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Beloved 'Sesame Street' actor Bob McGrath dies at 90

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the original cast members of TV's "Sesame Street" has died. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on Bob McGrath, who was 90 years old when he passed away at his home in New Jersey.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Generations of children remember Bob McGrath as one of the friendly grownups who gave lessons to and sang with the Muppets on "Sesame Street."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SESAME STREET")

BOB MCGRATH: (Singing, as Bob) Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood? Say, who are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day?

DEL BARCO: Bob embodied the melodies of "Sesame Street" like no one else, the Sesame Street Workshop said in a statement, calling McGrath a beloved member of its family for more than 50 years. He first appeared in the pilot of the PBS children's show in 1969 as Bob Johnson. McGrath was born in 1932 in Ottawa, Ill., and studied at the Manhattan School of Music. He made his singing debut in 1962 with the wholesome Mitch Miller Ensemble. He performed pop standards in Las Vegas. And in Japan, he became a teen sensation. But it was "Sesame Street" that was his highlight, as he told the Television Academy's Archive of American Television in 2004.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MCGRATH: Knowing the impact that the show has had on millions of kids all of the world has to be the most gratifying thing that anyone could possibly hope for.

DEL BARCO: Fans were outraged in 2016 when HBO took over "Sesame Street" and fired McGrath and two other longtime cast members. He had made a mark on those who grew up learning to count and spell and sing with them on TV.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.