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There is just one moon and one golden sun
March 6, 2012 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Robert Sherman passed away yesterday at the age of 86. Robert, along with his brother Richard Sherman, was a Disney legend. Together, they wrote the songs of "Mary Poppins", "The Parent Trap", "Bedknobs and Broomsticks", "The Jungle Book", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and of cousre, "It's A Small World."

Mr. Sherman also established the Robert Sherman Scholarship at BMI, which awards $1,000 to a promising student of musical theatre.

The Sherman brothers won two Academy Awards (nine nominations), two Grammy Awards, and had 23 gold and platinum albums. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Robert Sherman recalled, "The point of the song - that it doesn't take much to give a little kindness - was what really registered with Walt."
posted by roomthreeseventeen (46 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
He and his brother were an incredible team. These are the guys who wrote "I Want to be Like you" and "Trust in Me" for the Jungle Book. And even "Snoopy Come Home". The soundtrack for my childhood!
posted by vacapinta at 6:37 AM on March 6, 2012



posted by jquinby at 6:42 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now, as the ladder of life 'as been strung
You might think a sweep's on the bottommost rung
Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke
In this 'ole wide world there's no 'appier bloke

goodbye :)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:42 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


He and Richard have colonized a whole lot of my brain. I'm sure I could sing through a frighteningly large amount of their catalog right now, without looking anything up to refresh my memory. Very catchy, a great breadth of style and approach. And songs like "Feed the Birds" can still get me verklempt. I think that speaks of tremendous talent.
posted by theatro at 6:44 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the music


posted by ZeusHumms at 6:44 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gone, but, since "It's A Small World" is graven into the brains of millions, never ever forgotten....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:49 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by the_bone at 6:52 AM on March 6, 2012


since "It's A Small World" is graven into the brains of millions, never ever forgotten....

My lighting-designer friend just finished a big week-long project for Disney Corporate, working on the dog-and-pony show surrounding the launch of a new ship in the Disney Cruise Line. Three days in and he was begging everyone for help getting "It's A Small World" out of his head.

I will tip both my own cap and my friend's to Mr. Sherman (as I think my friend is holed up with all his Tom Waits and Frank Zappa albums trying to eradicate the earworms).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on March 6, 2012


I still can't sing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang without messing up.
posted by swift at 6:55 AM on March 6, 2012


The Documentary "The Boys" is a great look at the troubled relationship between the brothers and exactly how much great music they created. "Feed the Birds" was Walt Disney's favorite song of theirs - according to the documentary, he would come down to the Sherman Brothers' office and say "play the song, boys" - and they always knew which one he meant.

They also did the songs for the Hanna Barbera "Charlotte's Web" - and those songs are permanently embedded in my brain from how many times my oldest son wanted to watch that movie as a child.

Watching the documentary, it's amazing how much of my youth's musical memory was written by these two men...
posted by jkosmicki at 6:56 AM on March 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think as a kid, "Feed The Birds" was the first bit of music that made me cry - the setting, visuals, melody, etc.
posted by jquinby at 6:59 AM on March 6, 2012


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posted by Faint of Butt at 7:03 AM on March 6, 2012


Oh you pretty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four-fendered friend

posted by mightygodking at 7:05 AM on March 6, 2012


I forgot to mention my favorite Sherman brothers song in the OP, written for the 1964 World's Fair.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

So there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Just a dream away
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:06 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another zombie has been locked in the Disney vault. (Sorry - but I visited the Legends of Disney site and the cheap bastards used the same biography for Richard and Robert Sherman).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2012


Not to derail too much, but I really hated what Disney did to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". They drain all of the danger and excitement out of it (it was written by Ian Fleming after all) and turned it into mush. And this is my 11 year-old self speaking, not my adult self.

OTOH, they did write some great music, the Jungle Book stuff was brilliant. And I loved Ringo Starr's take on "You're Sixteen." Enough bubble-gum to be a pop hit, but with that ironic detachment looking back on things like strawberry wine.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2012


Gone, but, since "It's A Small World" is graven into the brains of millions, never ever forgotten....

If I were told, by whatever comes to collect my soul at the end, that I would be remembered by one person as much as "It's a Small World" is remembered by everyone, I would consider my life to have been successful.
posted by Etrigan at 7:45 AM on March 6, 2012


°o°
posted by eriko at 7:46 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to derail too much, but I really hated what Disney did to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

Disney didn't do anything to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". The film was produced by a company called "Dramatic Features"
posted by briank at 7:47 AM on March 6, 2012


CheeseDigestsAll: Actually, despite Dick van Dyke and the Sherman Brothers' involvement (which does makes it seem pretty similar to the Disney live-action fare of the period), CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG wasn't a Disney movie -- it was produced by Albert Broccoli (who also produced the James Bond films). As far as the adaptation goes, it was done by Roald Dahl, no slouch himself in the children's lit department (but who later on would himself would have serious issues with how people adapted his work for film).

But back to the Sherman Brothers -- I love the Portobello Road sequence in BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. How many musical genres can they fit into one eight-minute sequence? ("A lot" is the answer.)
posted by orthicon halo at 7:49 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I will never forget the sight and sound of Julie Andrews singing "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down" when I was a small child.

There is an interview with the Sherman Brothers at the end of the disc on my copy of the Mary Poppins soundtrack. What I remember is 1.) the best songs always had one key lyrical and musical phrase to begin and then everything else is built around it and the example they cite is spoonful of sugar and 2.) Walt Disney fussed at them daily when they were writing the tracks and 3.) they sounded like they were far happier in that interview than just about anybody you ever heard being interviewed.
posted by bukvich at 8:03 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, thanks for the correction. It must have been Dick van Dyke that made me put the blame on Disney. And, yeah, the involvement of Roald Dahl is ironic given his darker tendencies.

As penance, I'll go sit in a Maru-sized box. Because (to return to Mr Sherman's work), Everybody Wants to be a Cat.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I forgot to mention my favorite Sherman brothers song in the OP, written for the 1964 World's Fair. [...]

And still going strong at Disney World's The Carousel of Progress! Even if it is surreally dated I love the optimism of that ride and song, an American Century that never ends...
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 8:14 AM on March 6, 2012


And still going strong at Disney World's The Carousel of Progress! Even if it is surreally dated I love the optimism of that ride and song, an American Century that never ends...

Totally agreed. I was last at the CoP in January, and there were three of us in the "performance". Had I been alone, I probably would have sang along.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:21 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Walt and the Sherman Brothers singing There's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow from the World's Fair


posted by frijole at 8:22 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Totally agreed. I was last at the CoP in January, and there were three of us in the "performance". Had I been alone, I probably would have sang along.

I always sing along, the more the merrier.
posted by frijole at 8:22 AM on March 6, 2012



posted by gray17 at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2012


Jan Berenstain, Davy Jones and now Robert Sherman. So many losses in such a short time.

Richard and Robert Sherman were also responsible for the songs from one of my favorite films of all time The Happiest Millionaire along with "One Little Spark" the song for Journey Into Imagination at EPCOT.
posted by BrianJ at 8:48 AM on March 6, 2012


My five year old son just saw Mary Poppins for the first time. And the second time, and the third time, and I think as of yesterday the fourth time.

Thanks guys for bringing a whole lot of happiness into the world.
posted by alms at 8:49 AM on March 6, 2012


Thanks for the post...I did not know who wrote the songs for all the films which were - and still are - among my favorites. And the Carousel of Progress was one of my favorite rides, along with the Journey to Inner Space. If there's a heaven, then they've finally all reunited with Mary Blair, and I'm sure it's going to be a "great big, beautiful" place.

.

I even liked It's a Small World...
posted by foonly at 8:53 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bang Bang had amazing productions, memorable characters and fun music. I wish to claim now that it has been unfarily maligned.
posted by PHINC at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2012


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posted by rahnefan at 9:32 AM on March 6, 2012



Aww, man.

The songs the Sherman brothers wrote for the Disney theme parks are the very definition of earworms. Most of them capture a time when we had so much hope for the future and they're all utterly charming.

There is an earnest belief that the brave new world of SCIENCE! and PROGRESS! will lead us to utopia on display in songs like the aforementioned Great, Big Beautiful Tomorrow from the Carousel of Progress. (Here's the original 1964 version if you'd like it to sound a little more whitebread than it already does.)

You can actually see them scale back the ambition of the sentiment when they moved the Carousel of Progress from Disneyland to Walt Disney World. In 1974, they wrote The Best Time of Your Life (aka Now is the Time). It's still a catchy song, but nothing beats the original (which was put back in place when they updated the ride in 1994, adding a final scene taking place in "the future" where the ubiquity of voice-activation leads to amazing lines like "Christmas tree lights, 30% brighter!").

If you really want your daily dose of retro-futurism, here's Miracles from Molecules (that name!) from Adventure Thru Inner Space. Such hope! Its sentiment came true, but we'll never appreciate it as much as this song does.

Their boundless optimism extended to mankind itself: here the Sherman Brothers explain the creation of "it's a small world". The song is a "prayer for peace" with the added benefit that once you hear it, you cannot escape it.

Fun fact: The Sherman Brothers claim that it's the most performed and translated song of all-time. "Since 1983, there has not been a moment when "It's A Small World" wasn't playing in at least two locations on the globe. Who else can claim that?"

Then you've got gems like:

One Little Spark from the original Imagination Pavilion at Epcot, a love song to our imagination.

Makin' Memories, an ode to photography played before the Magic Journeys film (which also featured the Sherman brothers' Magic Journeys which is not so much an earworm as an inducement to sleep).

And, of course, The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room, probably my favorite. Infectious joy.

Oh, and technically these are featured in a ride: they also wrote Winnie the Pooh and The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers!

Finally, here's something from the backwaters of the Sherman Brothers theme park catalogue:

The Astuter Computer Revue, infamously the first attraction to be removed from EPCOT Center (now Epcot), it was hosted by a singing, dancing cockney hologram (you read that right) who would show you the amazing computers that powered Epcot. The show featured this charming song by the Sherman Brothers that, one might argue, did not capture the futuristic world it detailed.
posted by unsupervised at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Most recently they contributed a song to the film Iron Man 2

The link incorrectly gives the credit to the film's composer John Debney. In the first few moments of the song, you just intrinsically KNOW it is a Sherman Brothers song!
posted by Quasimike at 9:58 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I realize an obituary is a very good reason for the mention, but I've long thought there should be a rule about mentioning That Extremely Catchy and Somewhat Shrill Song That Goes With The International-Themed Ride, due to the massive productivity hit it creates by temporarily taking over the brains of whoever reads its title.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2012


In addition to "The Parent Trap" theme, they also wrote the bigger earworm of that movie, "Let's Get Together". The Parent Trap DVD has a special feature about how the brothers wrote those songs. They had written a song for Annette Funicello in some other capacity, and they were brought in to write songs for Parent Trap. The Parent Trap was their first Disney film, I think, which obviously led to all their other fantastic songs for Disney.

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posted by sarahnade at 10:18 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by Spatch at 10:55 AM on March 6, 2012


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posted by Meatafoecure at 10:57 AM on March 6, 2012


"I Wanna Be Like You", as covered by the Morning Benders.
posted by gimonca at 11:06 AM on March 6, 2012


When I was about eight my family went camping by the big, muddy Hords Creek Reservoir. My parents fished; my big sister and I swam and chased frogs. But our favorite sisterly activity was splashing in circles as we clung to each other / tried to dunk each other, spluttering and singing at the top of our lungs, "Bobbing along, bobbing along, on the bottom of the BEAUTIFUL BRIIIINY SEEEEEEEEAA!"

My parents probably didn't find this as repeatedly hilarious as sis and I did.

.
to the Sherman Brothers, thanks for enabling many excellent song cues to turn life into a musical.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:19 AM on March 6, 2012


Always loved this songwriting duo. One thing I was heartbroken to learn is that the two brothers basically had barely been on speaking terms for much of their professional career. Their families had scarcely even met each other until the later years.

It's hard to reconcile their delightful songs with what is really quite a dark story behind the scenes.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:43 AM on March 6, 2012


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(heffalumps and woozles!)
posted by jlkr at 11:49 AM on March 6, 2012


When asked which of his songs was his favorite, Robert Sherman mentioned this one which is now one of my favorites as well.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 12:07 PM on March 6, 2012


They did oh-so-many songs which are permanently imprinted on my psyche, from back in the days before Disney was obviously evil and was mostly churning out quality product regularly...

I can't possibly pick out a favorite one. The typical earworm problem of having a song stuck in one's head has turned into a vast collage of countless song clips which randomly assert themselves and then give way to another equally wormish sound moment. It's like my head is full of a tornado of song, but instead of a path of destruction, it is paving a lane full of memories and happiness.

Thanks, Robert Sherman, for contributing so much to our popular culture. While we will certainly never know what the lack of your continued presence amongst us might have brought, we are all so much richer for what you have already wrought.

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posted by hippybear at 12:39 PM on March 6, 2012


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posted by Lutoslawski at 4:26 PM on March 6, 2012


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posted by nickyskye at 9:50 PM on March 6, 2012


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