upper waypoint

Bob McGrath, Longtime Star of 'Sesame Street,' Dies at 90

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A man in a suit and bowtie waves to the camera in a dark room
Bob McGrath is seen at the 2010 AFTRA AMEE Awards in 2010. McGrath, the longtime, original cast member of the iconic children’s show ‘Sesame Street,’ died on Sunday. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images for AFTRA)

Bob McGrath, an actor and recording artist who was an original cast member on Sesame Street, died on Sunday. He was 90.

McGrath died of complications from a stroke, his daughter Cat McGrath confirmed to NPR.

The actor’s death was announced by family members on social media: “He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family,” read the post on McGrath’s Facebook page.

McGrath, one of Sesame Street‘s first human cast members who starred in the children’s television show 1969 pilot, became a show regular for nearly five decades, playing the friendly neighbor character Bob Johnson, alongside Big Bird and a host of other beloved Muppets.

Sesame Workshop shared a statement on social media mourning “a beloved member of the Sesame Street family for over 50 years.”


“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 said on Twitter.

Born in Ottawa, Ill., McGrath studied music at the University of Michigan and, later, the Manhattan School of Music. McGrath was a veteran performer by the time Sesame Street recruited him. In 1962, NBC brought on the tenor singer to perform as part of Mitch Miller’s family-friendly ensemble TV show, Sing Along With Mitch. After the show was canceled two years later, McGrath continued to sing with the group, holding down a residency at Las Vegas’ Desert Inn. He took his talents on tour in Japan, where he found a fervent teenage fanbase, according to the biography page on his website.

A parade float with a Sesame Street theme moves down Broadway in New York City
Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath waves to the crowd while riding on a float during the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. The longtime, original cast member of the iconic children’s show died on Sunday.
(Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

It was Dave Connell, a fellow University of Michigan alum who worked as a producer for Captain Kangaroo before executive producing Sesame Street, who approached McGrath about auditioning for the kids show.

McGrath, who hoped instead to break into the U.S. teenage market with his own show, according to his site, had no interest in working on a children’s program at first.

But after he was shown tapes of Muppets creator Jim Henson’s work, he told a crowd at a 2016 convention in Florida, he was “totally blown away.”

“I thought, to heck with that teenage thing, this is what I want to do,” he said. “Because it was obvious from the very, very beginning this was going to be a very unique and incredible show.”

In 2017, Sesame Workshop cut McGrath and two other longtime cast members from the show, deciding not to renew their contracts. In response to the cast shakeup, the Workshop had pointed to its need to constantly adapt its content to children’s educational needs.

Although McGrath ended his run on the show that year, he continued to make public appearances tied to Sesame Street, including his feature in the 2021 HBO documentary Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.

McGrath, a father to five children and a grandfather to eight, is survived by his wife Ann Sperry.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

lower waypoint
next waypoint
Kehlani, E-40, P-Lo to Celebrate Golden State Valkyries at SF Block Party10 Free Concerts Not to Miss in the Bay Area This Summer8 Refreshing Bay Area Boba Shops to Help Beat the Summer HeatA Battle Between Science and Religion, With Galileo Caught in the MiddleAmid Upheaval, a New CEO Steps in at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts8 Bay Area Animal Adventures to Make Your Summer More WildBay Area Music Festivals and Outdoor Concerts for Summer 2024Seals, Foraging and Buffalo Soft Serve: 5 NorCal Summer Day TripsThe San Francisco Couple Whose Lifelong Love Changed AmericaThe Return of East Oakland’s Menudo King