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SYFY WIRE Sesame Street

Longtime 'Sesame Street' star Bob McGrath dies at 90, after appearing in 450 episodes of the beloved series

McGrath played music teacher Bob Johnson for nearly five decades.

By Matthew Jackson
Bob McGrath

Bob McGrath, one of the original human cast members of Sesame Street and a staple of the show for five decades, died Sunday at his home. He was 90. The news was shared in a Facebook post by McGrath's family, and confirmed by the Sesame Workshop, who shared their own tribute to the actor and singer.

"A founding cast member, Bob embodied the melodies of Sesame Street like no one else, and his performances brought joy and wonder to generations of children around the world, whether teaching them the ABCs, the people in their neighborhood, or the simple joy of feeling music in their hearts," the Workshop's post read.

A native of Illinois, McGrath attended the University of Michigan before beginning a career as a singer, through which he built a touring career that took him around the world, and even brought him a significant following in places like Japan. He came to Sesame Street, as he put it in a 2015 interview, through a chance meeting. An old friend offered him a chance to audition for the then-new series, and after initially declining in favor of his singing career, McGrath stopped into Jim Henson's workshop for what would become a fateful meeting.

"A couple of months later I got a call from the Workshop asking me to come in and take a look at some of the test pieces they were doing with a guy by the name of Jim Henson, whom I had never heard of before, and some puppets called Muppets," McGrath recalled. "I agreed, and it took me about 2 minutes before realizing that I wanted to do this show more than anything else I could ever think of. I was so overwhelmed by the brilliance of the animation, claymation, early film and test pieces with Jim and Frank Oz, and everything else that was going on in the studio."

So, McGrath joined Sesame Street as Bob Johnson, the neighborhood's local music teacher, and promptly became one of the show's most memorable presences. Thanks to his training as a singer, McGrath became the voice of many of the beloved series' most memorable songs, including "Sing," "People in Your Neighborhood," and more. He retired from Sesame Street in 2017 after more than 450 episodes, but remained a part of the extended Sesame Street family, appearing in the 50th anniversary special in 2019. 

McGrath is survived by his wife, Ann Logan Sperry, and a family that included five children, as well as grandchildren.

Looking for more kid friendly programming? Check out Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, The Cat in the Hat, Dragons, Curious George and more streaming on Peacock.