CAUSE OF DEATH: Bob McGrath from Sesame Street confirmed dead KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt


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Sunday, December 4, 2022

CAUSE OF DEATH: Bob McGrath from Sesame Street confirmed dead

Bob McGrath -- one of the original human stars on 'Sesame Street,' and a longtime staple on the show for years -- has died ... this according to his loved ones.

The actor's family shared the sad news Sunday, writing on his official Facebook page ... "Our father Bob McGrath, passed away today. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family."

McGrath will best be remembered as a recurring cast member of the beloved children's series ... having made his first appearance when the show first aired in the '60s. He was featured in the pilot in 1969, playing himself, and went on to work in an additional 47 seasons. He stopped acting on 'Sesame Street' in 2017 ... his last episode was 'Having a Ball.'

His contributions to 'Sesame Street' can't be overstated ... not only did he provide educational lessons for children through his interactions with the puppets -- but he brought a musical element to the show too, with original songs like "People in Your Neighborhood," "Sing a Song," "If You're Happy And You Know It" and even the 'SS' theme song.

Bob starred in countless 'Sesame Street' productions over the years -- including standalone films, sing-alongs, holiday specials, video games and more. He was one of the longest-standing human adult cast members on the series. He's survived by his wife and kids.“Hello Facebook friends, the McGrath family has some sad news to share,” McGrath’s family posted on his Facebook page Sunday. “Our father Bob McGrath, passed away today. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.” (Hollywood also paid tribute to the actor on social media.)

Born on a farm in Illinois, McGrath was one of the four non-Muppet castmembers when Sesame Street debuted on public television stations of Nov. 10, 1969.

With no acting experience, producers always told him to be himself. Over the years, he sang dozens of the show’s signature tunes, including “Sing, Sing a Song” and “The People in Your Neighborhood,” and shared many a scene with Oscar, the grouchy Muppet voiced by Caroll Spinney.

McGrath and Oscar “were sort of like The Odd Couple,” he told Karen Herman during a 2004 conversation for the TV Academy Foundation website The Interviews. “Oscar was always having a rotten day, and I’m ‘Mr. Nice Guy.'”

He remained with the legendary kids show until it was announced in July 2016 that he would not return for its 47th season, though he continued to represent Sesame Street at public events.

McGrath had enjoyed a recurring gig singing songs in Japanese and English in Japan and was studying acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio for about a year when he had a chance meeting in 1969 with David Connell, a former fraternity brother at the University of Michigan, while he was waiting for a bus in front of New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Connell had recently left the CBS kids show Captain Kangaroo to join the new Children’s Television Workshop as vice president in charge of production, and he asked McGrath if he might be interested in auditioning for a new children’s TV show he was setting up.

“Not in the least,” McGrath said, but he changed his mind a couple months later when Connell reached out again and showed him test pieces featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets.

“It took me about two minutes before realizing that I wanted to do this show more than anything else I could ever think of,” he said in 2015. “I was so overwhelmed by the brilliance of … Jim and [fellow Muppeteer] Frank Oz and everything else that was going on.”

McGrath and Loretta Long (as nurse Susan Robinson), Matt Robinson (her husband, science teacher Gordon) and Will Lee (candy store owner Mr. Hooper) taped five one-hour pilots that were shown to hundreds of kids across the U.S., and they went on to shoot 130 one-hour episodes during Sesame Street‘s first season.

“We knew we were on to something good almost from the get-go,” he said.

One of five kids, Robert Emmett McGrath (named for an Irish patriot) was born on June 13, 1932, on a farm between the towns of Ottawa and Grand Ridge. His mother, Flora, was a pianist who could play by ear, and when he was 5, he began performing in local theaters. At 9, he won a talent contest at an NBC radio station in Chicago.

McGrath had his own local radio show while he attended Marquette High School, and as a voice major at the University of Michigan School of Music, he became the first freshman soloist of the glee club.

After graduation in 1954, he was attached to the Seventh Army Symphony in Stuttgart, Germany, during his two-year stint in the service. Then, while working on his master’s degree in voice at the Manhattan School of Music, he was hired to teach music appreciation and theory to youngsters at the St. David’s School.

In 1961, McGrath joined the new Sing Along With Mitch in the 25-man chorus. The NBC program was headlined by Mitch Miller, a classical oboe player and top Columbia Records A&R executive who conducted an orchestra and chorus performing old-time songs. Viewers were presented with lyrics at the bottom of the TV screen so they could sing along, which made for a “great family experience,” McGrath noted.

Two years into the show, McGrath sang “Mother Machree” for a St. Patrick’s Day telecast and was promoted to featured male soloist at double his salary. (Leslie Uggams, who started on the show when she was 17, was a featured female soloist.)

After Sing Along With Mitch concluded its four-year run in 1964, Miller and company performed at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and then on a 30-date tour of Japan, where the program had aired on NHK television.

“We had four and five thousand teenagers at every concert,” McGrath recalled. “We were quite amazed — why are these teenagers listening to all these old songs? They watched the show because they were very anxious to learn English; we sang clearly, and the [lyrics were on the screen].”

When he sang in Japanese, he was greeted with chants of “Bobu! Bobu!” and learned that there were McGrath fan clubs all over the country.

After the tour ended, he returned to open the Latin Quarter and Copacabana nightclubs in Tokyo and would come back often during the next three years for concerts, albums, commercials and TV shows. He even performed at a small private dinner for Japan prime minister Eisaku Sato.

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