Richard M. Sherman, composer of ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘It’s a Small World’, dies at 95

Richard M. Sherman, half of the prolific, award-winning brother and sister duo who helped shape millions of childhoods by writing instantly memorable songs for 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 died. He was 95 years old.

Sherman, along with his late brother Robert, won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney’s 1964 hit. Mary Poppins – best music and best song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” They also won a GRAMY for Best Motion Picture or Television Score. Robert Sherman died in London at age 86 in 2012.

Walt Disney Co.. announced that Sherman died Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital due to an age-related illness.

“Generations of movie buffs and theme park visitors have been introduced to the world of Disney through the magnificent, timeless songs of the Sherman Brothers. Even today, the duo’s work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney,” said the company in a souvenir posted on its website.

Actor Dick Van Dyke, actress Karen Dotrice and composer Richard M. Sherman attend the 50th anniversary screening of Disney’s “Mary Poppins” during AFI FEST 2013.Alberto E. Rodríguez/Getty Images for AFI

His hundreds of credits as a lyricist and joint composer also include the films Winnie the Pooh, The slipper and the rose, Snoopy comes home, Charlotte’s website and Lassie’s magic. Her Broadway musicals included the 1974 ones. Here! and staging of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the mid-2000s.

“Something good happens when we sit together and work,” Richard Sherman told The Associated Press in a joint interview in 2005. “We’ve been doing this our whole lives. Pretty much since college we’ve been working together.”

His awards include 23 gold and platinum albums and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They became the only Americans to win first 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, praised for their music that “has helped bring joy to millions.”

In a 2013 interview with CBS Sunday morningSherman said that in the early 1960s, he and his brother occupied adjacent offices on the Disney lot in Burbank, just down the hall from Walt Disney.

“He (Walt Disney) named us ‘the boys’. He didn’t like formality and hated being called Mr. Disney, he liked being called Walt,” Sherman said. CBS Sunday morning.

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

“He once told us, at the beginning of our career: ‘Don’t insult the child, don’t write anything to the child. And don’t write just for the adult.’ So we wrote for the grandfather and the 4-year-old, and all the and we all see it on a different level,” said Richard Sherman.

The Shermans began a decade-long association with Disney during the 1960s, having written hit pop songs such as “Tall Paul” for former mouseketeer Annette Funicello and “You’re Sixteen”, later recorded by Ringo Starr.

Music composer Richard Sherman leads the band at the after-party for the Disney’s “Mary Poppins” 40th Anniversary Edition DVD Screening and Release Party at Hollywood and Highland on November 30, 2004 in Los Angeles, California.Kevin Winter/Getty Images

They wrote more than 150 songs at Disney, including soundtracks for films like 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 accompanies guests to Disney theme parks on a boat ride sung by animatronic dolls representing the world’s cultures, is believed to be the most performed composition in the world. It first premiered in the pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

The two brothers credited their father, songwriter Al Sherman, for challenging them to write songs and for their love of writing words. His song legacy includes “You Gotta Be a Football Hero,” “(What Do We Do On a) Dew-Dew-Dewy Day” and “On the Beach at Bali-Bali.”

“‘I bet they couldn’t team up and write a song where a kid would give their lunch money to buy a record. I don’t think they had enough brains to do that,'” Sherman said. CBS Sunday mornings their father told them one day.

His children popularized the terms “ghostly” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The Shermans teased each other’s songs, brainstormed titles, and then tried to outdo each other with improvements.

Richard Sherman wrote the music for the Disney film Mary Poppins with his brother Roger and worked on the theatrical revival of the play which appeared in London, Broadway and soon at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles.Kirk McKoy for Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

“Being brothers, we took a shortcut between us,” said Richard Sherman. “We can almost look at each other and know, ‘Hey, you’re onto something, kid.'”

Away from the piano, the two raised families and pursued their own interests, but they still lived near each other in Beverly Hills and continued working into their 70s. When Chitty Chitty Bang Bang They came to Broadway in 2005, adding new lyrics and four new songs.

“I was always a bright, happy guy, everything was great and wonderful…Bob was more serious-minded,” Sherman said. CBS Sunday morning.

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

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

Although they were separated for several years, the brothers largely avoided sibling rivalry. When asked about it, Richard Sherman was philosophical, moving and joking at the same time, much like the trunk full of songs he wrote with his brother.

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

This story was originally published by CBS News on May 25, 2024.


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