I was sad to hear of the passing of Bob Dorough – I mean, amazing life: richly rewarding, a quiet achiever and he made it to 94, that’s never to be sniffed at – but I wanted to mark the passing in at least some small way because Bob Dorough was kinda a big deal for me. You see when I first discovered him – somewhat randomly – I thought his voice was ridiculous. I couldn’t work out if he was the coolest cat out or the weirdest, strangest thing happening in the mainstream. I swiftly decided he was both.
When I bought a $4 Miles Davis tape I spotted that same voice, on a song called Blue Xmas; it was the easiest case of a blind-listening test-winner, so obvious. But also, all of this is pre-internet of course, so hearing this Bob Dorough chap on a cut with Miles Davis meant he had clearly earned some stripes. He was good. He was worthy.
That song – and album – became a firm favourite. And I went back to the album Yardbird Suite by Dorough, the one I’d found in a chuck-out bin and bought on a whim because I could smell a vague whiff of jazz about it.
Well, now I was hooked. And into it. Dorough, the quirky legend. It helped finding out he was a dab hand at the keys and a more than decent composer.
In America he had a late-career run as a composer and performer on Schoolhouse Rock! An important educational series of shorts for kids. This established him across the seventies and into the 1980s – on the back of a working run fronting a trio, sitting in or sitting behind so many great stars as well as making albums of his own compositions and various standards.
A great musician, a talented performer and writer – and he really gave something back. His songs for kids were legendary. Are wonderful still.
He made records well into his old age. And he never seemed to lose his passion for music.
I was glad to find his music in the way I did – the best way still, by complete fluke, a total surprise.
R.I.P. Bob Dorough
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