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Lolly Lolly Lolly, 'Schoolhouse Rock' At 40

Have you used lessons learned from Schoolhouse Rock in your everyday life? Tell us!

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 03:00 PM

The educational and fun 1970's Saturday morning cartoon 'Schoolhouse Rock' turns 40 years old this year. The educational and fun 1970's Saturday morning cartoon 'Schoolhouse Rock' turns 40 years old this year.

I honestly don’t remember watching Saturday morning cartoons when I was kid, but I do remember Schoolhouse Rock. Just hearing the call of "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!" or the weird, flute-y soprano of "Unpack Your Adjectives" (supplied by the aptly named Blossom Dearie) transports me immediately to plopping down with my brothers on a giant, multi-colored crocheted throw rug in front of a monstrously fat television.  Perhaps we sipped Tang. Maybe we watched so much Schoolhouse Rock because it was too taxing to have to get up to change the channels manually.

 

 

The cartoons are 40 years old this month, and they're dated. But that’s not a criticism! I love the 70's self-conscious consciousness-raising of these cartoons. I celebrate the funk of "Verb: That’s What’s Happenin’." I even embrace how they left off the "G" in a song about grammar. And that they gave us an African-American superhero -- although he would have been called Black back then. 

I dig the "Sufferin' 'til Suffrage" (double cool apostrophes for that title) chick who wore huge bell-bottoms and a belly shirt but didn’t show her bellybutton. Obviously Women’s Lib was on the table for kids, but navels were not.  Yes, one could argue that the fact that she goes into the voting booth and then emerges, generically replicated by the hundreds, is an objectification of women, but one would not have argued that in 1977; One would have had to take Women’s Studies in college in 1992 to make that case.

 

 

Conduct a poll of 35-45 year-olds, and I guarantee you that a vast majority of them will tell you they learned the meaning of "suffrage" and the Preamble to the Constitution from Schoolhouse Rock. When I asked on Facebook for people’s memories of the "‘Rock", as I like to call it, I was immediately flooded with heartfelt stories of how it marked our childhoods and still sticks with us.

The other day, I was bathing my eight-month old son with Pandora DJ'ing the background music, and the "Constitution Preamble" came on. I was shocked at how the tune and the words came back to me, like when I find myself in a Catholic mass, uttering the words to the prayers of my childhood effortlessly. It was comforting -- like educational mac 'n cheese.

Indubitably.

 

 

Have you used lessons learned from Schoolhouse Rock in your everyday life? Tell us: Comment, e-mail us at soundcheck@wnyc.org or leave a voicemail at 866.939.1612.

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Comments [8]

George Newall from Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Here's an amazing example of the "evergreen" power of Schoolhouse Rock. I'm an adjunct professor at Saint Johns University, teaching advertising copywriting. My 18-20 year old students are from remarkably diverse backgrounds, both ethnically and educationally. So when I conducted my own little private "poll" I was astonished to find that nearly two thirds of these "Generation Y" kids are familiar with Schoolhouse Rock. That's thanks to countless elementary and high school teachers who use the DVDs in their classrooms. Not to mention the many parents who've passed along the sound of Schoolhouse Rock at home on cassette and DVD players.

So it wasn't completely surprising to me when more than 2,000 people showed up in January for the Kennedy Center's "Schoolhouse Rock 40th Anniversary Sing-Along." (It was the largest crowd they have ever had at the Center's Millenium Stage). It was my pleasure to introduce the 89 year old composer/pianist/singer Bob Dorough, whose voice is so familiar to millions of fans of Schoolhouse Rock. He started with the concert with the song that launched Schoolhouse Rock back in 1972, "Three is a Magic Number." It was no overstatement when the Kennedy Center's producer Diana Ezerins called Bob a "National Treasure."

Indeed.

Feb. 28 2013 07:12 PM
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Feb. 24 2013 01:29 AM
Ben from Bklyn

Schoolhouse Rock rocks!!

So important and did so much good!

Blossom Dearie -Figure 8 (loved in then & somehow influenced my love of jazz female vocals!)

Feb. 07 2013 09:07 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Since it's around the corner, I can be found intoning,"Mrs. Jones is a lady on Hudson Street. She sent her dog to bark at my brother and meeeee. Gave that dog a big fat bone, and now he barks at Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones is a lady on Hudson Street. Oh there's a person you can know..." (the Noun song) in cadence to pedaling my bike, aloud. And I aced the Preamble quiz in 7th grade because of School House Rock. I don't have children, but I own and love the DVD, a key comfort from my youth. I've also made it a fine gift to many young people I know.

But 35 to 45? My older brothers would wag their collective fingers, suspicious of whether the writer was actually there. That some of the songs featured here

Also--crocheted rug?? "Indubitably," indeed! Ack.

Feb. 06 2013 09:15 PM
Megan McCoy from Brooklyn

I STILL use the "threes" song whenever I need to sort anything by three.

"It takes three sides to make a triangle; three legs to make a table stand"

Feb. 04 2013 09:44 PM
sspp from Brookville NY

the upper limit is NOT 45! I will be 50 this year and my brother will be 48 and we were HUGE fans of the schoolhouse rock intercessions for saturday morning cartoons. Our parents would count on it and leave us in front of the tv to go food shopping only to come home and find us still sitting there singing along with Schoolhouse Rock....what would be said today? Terrible to use TV as a babysitter but at least it was educational?

Feb. 02 2013 12:58 PM
ajja from Norwalk, CT

I need to buy some of these. I adore the government songs, and I'm sure I can start introducing the numbers and grammar rock to my little ones. I can still sing the Interjections song. I used to sing the Preamble to get the little guy calm, because good song writing is just good song writing. I wonder how Schoolhouse Rock would sing about Citizens United...People are people, and corporations are people...you might think they're different but the law says they're not!

Feb. 02 2013 08:13 AM
Sima Matthes from Rockville Centre, NY

"Lolly Lolly Lolly" and "Sufferin' 'til Sufferage" don't appear on the CD version of Schoolhouse Rock that my nearly 8 year old son is enjoying at present. I'm using the math songs ("My Hero Zero", "Figure 8" and their ilk) to teach him the times tables. (Again, "Good Eleven" is missing from the CD.)

I have fond memories of my entire Con Law class singing the Preamble under their collective breath ("We the people, in order to form a more per-fect un-ion...) as we struggled through Marbury vs. Madison.

Jan. 31 2013 04:04 PM

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