Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The Late Great Richard M. Sherman

Robert & Richard M. Sherman
Richard M. Sherman, who with his older brother Robert Sherman, wrote songs for movies ranging from Mary Poppins (1964) to The Tigger Movie (2000), died on May 25 2024 at the age of 95. The Sherman Brothers wrote more songs for musicals than any other composers in history.

Richard M. Sherman was born on June 12 1928 in New York City. His brother Robert Sherman was 30 months older. His father was songwriter Al Sherman. His mother was Rosa Dancis, who appeared in silent films.  It was while the Sherman Brothers were very young that the family moved to Southern California. He attended Beverly Hills High School and then Bard College with his brother Robert in New York, where he majored in music. After graduating from college, Robert and Richard Sherman shared an apartment in Los Angeles. The two took up songwriting after their father bet them that they could not team up and write a song that a kid would buy. The two brothers then teamed up to write a song. That song, "Gold Can Buy Anything (but Love)" was recorded by Gene Autry in 1951.

It was in 1953 that Richard M. Sherman was drafted in the United States Army. During his service he was assigned to the United States Army Band. He was honourably discharged in 1955. In 1958 the Sherman Brothers had their first real hit, "Tall Paul" by Annette Funicello, which reached no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. This brought them to the attention of Walt Disney, who then began giving the brothers various assignments. They wrote additional music for the Disney TV series Zorro. They wrote "Anniversary Song" for the Texas John Slaughter mini-series aired on Walt Disney Presents.

In the Sixties they wrote songs for musicals and non-musicals alike, including the movies The Parent Trap (1961), Big Red (1962), In Search of the Castaways (1962), Mooncussers (1962), Summer Magic (1963), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), Marry Poppins (1964), The Monkey's Uncle (1965), "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree" (1966), Follow Me Boys! (1966), Monkeys, Go Home! (1967), The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967), The Jungle Book (1967), The Happiest Millionaire (1967), The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" (1968), and The AristoCats (1970), The Sherman Brothers wrote the theme to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour. They also wrote songs for various episodes of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour and the animated TV special Goldilocks. In the Sixties they also wrote the song "It's a Small World" for the "it's a small world"  Old Mill boat ride at Disneyworld and still later other Disney theme parks.

In the Seventies the Sherman Brothers composed songs for the movies Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Charlotte's Web (1973), Tom Sawyer (1973), Huckleberry Finn (1974), "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" (1974),  The Slipper and the Rose (1976), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), and The Magic of Lassie (1978). They also composed for the stage, including the productions Victory Canteen and Over Here!.

The Sherman Brothers later composed songs for the TV shows The Timberland Tales, as well as such movies as Little Nemo (1989), The Mighty Kong (1998), and The Tigger Movie (2000). They also wrote songs for the stage musicals Dawgs and Busker Alley. Much of the music provided for the Disney theme parks was written by the Sherman Brothers.

The Sherman Brothers also wrote the treatment for Mary Poppins, as well as the screenplays for A Symposium of Popular Songs (1962), Tom Sawyer (1973), Huckleberry Finn (1974), The Slipper and the Rose (1976), and The Magic of Lassie (1978).

Richard Sherman wrote the song "Make Way for Tomorrow Today" for the fictional Stark Expo in the movie Iron Man 2 (2010). He wrote three new songs for the movie Christopher Robin (2018). He acted as a musical consultant for the movie Mary Poppins (2018). He later  wrote a song with composer Fabrizio Mancinelli for Andreas Deja’s 2023 animated short, "Mushka."

Beyond "Tall Paul," the Sherman Brothers also wrote other pop songs. Among these were "You're Sixteen," which was a hit for Johnny Burnette in 1960, peaking at  no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Alongside his brother Robert, Richard M. Sherman had a talent for creating songs that would remain stuck in people's heads long after hearing them. There is a reason that such songs as "Let's Get Together," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "The Bare Necessities," and yet others have remained popular for literally decades. I have to think the majority of individual born in North America or Europe born in the mid to late 20th Century  has not heard at least one Sherman Brothers song, probably many more. Other composers, such as Rogers and Hammerstein, may be better known, but I have to think the Sherman Brothers composed more famous songs for movies and even stage musicals than any other.

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