By: Jersey Diva
Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman were an American songwriting duo that specialized in musical films. They wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history. The brothers began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Al Sherman, the songwriter who wrote Tin Pan Alley.
Robert founded the music publishing company, Music World Corporation, in 1958. The publishing company later had a landmark relationship with Disney’s BMI-affiliated publishing company, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with “Tall Paul” which was sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet and later covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. After the success of this song, Walt Disney hired the Sherman Brothers as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. On personal assignment by Walt Disney, the first song they wrote was “Strummin’ Song” in 1961. The song was used in the Annette Funicello made for television movie called The Horsemasters.
While working at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote more motion picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. Their best known song, “It’s a Small World (after all)” was written for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Some have claimed that this has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is mainly due to the fact that it is played continuously at Disney’s theme park “it’s a small world” attractions.
In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes their songs, “Feed the Birds,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and Oscar winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Since the premiere of Mary Poppins, the Sherman Brothers have earned nine Oscar nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations and 23 gold and platinum-certified albums.
The Shermans worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney died in 1966. After leaving the company, the Sherman Brothers have worked as freelance songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme park exhibits and stage musicals.
In 1968, they worked on their first non-Disney assignment with Albert R. Broccoli’s motion picture production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for United Artists. This gave the brothers their third Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. Two years later, the Sherman Brothers returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed The Aristocats and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The latter gained the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar nominations. In 1972, the brothers received a Grammy nomination for Snoopy Come Home. In 1973, the Sherman Brothers make history by becoming the only Americans to ever win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer, for which they also wrote the screenplay.
In 1976, The Slipper and the Rose was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year. A performance attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The Sherman Brothers also wrote songs, score and the screenplay for this modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story. The Brothers received two more Oscar nominations for this film. Also in 1976, the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located directly across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Other film credits, Disney and non-Disney, include The Jungle Book (1967), The Parent Trap (1961 & 1998), Charlotte’s Web (1973), Huckleberry Finn (1974), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) and Little Nemo:Adventures in Slumberland (1992). The Sherman Brothers also had a Tony Award nomination for their hit Over Here! (1974) which was the biggest grossing original Broadway musical of that year. The brothers have also written many top selling songs including “You’re Sixteen,” which reached Billboard’s Hot 100 Top 10 twice, once with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then at #1 with Ringo Starr more than thirteen years later. Other top ten hits include “Pineapple Princess”, “Let’s Get Together”, and more. In 2002, the brothers wrote “Only a Woman Like You” with Michael Bolton who co-wrote and recorded as a single from the album of the same name.
In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the score for the Disney film The Tigger Movie. This film was the brothers’ first major motion picture for Disney in over 28 years. In 2002, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang hit the London stage and received rave reviews. It is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium with the longest run in that century old theater’s history. A second Chitty company premiered in New York City on Broadway at the Foxwoods Theatre on April 28, 2005. The brothers wrote six additional songs specifically for the new stage productions. A third Chitty company is currently touring throughout the United Kingdom. In a British nationwide poll reported by the BBC in 2003, four of the Sherman brothers’ musicals ranked in the Top 10 Favorite Children’s Films of All Time. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1. In addition to the new songs they wrote for Chitty, the brothers also wrote some new songs for the Broadway production of Mary Poppins which premiered on November 16, 2006 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Both Chitty and Mary Poppins were produced collaboratively by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh.
On June 9, 2005, the Sherman Brothers were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. On November 17, 2008, the brothers received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor conferred upon artists or patrons of the arts by the United States Government. The award was presented to them by President George W. Bush in a ceremony at The White House. On March 11, 2010,in honor of their contribution to Disney theme parks, the brothers were presented with a Window on Mainstreet Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Two months later on May 17th, they received the “Career Achievement Award” at The Theatre Museum’s 2010 Awards Gala in New York City. A year later on May 21st, the brothers were each awarded honorary doctorate degrees in Fine Arts from their alma mater, Bard College. Robert has previously received an honorary doctorate degree in May 1990 from Lincoln College.
On May 22, 2009, the Sherman brothers’ sons, Gregory V. Sherman and Jeff Sherman directed and produced The Boys: the Sherman Brothers’ Story, a critically acclaimed documentary film about the famed duo. The film was theatrically released and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. In October 2009, Disney released a 59 track, two disc CD, titled “The Sherman Brothers Songbook” which is compilation of their work for the studio spanning forty-two years.
Robert Sherman passed away on March 5, 2012 in London where he had lived since 2002.