Three Is a Magic Number

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"Three Is a Magic Number" is the pilot episode of the Schoolhouse Rock! series and the first episode of the program's first season, "Multiplication Rock."[1] The title song, written by Bob Dorough, and accompanying animated video were created after ad agency co-chairman David McCall observed that his son had learned every Rolling Stones lyric but could not remember multiplication tables.[2][3] The episode first aired on February 3, 1973.

Though the song is not as iconic[citation needed] to the Schoolhouse Rock series as later episodes such as "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction" (ranking as only the show's seventh most popular episode according to the 30th Anniversary VHS), it has proven, thanks to its more passive approach to teaching about the multiples of three than later episodes, to be more popular as a standalone album[citation needed]. The music video for this version[clarification needed] features clips from the original show.

Cover versions[edit]

Perhaps the most well known cover was done by the band Blind Melon, which also features one of the last vocal recordings of the band's vocalist Shannon Hoon. This version also appeared in films such as Never Been Kissed, Slackers, and You, Me and Dupree.[4]

Jeff Buckley also recorded a cover version of the song.[5]

The song is parodied by Jack Black in the movie School of Rock, when Black accidentally refers to the number 9 as "a magic number".[6]

De La Soul interpolate both the original melody and snippets of lyric from this song into their track "The Magic Number", as featured on their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising.[7] A version by Jon Carter, modeled after the De La Soul version, was used in channel idents for BBC Three from its launch in February 2003 until January 2008.

The Three Mobile Company in Australia has used the song as its theme song during advertisements since the brand broke into the Australian market. The song has also been covered by Greek singer Elena Paparizou for the a Swedish Three Mobile advertising campaign in 2007.

Jack Johnson also adapted the song to talk about the three R's (reduce, re-use, and recycle) for his soundtrack to the animated film Curious George.[8]

Notable appearances[edit]

This song originally appeared on the final episode of Curiosity Shop.[9]

The song is known in Ireland for being the start-up music to the television station TV3, since its inception in 1998.[10]

The song was also featured in commercials for It was used for the Sony Disney DVD player. The song was parodied on the MADtv sketch "Public Schoolhouse Rock!" with a song about substitute teachers.

The lyric "faith and hope and charity" is referenced in the Ernest Cline novel Ready Player One; the words, in reverse, appear over a gateway as a clue that the door may only be opened by three people holding the proper keys, and the title of the song is spoken to make all three of the door's keyholes appear.


  1. ^ Lauer-Williams, Kathy (2010-06-25). "Three is a magic number for Bob Dorough". The Morning Call. Retrieved 2012-01-11. 
  2. ^ Morrison, Mary Kay (2007). Using Humor to Maximize Learning: The Links between Positive Emotions and Education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-57886-732-5. 
  3. ^ Millbower, Lenn (2010). Show Biz Training: Fun and Effective Training Techniques from the Worlds of Stage, Screen, and Song. New York: American Management Association. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-8144-7157-9. 
  4. ^ Horak, Terri (1996-04-06). "Schoolhouse Rock". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 108 (14): 108. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Angie (2010). Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist: A Practical Guide to Principles & Techniques. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-240-81181-9. 
  6. ^ Strauss, Valerie (2010-05-02). "Education Department changes the music". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2012-01-11. 
  7. ^ Burke, Timothy; Burke, Kevin (1998). Saturday Morning Fever: Growing up with Cartoon Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-312-16996-1. 
  8. ^ "Reviews - Singles". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 118 (6): 84. 2006-02-11. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ O'Kane, Paul (2000-09-17). "Three is a magic number". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2012-01-11.