Sesame Street have led tributes to “beloved” original cast member Bob McGrath, who has died aged 90, having been featured on the show for more than 50 years.
The actor and musician’s family confirmed McGrath, who was one of the first non-Muppet regular characters on the US children’s show, died peacefully at his home via a statement on his official Facebook page.
Playing Bob Johnson, McGrath joined Sesame Street when it first premiered in 1969 and became known as the friendly neighbour to numerous puppet characters including Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Elmo.
McGrath made his final appearance in Sesame Street back in 2017, marking an almost five-decade-long career in the franchise.
“Sesame Workshop mourns the passing of Bob McGrath, a beloved member of the Sesame Street family for over 50 years,” a statement from the non-profit educational organisation behind the show read.
“A founding cast member, 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 neighbourhood, or the simple joy of feeling music in their hearts.
“A revered performer worldwide, Bob’s rich tenor filled airwaves and concert halls from Las Vegas to Saskatchewan to Tokyo many times over.
“We will be forever grateful for his many years of passionate creative contributions to Sesame Street and honoured that he shared so much of his life with us.”
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The daughter of Sesame Street actor and producer Matt Robinson, Holly Robinson Peete, also shared a tribute to McGrath on social media, saying the news has her “wrecked”.
She said: “The nicest, sweetest, kindest man. The first time my brother and I got to be on Sesame Street we had this scene with him. Rest in peace, Bob McGrath. You were so loved all over the world.”
McGrath grew up in Illinois, going on to study music at the University of Michigan. In the 1960s he was a singer in the series Sing Along With Mitch, and launched a successful music career in Japan.
He is survived by his wife, Ann Logan Sperry, and their five children.