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Dave Frishberg, who wrote ‘I’m Just a Bill,’ for Schoolhouse Rock!, dead at 88

“Schoolhouse Rock!” songwriter and musician Dave Frishberg, who penned the iconic tune “I’m Just a Bill” that has been taught to generations of American students, died at the age of 88 on Wednesday.

Frishberg died peacefully at his home in Portland Oregon, his wife April Magnusson confirmed on Thursday. 

The jazz musician, an accomplished singer and pianist, had a long career writing silly, witty songs. His health had declined over the past few years, leading Magnusson to start a GoFundMe campaign to help support his medical bills.

“We are saddened to report that Dave passed away today, after battling illness for several years,” she wrote on Wednesday. “As a result, we are suspending the campaign, but your thoughts and support are always welcome.”

The musician spent most of his life in Los Angeles before he relocated to Portland, Oregon in 1986.
Redferns / Andrew Lepley
School House Rock! logo
Frishberg’s song ‘I’m Just a Bill’ debuted in the program’s third season, describing the country’s legislative process.
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Frishberg was born March 23, 1933 in St. Paul Minnesota, according to The New York Times, who first confirmed the musician’s death. Throughout his childhood he showed a keen interest in drawing as well as jazz and blues music, inspired by his brother Mort, who had been a self-taught pianist.

He later rose to prominence as a regular in New York City’s village music scene as an accomplished pianist. He recorded and published his first tune, “Peel Me a Grape” in 1962, which launched his career after it was covered and made famous by singer Blossom Dearie, the paper said.

An over-the-head view of Frishberg while he plays piano.
Frishberg is survived by Magnusson, his wife of two decades, and his two sons.
Redferns / Andrew Lepley
Frishberg plays the piano
His health had declined over the past few years, leading his wife to start a GoFundMe campaign to help support his medical bills.
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In 1971, he moved to Los Angeles to write songs for  “The Funny Side,” an NBC variety show starring Gene Kelly, the Times reported. He was then invited to work on Schoolhouse Rock! by fellow jazz musician and former collaborator Bob Dorough.

The musician spent most of his life in Los Angeles before he relocated to Portland, Oregon in 1986, where he worked with singer Rebecca Kilgore.

“I’m Just a Bill,” is an educational civics song for the animated “School House Rock!” program that explains the legislative process of the United States. The song premiered in 1976 during the program’s third season and has remained a staple in social studies classrooms around the country.

Frishberg is survived by Magnusson, his wife of two decades, and his two sons.

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