, what’s their function/ I got and, but, and or/ They’ll get you pretty far."


Another popular song, "I'm Just a Bill" teaches children how laws are made. It goes as follows: "I’m just a bill/ Yes, I’m only a bill/ And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill/ Well, then I’m off to the White House/ Where I’ll wait in a line/ With a lot of other bills/ For the president to sign/ And if he signs me, then I’ll be a law/ How I hope and pray that he will/ But today I am still just a bill."

The show still holds a special place in people's hearts. In 2010, the US Department of Education changed its hold music to "Conjunction Junction" so that people calling could remember the good old days.


Moreover, in 2014, "I'm Just a Bill" was famously spoofed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in an episode. It featured Kenan Thomson dressed up like an immigration bill, singing the song while being pushed down the steps of Capitol Hill by Jay Pharoah, who was playing Barack Obama. Dorough passed away in 2018. His classic first song for Schoolhouse Rock!, "Three is a Magic Number," is still remembered for its simplicity and catchy chorus that counted to 36 by threes along with animation. 


Dorough spoke about why the songs resonated with people so much. Speaking to CNN in 2013, he said that “even though they were in a ‘rock’ or ‘pop’ bag, my jazz sensibilities and the fine musicians I used for the audio recordings made the songs seem unusual to the Saturday morning cartoon listener."

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