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Bob McGrath

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Bob McGrath
McGrath in 1989
Robert Emmett McGrath

(1932-06-13)June 13, 1932
DiedDecember 4, 2022(2022-12-04) (aged 90)
  • Actor
  • singer
  • author
Years active1960–2021
TelevisionBob Johnson on Sesame Street (1969–2016, 2019)
Ann Logan Sperry
(m. 1958)

Robert Emmett McGrath (June 13, 1932 – December 4, 2022) was an American actor, singer, and children's author best known for playing original human character and music teacher Bob Johnson on the educational television series Sesame Street from 1969 to 2016.

Early life[edit]

McGrath was born on June 13, 1932, in Ottawa, Illinois, the son of Flora Agnes (née Hallagan) and Edmund Thomas McGrath, a farmer.[1][2] He was named for the Irish patriot Robert Emmet. As a child he would sing for his family while his mother would play the piano. His mother enrolled him in the Roxy Theater's Amateur Program and he finished in second place. He graduated from Marquette High School. [3]

McGrath graduated from the University of Michigan in 1954; he went to the school of music there. While attending Michigan, he was a member of the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club[4][5] and of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. During fraternity events he washed dishes while David Connell, a fraternity brother, waited tables, a connection which Connell used when Sesame Street casting began. After graduating he was inducted into the U.S. Army; he was in Germany for two years performing for the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra and booking for them.[6]

McGrath earned a Master of Music degree in voice from the Manhattan School of Music in 1959.[7]


McGrath worked with Mitch Miller and was the featured tenor on Miller's NBC-TV television singalong series Sing Along with Mitch for four seasons from 1960 to 1964. He was a singer on the Walt Kelly album Songs of the Pogo.[8]

In the mid-1960s, McGrath became a well-known recording artist in Japan, releasing a series of successful albums of Irish and other folk songs and ballads sung in Japanese.[9][10] This aspect of his career was the basis of his "secret" when he appeared on the game shows To Tell the Truth in 1966[11][12] and I've Got a Secret in 1967.[13][12]

From 1969 to 2016, McGrath was a regular cast member on Sesame Street, playing the character of Bob Johnson. Along with series matriarch Susan Robinson, played by Loretta Long, McGrath was one of the two longest-lasting human characters on the series since the show's debut. A Noggin segment proclaimed the four decades of Bob when promoting Sesame Street on that network. In July 2016, Sesame Workshop announced that McGrath would not return to the show for its 47th season because it would be re-tooling the series, but the company did say that McGrath would continue to represent the Workshop at public events. Sesame Workshop later announced that there would be talks to bring him back and that he would still represent Sesame Street.[14][15][16] Although McGrath had not been in any new material since season 45, he subsequently appeared in online videos for the show. He also returned for the 2019 TV special Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration.[17]

McGrath said that his two favorite moments on Sesame Street were Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (a 1978 Christmas special that included a pastiche of "The Gift of the Magi"), and the 1983 sequence that candidly addressed the death of longtime character Mr. Hooper, played by his good friend Will Lee who had died the previous year.[18]

McGrath in 2007

Other accomplishments[edit]

For 38 years, McGrath was a regular fixture on Telemiracle, a telethon broadcast annually on CTV outlets in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. His final regular appearance at Telemiracle was in 2015, where performers at the show paid tribute to him.[19] He returned for a special appearance in 2018.[20] On March 3, 2006, he was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan for this work by the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Lynda Haverstock.[21] He was given the Saskatchewan Distinguished Service Award in 2013 by the Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall.[22]

He received a Distinguished Service Award for his decades of service by the Variety Children's Charity Telethon in British Columbia.[23]

McGrath wrote many children's books, including Uh Oh! Gotta Go! (1996) and OOPS! Excuse Me Please! (1998).[24]

In 1995, he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.[25]

McGrath's Sing Me a Story was nominated for the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for children's Album of the Year.[26]

On April 10, 2010, he was the first recipient of the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club Lifetime Achievement Award.[27]

McGrath in 2014

Personal life and death[edit]

McGrath and his wife Ann married in 1958. They had five children, five granddaughters, and three grandsons. The couple lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, from 1958 until 2017, after which they moved to a ranch in Norwood, New Jersey.[28]

McGrath died from complications of a stroke at home on December 4, 2022, at age 90.[12][2]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1960–1964 Sing Along with Mitch Singer [24]
1966 To Tell the Truth Himself 1 episode [12]
1967 I've Got a Secret 1 episode [12]
1969–2016 Sesame Street Bob Johnson [24]
1978 Christmas Eve on Sesame Street TV special [2]
1985 Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird [24][29]
1996 Elmo Saves Christmas TV special [30]
1999 The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland [24]
2013 Little Children, Big Challenges Episode: "Incarceration" [citation needed]
2014 I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story Himself Documentary film [31]
2019 Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration Bob Johnson TV special [32]
2021 Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street Himself Documentary film; final appearance [33]


  1. ^ "Today in history". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 13, 2014. Archived from the original on July 16, 2015. Retrieved June 13, 2014. Today's Birthdays: Actor Bob McGrath is 82.
  2. ^ a b c Gates, Anita (December 4, 2022). "Bob McGrath, Longtime 'Sesame Street' Star, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2022.
  3. ^ "Healing power of music; 'Sesame Street's' Bob McGrath and singer Ayla Brown raise voices for Songs of Love. – Free Online Library".
  4. ^ Harrington, Adam (December 5, 2022). "Remembering Bob McGrath, 'Sesame Street' icon and LaSalle County native". CBS News Chicago. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  5. ^ Bellware, Kim (December 5, 2022). "Bob McGrath, founding member of 'Sesame Street' cast, dies at 90". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  6. ^ "Interview: More Music and Memories with Bob McGrath ("Bob from Sesame Street") – Part 2 of 2". March 4, 2015.
  7. ^ "Alumni: Awards".
  8. ^ "Walt Kelly: The Vinyl Years | Collectors Weekly". www.collectorsweekly.com. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  9. ^ "Irish Tenor From Teaneck Is the Toast of Tokyo; Bob McGrath Specializes in Japanese Folk Ballads to Flute Accompaniment", The New York Times, July 5, 1967. Accessed December 30, 2007.
  10. ^ "Bob McGrath Biography". Bob McGrath's Official Website. Archived from the original on January 27, 2007.
  11. ^ Bob McGrath on To Tell the Truth on YouTube
  12. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Mike (December 4, 2022). "Bob McGrath, Original, Longtime Resident of 'Sesame Street,' Dies at 90". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 4, 2022.
  13. ^ Bob McGrath on I've Got a Secret on YouTube
  14. ^ Jones, Kevin L. (July 27, 2016). "'Sesame Street' Lets Go Longtime Cast Members Bob, Gordon and Luis". KQED Public Media for Northern California. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  15. ^ Lujan, Adam (July 28, 2016). "Sesame Street let go three longtime cast members". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  16. ^ Murphy, Mike. "McGrath carrying on after being released from 'Sesame Street'". The Times. Retrieved January 2, 2018.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Who is the 'Sesame Street' 50th anniversary special actually for?". Los Angeles Times. November 9, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2022.
  18. ^ [1][dead link]
  19. ^ "Bob McGrath gives tearful goodbye at Telemiracle fundraiser". CBC News. March 8, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  20. ^ White-Crummey, Arthur (March 4, 2018). "Telemiracle smashes record with more than $7.1 million in donations". Leader-Post.
  21. ^ "Sesame Street Legend Bob McGrath Receives Centennial Medal". News Releases. Government of Saskatchewan. March 3, 2006. Archived from the original on March 11, 2013. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  22. ^ Adam, Betty Ann (March 1, 2013). "McGrath receives Sask. honour". The StarPhoenix. Postmedia Network. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  23. ^ Legaspi, Althea (December 5, 2022). "Bob McGrath, Longtime 'Sesame Street' Star, Dead at 90". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  24. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Mike (December 4, 2022). "Bob McGrath, Original, Longtime Resident of 'Sesame Street,' Dies at 90". Billboard. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  25. ^ "Robert McGrath | FCA Grant Recipient". Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  26. ^ "Past IMA Programs". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  27. ^ Mehrotra, Paridhi (December 5, 2022). "Bob McGrath Death: Longtime 'Sesame Street' Star, Dies At 90". Alpha News Call. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  28. ^ Beckerman, Jim (November 5, 2019). "How they got to 'Sesame Street': Interview with original cast member from NJ, Bob McGrath". NorthJersey. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  29. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (December 4, 2022). "Bob McGrath, Original Sesame Street Star, Dies at 90". TheWrap. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  30. ^ Murphy, J. Kim (December 4, 2022). "Bob McGrath, 'Sesame Street' Star, Dies at 90". Variety. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  31. ^ Felperin, Leslie (April 30, 2015). "I Am Big Bird review – a nostalgic, Sesame Street-flavoured sugar rush". The Guardian.
  32. ^ "Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration". TVGuide.com.
  33. ^ "Street Gand: How We got to Sesame Street". www.variancefilms.com.

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