PORTLAND, Ore. – Dave Frishberg, a jazz songwriter and musician who reached his widest audience as a contributor to the Saturday morning animated television show, “Schoolhouse Rock!” died Wednesday. He was 88.
Frishberg died in Portland, Oregon, his wife, April Magnusson, confirmed to The New York Times.
An accomplished jazz pianist whose wit resonated with adults, Frishberg’s short, punchy ditties on “Schoolhouse Rock!” made him memorable to a younger generation of listeners with songs like “I’m Just a Bill,” “Dollars and Sense,” “Walking on Wall Street” and “The Number Cruncher.”
He wrote his first published tune, “Peel Me a Grape,” in 1962, Entertainment Weekly reported.
According to Oregon ArtsWatch, Frishberg moved to Los Angeles in 1971, where he worked as a studio musician and wrote his songs, and then moved to Portland in 1986. He was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in 2008, The Oregonian reported.
Frishberg also wrote ballads such as “Do You Miss New York” and “Sweet Kentucky Ham,” and also appealed to baseball fans with his touching “Van Lingle Mungo,” constructed entirely from the names of former major league baseball players, strung together in a sentimental serenade.
David Lee Frishberg was born on March 23, 1933, in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Times reported. He began drawing athletes as a 7-year-old and wanted to become a sports illustrator, but his brother steered him toward jazz and blues records and to the piano, the newspaper reported.
After “Peel Me a Grape,” most notably covered by Blossom Dearie, Frishberg followed up with “I’m Hip” in 1966 and released the album “Oklahoma Toad” in 1970, according to the Times.
Fellow jazz songwriter Bob Dorough invited Frishberg to contribute to “Schoolhouse Rock!” in 1975. His first contribution to the series in its third season was “I’m Just a Bill,” sung by jazz trumpeter-vocalist Jack Sheldon, the Times reported.
Following his success on “Schoolhouse Rock!” in the 1970s, Frishberg released “The Dave Frishberg Songbook, Volume No. 1,” which earned him a Grammy nomination in 1982, Entertainment Weekly reported.
Frishberg would release two more Grammy-nominated albums: 1985′s “Live at Vine Street” and 1987′s “Can’t Take You Nowhere.”
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