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Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter

Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 04:33 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 04:38 PM
DebC 07 Mar 12 - 05:39 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Mar 12 - 07:35 PM
ChanteyLass 07 Mar 12 - 11:26 PM
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open mike 09 Mar 12 - 12:23 PM
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ChanteyLass 10 Mar 12 - 12:46 AM
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Subject: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 04:33 PM

Beware of earworms resulting from memories of Robert B. Sherman's songs...

~ Becky in Tucson

Robert B. Sherman, a Songwriter for Disney and Others, Dies at 86

New York Times
March 6, 2012

Robert B. Sherman, half of the fraternal songwriting team that wrote the ubiquitous paean to togetherness, "It's a Small World (After All)", and that in films like "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" etched dozens of tunes and volumes of lyrics into the permanent memories of generations of children and their parents, died Tuesday in London. He was 86.

His death was confirmed by his son Jeffrey.

Mr. Sherman and his brother, Richard M. Sherman, were known for perky tunes and generally cheery lyrics, and their best-loved songs became standards of family entertainment, though their own difficult relationship was marked by decades of strain and periods of estrangement.

They won two Academy Awards — for "Chim Chim Cher-ee," a chimney sweep's proud anthem from "Mary Poppins," the celebrated 1964 film about a nanny with magical powers, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, and for the film's score, which included the nonsense song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," the spirited theory of child-rearing "A Spoonful of Sugar," and "Feed the Birds," a ballad that extols caring for other creatures, said to be a favorite of Walt Disney, their longtime boss.

The Sherman brothers worked side by side at the Disney studio from the early 1960s into the 1970s, producing songs for several movie musicals, both live-action and animated — "The Jungle Book," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Sword in the Stone," "The Aristocats" and "The Happiest Millionaire" — as well as short cartoons based on A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

After Disney died, in 1966, they also wrote the songs for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," produced by Albert R. Broccoli, a film, jovial but with a hint of World War II darkness, about the inventor of a flying car. Adapted for the stage with new Sherman brothers songs, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" opened in London's West End in 2002 and ran for more than three years; it was also on Broadway for eight months in 2005. The stage adaptation of "Mary Poppins" opened in London in 2004 and ran for more than three years; it is now in its sixth year on Broadway.

Both brothers took credit for words and music, though Robert was primarily the word man and Richard, who would sit at the piano as they worked, primarily the music guy.

"Their standard line," Jeffrey Sherman said, "was 'I write the words and music and he writes the music and words.' "

All the while they were immersed in a sibling rivalry and personality clash that eventually divided them and their families. Richard, the younger brother by two and a half years, was the more single-minded of the two, devoted to songwriting and little else; he was also known to have a blustery temper. Robert, who survived a harrowing war experience, had more of a wide-ranging curiosity, more of a poet's probing mind. Friends made parallels to Paul McCartney and John Lennon; Robert was the brooder, the Lennon of the two.

In "The Boys" — a 2009 documentary about the brothers made by Jeffrey Sherman and Gregg Sherman, Richard's son — Walt Disney's nephew Roy, a former top executive at the Walt Disney Company, said that the difference could be seen in two of their songs from "Mary Poppins": Richard was more "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," Robert more "Feed the Birds."

In any case, though they continued to work together off and on and feigned closeness in public, they rarely spoke, their families did not socialize and the broken relationship was barely ever mentioned, even in private.

"We've perpetrated a facade for 50 years," Richard Sherman said in the documentary.

Robert Bernard Sherman was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 19, 1925. His father, Al, came to this country with his family, Russian Jews who fled the pogroms, and became a Tin Pan Alley composer; he married Rosa Dancis, a silent film actress.

The family moved to Southern California when Robert was still a boy; he went to high school in Beverly Hills and at 17 enlisted in the Army. He served in Europe, was shot through the knee, awarded a Purple Heart and bore witness to the horrors of Dachau.

After the war, both he and his brother attended Bard College in upstate New York, where Robert studied literature and Richard studied music. It was after graduation, when they were sharing an apartment in Los Angeles, one brother trying to write stories and novels and the other trying to write symphonies, that their father issued them a challenge: "I'll bet you two guys couldn't pool your talents and come up with a song that some kid would give up his lunch money to buy."

The sons took the bet and eventually came up with a song, "Gold Can Buy Anything (but Love)," that was recorded by Gene Autry. In 1959, their teeny-bopper tune "Tall Paul," written with Bob Roberts, became a hit for Annette Funicello.

The brothers went on to write a handful of songs for Disney, films in the early 1960s, including "The Parent Trap," and one day Walt Disney called them to his office and gave them a book by P. L. Travers about a magical nanny named Mary Poppins.

"He said, 'Do you know what a nanny is?' " Robert Sherman recalled. "And we said, 'Yeah, a goat.' "

The two songwriters came back with ideas for organizing the film's story as well as for several songs, and Disney offered them a job.

Mr. Sherman's wife, the former Joyce Ruth Sasner, who was a stewardess when he proposed to her on their first date and whom he married in 1954, died in 2001. After her death, Mr. Sherman moved to London. In addition to his brother and his son Jeffrey, he is survived by another son, Robert; two daughters, Laurie and Tracy; five grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.

Among many other credits, the Sherman brothers wrote screenplays and scores for the films "Tom Sawyer" (1973) and "Huckleberry Finn" (1974) and songs for "Charlotte's Web" (1973). They also wrote non-film songs, including "You're Sixteen," which was recorded by Johnny Burnette in 1960 and became a No. 1 hit for Ringo Starr in 1974. Perhaps their most listened-to song, "It's a Small World (After All)," made its debut at the 1964 World's Fair and, in a variety of translations, is played in continuous loops at Disney theme parks.

In the documentary, Jeffrey Sherman summed up the relationship between his father and his brother: "In life, not everything turns out like a Sherman brothers musical."

In an interview on Tuesday he added: "My father had a lot of weight on him when he came back from the war. All he wanted to do with his life was make people happy, and I think he did that."

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 04:38 PM

Disney Songwriter Robert Sherman Has Died

Elizabeth Blair
National Public Radio
March 6, 2012

Robert Sherman — one half of the songwriting team behind Disney movies and major hit musicals — has died. He was 86. The Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers, Robert and Richard, wrote some of the most enduring Disney songs of all time. Their output was astounding: Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Aristocats.

John Lasseter, of Pixar and Disney, once said, "You cannot forget a Sherman brothers song for your life."

Robert and Richard Sherman apparently didn't always get along, but professionally they were in sync. "There was no sibling rivalry when it came to writing," said Robert. In an interview with reporter Jeff Lunden, the brothers talked about the inspiration behind one of their most famous songs. Robert's son had just been given the polio vaccine.

"I said, 'Oh, did it hurt?' " Robert remembered. "He said, 'Oh, no — they just put some medicine on a lump of sugar and you eat it. Nothin'.' "

A lump of sugar.

"Next day," said Richard, "he came into the office and he said, 'I think I've got a title.' I said, 'What is it?' 'Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down.' I said, 'That is the worst thing I have ever heard in my life!' Of course, I snapped out of it right away. I said, 'No, no, no, it's absolutely fantastic, it's great, it's great, let's do that!' "

The Sherman Brothers were self-described Anglophiles, which might explain why their music and lyrics worked so well in stories set in England. They studied classical music when they were young. Their mother was an actress, and their father was a popular songwriter. He once told his sons the rule of the "Three S's": Keep it singable, simple and sincere. Boy, did they listen.

Robert Sherman died in London. He is survived by his younger brother Richard and four children.


Listen to an assortment of favorites chosen by NPR staffers here.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: DebC
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 05:39 PM

I wrote about Robert Sherman on my blog . I had an interesting experience with one of their songs when I was a kid.

Deb Cowan

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 07:35 PM

That's a great story, Deb!

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 07 Mar 12 - 11:26 PM

I agree with Becky.
As a child I knew that when a Disney movie came out, the songs would be written by the Shermans, I was the kind of child (and adult) who would sit through the credits so I could find out who did the important things. It seemed like they wrote all the Disney songs forever. Wikipedia has an article on the brothers here:

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 08 Mar 12 - 12:20 AM

Robert Sherman dies at 86; songwriter best known for 'Mary Poppins'
Robert Sherman and his writing-partner brother Richard won Academy Awards for their work on 'Mary Poppins' and contributed songs and scores to many other films.

By Dennis McLellan and Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times
March 7, 2012

At the Academy Awards ceremony in 1965, Robert and Richard Sherman already had accepted their Oscar for best score for "Mary Poppins" when they returned to the stage to pick up another statuette for best song, "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

Having already thanked everyone, Robert Sherman told the audience that all they could add was "Supercalifragilistic...." Then, as often happened when they spoke, Richard Sherman completed his brother's sentence by saying, "expialidocious."

The tongue-twister of a song title from the blockbuster 1964 Disney musical powerfully reminded viewers that the brothers wrote irresistibly upbeat songs that spoke to everyday people.

As film critic Leonard Maltin told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday: "You can't help but smile when you sing or hum a Sherman brothers song."

On Monday, Robert Sherman, who grew up and lived most of his life in Beverly Hills, died at the London Clinic of an age-related illness, his family said. He was 86.

The Shermans were Walt Disney's songwriters of choice, their music for "Mary Poppins" including the jaunty "A Spoonful of Sugar" and the somber "Feed the Birds." For Disneyland attractions, the brothers wrote such instantly familiar tunes as "It's a Small World" and "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room."

"My brother Bob was a poetic soul with limitless imagination and talent," Richard Sherman said in a statement. "He was my loyal friend all through the years."

"A piece of our childhood has been taken away," film music historian Jon Burlingame said. "They wrote some of the most resonant songs of our childhood, and that doesn't apply only to those of us who grew up in the 1960s but also to those born ever since."

Their career milestone came with "Mary Poppins," the tale of an English nanny and her unruly charges starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

The Shermans already had done work for the Disney Studio, including writing the 1959 hit "Tall Paul" for Annette Funicello, when Disney handed them a small book by British author P.L. Travers in 1960.

He told them to read it and tell him what they thought.

"We said it would make the greatest musical fantasy of all time," Richard Sherman recalled in a 1993 joint Houston Chronicle interview with his brother. "Of course, that book was 'Mary Poppins.' So we underlined some chapters that we felt were really musical. And when we showed Walt our notes and played the song sketches, he pulled out his book, and he'd underlined the very same chapters."

It was, Robert said, "one of the greatest feelings we've ever had."

Van Dyke recalled that the Sherman brothers were "deeply involved" throughout the filming of "Mary Poppins."

"They were always on the set helping Julie and I with our interpretation of the songs," he told The Times on Tuesday. "They had a lot to do with the atmosphere, the lightness."

The two brothers, Van Dyke said, "were opposite ends of the pole as far as their personalities were concerned. Robert was the somber one. He kept within himself. Dick was gregarious and outgoing and loves to perform.

"As songwriters, they were a perfect combination. The emotion was Robert and the fun was Dick's part. They were made by God for Walt Disney. They somehow managed to convey Walt's meaning in those songs."

Explaining their approach to songwriting in a 1969 interview with The Times, Robert Sherman said: "We don't like the dark side of things, and we want only to entertain people. We like singable songs as opposed to, say, performers' songs. We don't write for someone, we write for everyone."

Disney, who died in 1966, was especially fond of "Feed the Birds," which he predicted would replace Brahms' Lullaby and which reportedly caused him to cry every time he heard it.

When the brothers walked into Disney's studio office the day after the ceremony, with their Oscars in hand, the film legend gave them a characteristically restrained response.

As Robert Sherman recalled in a 1992 Times interview, Disney told them: "The bases were loaded, we hit a home run and that's great. From now on, just try to get on base."

Robert Sherman's son Jeff said the brothers "walked in on a cloud" and Disney, who had a warm relationship with them, was just trying to keep them humble.

"I'm sure he smiled as they left," Jeff Sherman said Tuesday.

The Sherman brothers contributed songs and scores to many other Disney films, including "The Parent Trap," "That Darn Cat!," "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree," "The Gnome-Mobile," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats" and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks."

They also wrote "It's a Small World (After All") for an attraction at the 1964 New York World's Fair, a tune heard repeatedly at Disney theme parks.

Among the other films they later provided music and songs for are "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Snoopy Come Home," "Charlotte's Web," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Slipper and the Rose."

In addition to their two Oscar wins, the Sherman brothers received seven other Academy Award nominations and won three Grammy Awards. [LA Times correction: In fact, they were nominated three times but won only once, for best original score written for a motion picture or television show, for "Mary Poppins."] They also received 24 gold and platinum albums and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame — as well as receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"The Sherman brothers' legacy goes far beyond the craft of songwriting," multiple Oscar-winning composer-songwriter Alan Menken said in a statement. "There is magic in their songs and in the films and musicals they breathed life into."

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded the Sherman brothers the National Medal of Arts for creating music that "has helped bring joy to millions."

The son of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman, Robert was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 19, 1925; his brother Richard was born June 12, 1928. The family moved to Beverly Hills in the early '30s when the senior Sherman got a job writing songs for the movies.

Robert Sherman served in the Army during World War II. He was one of the first American soldiers to enter the Dachau concentration camp and later had his kneecap shattered by a Nazi bullet. He recovered in hospitals in England, where he moved in 2002 after the death of his wife, Joyce.

After the brothers teamed up, their first song to be recorded was "Gold Can Buy You Anything But Love" for Gene Autry in 1951. They later wrote Johnny Burnette's 1960 hit "You're Sixteen."

As for how they divided writing the words and the music for their songs, the brothers' standard reply was, "He writes the words and the music, and I write the music and the words."

Jeff Sherman said, "Richard was primarily the composer and Robert was primarily the lyricist, but they both did both."

Despite their long and close working relationship, the Sherman brothers didn't socialize for a couple of decades.

"Bob and I have great love and respect for one another, and during our professional lives we maintained a facade of unity," Richard Sherman told the Toronto Star in 2009 when the documentary "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story" was released.

"But in order to keep working together we came to an agreement to live our personal lives apart, completely separate," he said. "We were comfortable working together, but otherwise it would have been explosive."

The documentary came about after Robert's son, Jeff, and Richard's son, Greg, connected at the 2002 London opening of the stage version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." The cousins said they hoped the film would make the public more aware of the professional contributions of the Sherman brothers and start a personal dialogue between their fathers.

"So many personal details are hidden in their songs," Greg Sherman said in the Toronto Star. "And for such different personalities, they really had a lot in common: It's impossible to tell who wrote the music and who wrote the lyrics.

"We are different people," Richard Sherman said in the 2009 article. "In the broadest terms, Bob is an introvert who wanted to write great novels, and I was the showman. I loved to perform and he'd rather sit in a corner reading a book."

But, he said: "Success and creativity won out over petty differences. There was no way we were going to let those differences destroy our work."

Besides his brother, Sherman is survived by his four children, Jeff, Robert, Laurie and Tracy; and five grandchildren.

A public funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Mar 12 - 11:01 AM

Morris dancing (kinda) in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?? It's been a long time since I watched it... never made the connection, but Alan Winston did on Facebook. The mind boggles.

on YouTube

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: open mike
Date: 09 Mar 12 - 12:23 PM


There was a bluegrass band that re-introduced "Man Cub" song but here is the version by Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy...I Wanna Be Like You--

these brothers influenced generations with their music!

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: open mike
Date: 09 Mar 12 - 01:35 PM

here is the acoustic version of Man the way backs band

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 09 Mar 12 - 01:36 PM

(I find there have been other Mudcat references to the CCBB morris scene.)

I'm kind of surprised this thread is so thin, but people probably don't recognize the name and realize his scope of influence. I wouldn't have, if I didn't read the first obit. My parents were not big Disney fans, but we saw Mary Poppins and had the record, I saw CCBB many times on TV, and of course so much of that music was just out there.

And that's to say nothing of "You're Sixteen"...

~ Becky in Tucson

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: ChanteyLass
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 12:46 AM

If you are correct that others may not recognize the name of Robert Sherman (are they thinking Bobby Sherman-I might have opened a thread about him, too), well, it is their loss, but I prefer to think that other Disney fans (for themselves or their children) read this thread but had nothing to post. Also, many of my family members would never look at Mudcat because they are not folk fans but they bought the DVDs for their children.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 12:55 AM

Whoops - what was I thinking? The "morris dancing" scene video I linked was Mary Poppins, of course. My friend posted something from each and my mind mashed them together, somehow.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 10:44 AM

Next morning - what was I thinking last night? It was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: open mike
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 11:42 AM

Today there was an interview on the radio with a fellow who has written a sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Robert B. Sherman, Disney songwriter
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 10 Mar 12 - 12:19 PM

I heard that -- it sounded good.

~ Becky in Tucson

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