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Richard M. Sherman, who fueled Disney's charm in Mary Poppins and It's a Small World, has died at 95

Richard M. Sherman, who fueled Disney's charm in Mary Poppins and It's a Small World, has died at 95


By MARK KENNEDY (AP Entertainment Writer)

NEW YORK (AP) — Richard M. Sherman, one half of the prolific and award-winning pair of brothers who helped shape millions of childhoods by writing the instantly memorable songs of “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book” and “Chitty Chitty.” Bang Bang” – as well as the most played song on Earth, “It’s a Small World (After All)” – has passed away. He was 95 years old.

Sherman and his late brother Robert won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney's hit 1964 film “Mary Poppins” — best score and best song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” They also won a Grammy for Best Film or Television Score. Robert Sherman died in London aged 86 in 2012.

The Walt Disney Co. said Sherman died Saturday at a Los Angeles hospital from an age-related illness. “Generations of movie fans and theme park guests have been introduced to the world of Disney through the beautiful and timeless songs of the Sherman Brothers. Even today, the duo's work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney,” the company said in a statement on its website.

Their hundreds of credits as a lyricist and composer also include the films “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Slipper and the Rose,” “Snoopy Come Home,” “Charlotte's Web” and “The Magic of Lassie.” Their Broadway musicals included “Over Here!” » from 1974. and stagings of “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in the mid-2000s.

“Something good happens when we sit down together and work,” Richard Sherman told the Associated Press in a joint interview in 2005. “We've been doing this all our lives. Almost since university, we have worked together.

Their accolades include 23 gold and platinum albums and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They became the only Americans to win the top prize at the Moscow Film Festival for “Tom Sawyer” in 1973 and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.

President George W. Bush awarded them the National Medal of Arts in 2008, praising them for their music that “helped bring joy to millions of people.”

Most of the songs the Shermans wrote – aside from being catchy and fun – work on multiple levels for different ages, something they learned from Disney.

“He told us one day, at the start of our career: “Don't insult the child, don't write to the child. And don't just write for adults. So we’re writing for Grandpa and the 4-year-old – and everyone in between – and we’re all seeing it on a different level,” Richard Sherman said.

The Shermans began a decade-long partnership with Disney in the 1960s after writing hit pop songs like “Tall Paul” for ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and “You're Sixteen,” later recorded by Ringo Starr.

They wrote more than 150 songs for Disney, including the soundtracks for films such as “The Sword and the Stone”, “The Parent Trap”, “Bed Knobs and Broomsticks”, “The Jungle Book”, “The Aristocrats” and “The Tigger Movie”. .”

“It’s a Small World” – which takes guests on a boat ride through Disney theme parks sung by animatronic dolls representing world cultures – is considered the most performed composition in the world. It was first displayed on the pavilion ride at the New York World's Fair in 1964-65.

Both brothers credit their father, composer Al Sherman, with challenging them to write songs and their love of creating words. His legacy of songs includes “You Gotta Be a Football Hero,” “(What Do We Do On a) Dew-Dew-Dewy Day,” and “On the Beach at Bali-Bali.” His sons later popularized the terms “spooky” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

The Shermans took inspiration from each other's songs, brainstorming titles and then trying to outdo each other with improvements. “As brothers, we kind of shorten ourselves,” Richard Sherman said. “We can almost look at each other and know, 'Hey, you're onto something, kid.'”

Away from the piano, the two men raised a family and pursued their own interests, while living near each other in Beverly Hills and continuing to work into their 70s. When “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” came to Broadway in 2005, they added new lyrics and four new songs.

Richard Sherman is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children: Gregory and Victoria. He is also survived by a daughter, Lynda, from a previous marriage.

A private funeral will be held Friday; Disney said a celebration of life service would be announced later.

Although they were separated for several years, the brothers largely avoided sibling rivalry. When asked about it, Richard Sherman was at once philosophical, touching and pleasant – much like the trunkload of songs he wrote with his brother.

“We are human. We have fragilities and weaknesses. But we love each other a lot and respect each other,” he said. “I’m happy he’s a successful guy. This makes me a successful guy.


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