Robert B. Sherman: December 19, 1925 – March 5, 2012March 6th, 2012 | Posted by in Uncategorized
ifty years working with your brother can’t be all champagne and caviar. Take, for instance, the Sherman Brothers. Although they wrote some of the greatest of all movie songs—“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and, my particular favorite, “I Wanna to Be Like You”—
—their career will forever be marred by the crime against humanity that is “It’s a Small World After All.”
Written for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, “It’s a Small World After All” has been plaguing mankind ever since: it’s thought to be the most-played song ever. Beyond its global ubiquity as a recorded song, as if that weren’t enough, it’s also considered by many to be the worst earworm ever written. In fact I’ll bet I’ve already ruined many people’s day just by mentioning it. You’re welcome.
As heinous a crime as this song is, it’s somewhat expiated by the rest of the Sherman Brothers’ career output. Richard and Robert Sherman learned songwriting at the knee of their father, Al Sherman, whose “He’s So Unusual,” written in 1929 for Helen Kane, was recorded by Cyndi Lauper for her 1983 album titled, get this, She’s So Unusual.
As a songwriting team, the Sherman Brothers’ break came when Walt Disney took notice of their music and made them the official Disney songwriters, until his death in 1966. After 1966, they returned to Disney from time to time, but also did a lot of work outside the Magical Kingdom. They wrote songs for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocats, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, for just small sampling. In 1976 they got their own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. In 2008 President George W. Bush presented them with the National Medal of Arts.
During a collaboration that lasted almost 50 years, until Robert’s death yesterday at 86, the Sherman brothers wrote more film scores than anyone else in Hollywood, and created a body of work that earned 9 Oscar nominations (and 2 wins), 4 Grammy nominations (1 win), and 23 gold or platinum albums. They continued to work well into this century, providing new material for the stage adaptations of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Surely a body that Robert can be proud of, wherever he is now. Taking “It’s a Small World After All” into account, I’d say that’s open to question. Considering the Sherman Brothers also gave the world the Ringo Starr anthem to inappropriate relations with a minor, “You’re 16 (You’re Beautiful & you’re mine),” I’d say wide open.