Bob McGrath, Original Sesame Street Cast Member, Dies at 90

Bob McGrath, who spend almost 50 years playing the role of Bob on Sesame Street and became a familiar face to generations of kids, has died. He was 90 years old. McGrath, who performed on Sing Along With Mitch and was briefly a teen idol in Japan before settling in to the gig that would define his career, was one of the original cast members on Sesame Street. As music teacher Bob Johnson, he sometimes served as the "nice guy" foil to Oscar the Grouch, making for some memorable exchanges with the grumpy Muppet. He would also later segue his singing talents into being one of the rare non-Muppet cast members to release officially licensed Sesame Street music.

The McGrath family announced his passing on McGrath's Facebook page today. Numerous other outlets reported it as well, including Tough Pigs, one of the best online resources for information related to The Muppets, Sesame Street, and the Jim Henson companies and characters.

"Hello Facebook friends, the McGrath family has some sad news to share," McGrath's post said. "Our father Bob McGrath passed away today. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family."

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McGrath said in a 2015 interview that he had been reluctant to do Sesame Street at first; he was offered a chance to audition by a college friend, and was not interested -- until he was given a chance to see test footage, and was blown away by the work of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and the rest of the puppeteers behind the Muppets.

McGrath, Loretta Long (as nurse Susan Robinson), Matt Robinson (as her husband Gordon, another teacher) and Will Lee (candy store owner Mr. Hooper) filmed five pilots, which were shown to children around the country, before Sesame Street officially launched. 

In addition to his work on Sesame Street and his music, McGrath and his wife Ann Logan Sperry wrote a series of "Bob's Books," which tackled issues that McGrath thought were important for children to think and learn about. His books would cover a variety of issues, from parenting and toilet training to telling the truth and having good manners.

He stepped down from playing Bob as a series regular in 2016, but returned a few times, including for 2019's 50th anniversary celebration. He also appeared in the HBO Max documentary Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, which was about the early days of the series.

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McGrath is survived by his wife Ann, five children, and eight granchildren.

Our condolences go out to Mr. McGrath's family, friends, fans, and collaborators during this difficult time.