Grammy-nominated jazz songwriter, singer and pianist Dave Frishberg died yesterday, according to a post on his Facebook page. His wife April Magnusson said he had been battling an illness for several years. He was 88.
Frishberg had a long and varied career that stretched from the Greenwich Village jazz scene of the ’50s to work as a studio musician in L.A. in the ’70s, to cutting his own Grammy-nominated albums and doing music for films and TV.
But his greatest fame came from his involvement with Schoolhouse Rock, a 1973-85 series of Saturday-morning shorts on ABC that used music and rhyme to help kids learn basic facts, with such memorable songs as “Elementary, My Dear” (Multiplication Rock, 1973), “Conjunction Junction” (Grammar Rock, 1973) and Frishberg’s “I’m Just a Bill” (America Rock, 1975). “I’m Just a Bill” was famously spoofed on Saturday Night Live in 2014.
He wrote and performed other memorable tunes in the series including “Walkin’ on Wall Street,” a song that describes how the stock market works, and “$7.50 Once a Week,” a song about saving money and balancing a budget.
Frishberg’s most popular non-Saturday morning songs include “I’m Hip” (lyrics only, in collaboration with Bob Dorough), “My Attorney Bernie,” “Peel Me a Grape,” “Quality Time” and “Van Lingle Mungo,” a tune whose lyrics are simply the names of old-time baseball players. Rosemary Clooney, Shirley Horn, Anita O’Day, Michael Feinstein, Diana Krall and Mel Tormé are among the greats who have performed his work.
His songs were featured in Legally Blonde 2, the Burt Reynolds film Paternity and TV projects such as NBC’s Bennett Brothers and the Danish series Forbrydelsen. Given his comedic bent, Frishberg was also a musical guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and had bit roles on shows like Simon & Simon.
My Dear Departed Past — a memoir of his time on the road, life in the music business and, of course, adventures with Schoolhouse Rock — was published in 2017.
Frishberg’s fellow jazz musician (and Schoolhouse Rock collaborator) Dorough died in 2018.
Rhino Records issued a four-CD box set of Schoolhouse Rock tunes in 1996, and Disney produced a two-DVD set for the series’ 30th anniversary in 2002, featuring 52 of the 64 episodes.