R.I.P. Bob McGrath, original cast member of Sesame Street

Often seen in scenes with Oscar the Grouch, McGrath was a person ''in the neighborhood'' for over five decades.

The Everett Collection

Bob McGrath, best known as original friendly neighbor Bob Johnson on Sesame Street, died Sunday Dec. 4, 2022 at the age of 90, according to CNN.

Sesame Workshop and McGrath's family confirmed the passing on various social media platforms. 

According to CNN, a family statement posted to Facebook read, "The McGrath family has some sad news to share. Our father Bob McGrath, passed away... He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family." 

McGrath spent almost 50 years involved with the classic children's program. Beginning with the Sesame Street pilot in 1969, McGrath was one of the people "in the neighborhood" for the first 47 seasons of the show, stepping away in 2017. Even after his departure from the show, McGrath could be seen promoting it at public events. 

McGrath contributed to Sesame Street in more ways than just playing the role of Bob Johnson. He was a key part in creating some of the show's most recognizable songs such as "People in Your Neighborhood" and "Sing a Song." 

McGrath's influence on Sesame Street will be an everlasting one according to Sesame Workshop, which released the following statement on Twitter.

"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 the neighborhood, or the simple joy of feeling music in their hearts," the statement said in part. "A revered performer worldwide, Bob's rich tenor filled airwaves and concert halls from Las Vegas to Saskatchewan to Tokyo many times over." 

McGrath, one of the four non-Muppet characters, shared plenty of scenes with Oscar the Grouch, but wasn't initially thrilled at the idea of joining a television show made for children. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, McGrath was asked by a former fraternity brother at the University of Michigan, who happended to be in charge of production at Children's Television Workshop, if he wanted to be a part of a new kids series. McGrath said, "Not in the least." 

After a few months, the former frat brother, David Connell, reached out once more, this time with a few "test pieces featuring Jim Henson's Muppets." 

"It took me about 2 minutes before realizing that I wanted to do this show more than anything else I could ever think of," McGrath said in a 2015 interview with Kids Can Groove

That realization became reality, as McGrath's legacy on Sesame Street spoke for itself for five decades, and will continue to speak for itself going forward. 

"We will be forever grateful for his many years of passionate creative contributions to Sesame Street and honored that he shared so much of his life with us," the statement from Sesame Workshop concluded. 


 
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21 Comments

Runeshaper 1 month ago
I grew up watching Sesame Street in the 80s and 90s. Many great memories watching the show with my family. Had a very positive impact on my life. R.I.P. Bob McGrath. Thanks for everything.
ETristanBooth 2 months ago
Bob was my favorite human on Sesame Street (largely because of his looks, I must admit), but all this time I never knew his last name was Johnson.
Katzi 2 months ago
R.I.P Bob...thank you for the happy memories of Sesame Street! Say hi to all of our SS friends that have gone on before us. (this includes several Muppeteers like Jim Henson....the guy that started it all w/ Muppets like Kermit .)
JosephScarbrough 2 months ago
In 2017, I had such a golden opportunity to meet many of the SESAME STREET cast members at a con, including Alan Muraoka, Roscoe Orman (Gordon), Emilio Delgado (Luis), and of course Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch himself - Caroll Spinney. I was a novice: I had never been to a con before, and in fact, I kind of had an irrational phobia of them, but as somebody who had been inspired to become a puppeteer because of the Muppets (as well as Shari Lewis, and Sid & Marty Krofft), I couldn't pass up an opportunity such as this! I was so nervous, but as I met them, one by one, they really put me at ease: they were very much the same people that we've known on our TV sets for so many decades, they really made you feel like you've known each other for so long (even when I had a photo-op with them later in the afternoon, Alan saw me walk over and said, "It's like seeing an old friend again!")

Of course Bob McGrath was there too, and I think of all of the cast members I met that day, I probably ended up spending more time chatting with him at his table - he was very charming, personable, and conversive, we talked not only about his time on the Street, but he also shared with me some other ancedotes from his illustrious career over the years, and even asked a little about myself. It was such an incredible experience that I'm so grateful I got to have, and I can say that my Sesame neighbors have effectively helped me conquer my fear of cons - since then, I've gotten to meet so many other heroes we've grown up with over the years, including Corporal Klinger himself last year: Jamie Farr.

Another interest coincidence is that Bob and I shared the same birthday (as did Paul Lynde and Tim Allen).
LalaLucy 2 months ago
Another very dear man from childhood memories gone. :( Will forever appreciate all his wonderful contributions to the show. Prayers to all mourning his loss.
cperrynaples 2 months ago
Another star was lost yesterday with the death of Kristie Alley! I'm assuming we'll get an obituary today and maybe a Cheers marathon later this week!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 2 months ago
Yes, I meant to say Kirstie!
PernellDH 2 months ago
Classic Sesame Street - Bob Discusses Littering with Oscar
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auzweCpXR8s

Love that funny music at the end of that skit with Bob and Oscar.
Peter_Falk_Fan 2 months ago
Here, Bob gives words of comfort to Big Bird on the death of the show's Mr. Hooper (Will Lee). What Bob says to Big Bird is what I would say about remembering Bob McGrath. R.I.P. Bob McGrath.
LalaLucy Peter_Falk_Fan 2 months ago
I was thinking of this scene today. Thanks for sharing it.
Mike 2 months ago
No mention of Sing Along With Mitch, where Bob McGrath made his TV breakthrough in 1960?
You can find some of the old Sing Along shows on YouTube - mainly black-and-white kinescopes from the early '60s, plus a reunion special from 1981, where Bob hadn't aged a day!
justjeff 2 months ago
Bob was the original singer of the Sesame Street theme (including additional lyrics). You can find the first episode on YouTube. You'll also see a pointy-headed Big Bird and an orange [later green] Oscar the Grouch, plus a yet-unnamed Cookie Monster devouring parts of Kermit the Frog's "W"... How times change...
cperrynaples 2 months ago
One little known fact about McGrath: Although he was a Irish tenor, he was a popular performer in Japan! He sung fluently and this ability even got him on To Tell The Truth and I've Got A Secret! Both episodes can be seen on YouTube!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 2 months ago
I meant to say he sung fluent Japanese! Obviously he could also sing in English!
Katzi cperrynaples 2 months ago
When he was a performer in Japan, he was a teenage idol! Girls would go after him screaming his name "Bobu! Bobu!!"
LoveMETV22 2 months ago
R.I.P. Bob McGrath. Thank you for your many contributions over the decades to many children around the world.
Michael 2 months ago
Sorry millenials, I was almost ten when the show came on. So I dipped into it, but I wasn't the audience.

Actually when I was ten, a kid at school asked if I wanted to be in a segment or two for the show. One of those live action segments. I knew by then that being on camera was not for me. I'm still not sure if the segments were for the show in general, or for Canada.
15inchBlackandWhite 2 months ago
I remember him well from the very first episode of Sesame Street. I recently watched it online with my grandson and was amazed how well I remembered it from when I was a tyke myself. RIP, Bob.
KendallMarine 2 months ago
Now Bob is singing a song in heaven.
PernellDH 2 months ago
R.I.P. Bob McGrath (Bob Johnson). Thanks for the memories to generations of kids who grew up including yours truly who watched Sesame Street over the years. Great actor and singer.
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