This past Sunday, December 4, the world lost a person who is well worth celebrating and remembering. His name was Bob McGrath, but we all knew him as just 'Bob'.
As in Bob from Sesame Street!
It takes a pretty remarkable relationship to have millions of kids around the world know you by your first name, but that was the kind of relationship that Bob had with so many of us. And not just young people now, but many of your parents or caregivers when they were kids.
That's because Bob was there at the very beginning—he was one of the first four human characters on Sesame Street when it first aired in 1969. And he stayed on the show for a miraculous 46 straight years until he and the last remaining original human cast members left in 2016.
Of course, for our youngest readers, you may not remember Bob as well as others because he was off the show by the time you began watching. But whether you recall him fondly or need a bit of a primer, we'd like to take some time thinking about what made him—and the show—so special.
The music man
Bob played Bob Johnson, who was the music teacher on Sesame Street. And he was perfect for the role. That's because he wasn't just playing a musician on TV.
In real life, he had gone to school for music and was an accomplished singer. He even became famous in Japan in the 1960s for singing Irish folk songs in Japanese. (He learned how to speak Japanese, too!)
But his big break came when he was cast for a brand new children's TV show called Sesame Street. On the show he used his musical ability often, especially when singing about the people (and muppets!) who lived in this neighbourhood ...
Half a century of lessons and friendship!
When Sesame Street started, the idea was for it to help teach kids about all sorts of things. Like numbers and the alphabet. Or animals and nature.
But it also wanted to give examples of how to be a good person and what it meant to be a friend. And to teach us about why that was important, no matter who you met. That was why from the very start, the show was full of a diverse cast that was unique in TV at the time. Not only the Black owners of the building on 123 Sesame Street, Gordon and Susan, or the Latino owners of the Fix-It Shop, Luis and Maria. But also a whole cast of wonderful monsters!
On Sesame Street, everyone got along. Even if there were a few disagreements along the way. They got along so well, that they have mostly all stayed together ever since!
Bob was there for pretty much all of it. Even after he finally left the regular cast in 2016, he still made public appearances on behalf of the show. He made other appearances, too, including in Canada. He was a part of the Telemiracle telethon in Saskatchewan for 38 years, and was a part of the Variety Children’s Charity Telethon in British Columbia for many years.
And on top of all of that, he wrote children's books and recorded eight albums for kids. What an amazing international career!
It's easy to take a show like Sesame Street for granted. It's been around for so long. But without people like Bob, it never would've worked. He and his fellow actors gave millions of kids a great example of what family and friendship means. Whether between humans or monsters!
Give your family and friends a hug today. It's a nice way to say, "Thanks, Bob!"