FilmEdge joins many fans around the world and across generations to celebrate the life and life’s work of Robert Sherman, half of Disney’s legendary Sherman Brothers songwriting team, who passed away in London on Monday at age 86.
Longtime creative partners with innovative filmmaker and theme park icon Walt Disney, the Sherman Brothers first came to Walt’s notice after writing a top-ten song Tall Paul covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. Disney soon signed the brothers as staff songwriters for Walt Disney Studios, paving the way for popular and award-winning film soundtracks including MARY POPPINS, THE JUNGLE BOOK, THE ARISTOCATS, BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS and non-Disney titles like CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, CHARLOTTE’S WEB and SNOOPY COME HOME.
Robert and Richard also created highly memorable tunes while composing classic theme park attraction songs like It’s A Small World and There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow for GE’s Carousel of Progress, both of which debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair before relocating to Disneyland. The Sherman’s spirit of optimism, unfettered joy and hope for a peaceful future became a trademark Disney sound that park visitors still remember fondly and enjoy decades later.
The Sherman Brothers’ work garnered critical praise and many awards both on and off-screen, winning two Oscars from nine nominations, five Golden Globe nominations, and won three Grammys. The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
On his passing, brother Richard Sherman said of Robert, “My brother Bob was a poetic soul with limitless imagination and talent. He was my loyal friend all through the years. We were fortunate to have been blessed by two great men, our key inspirations—our father, Al, who teamed us up and taught us the craft, and Walt Disney, who provided us with an opportunity to realize our greatest dreams. Bob will be lovingly missed by all of us in his family.” Disney President and CEO Robert Iger declared Robert “[o]ne of the world’s great songwriters.”
Robert’s life and career spanning 50 years was perhaps best summed up by his son Jeff Sherman in a brief announcement: “My dad passed away peacefully in London on Monday night. He was an incredible man who loved life and lived it to the fullest. As he often said, he wanted to bring happiness into the world, and unquestionably he succeeded. His love and his prayers, his philosophy and his poetry will live on forever. Forever his songs and his genius will bring hope, joy, and love to this small world.” Jeff and his brother Gregory produced and directed a critically praised documentary THE BOYS: THE SHERMAN BROTHERS STORY in 2009.
On a personal note, I grew up listening to Sherman Brothers songs while visiting Disneyland, going to the movies and playing their records at home. My grandmother worked at the credit union on the Disney Studio lot, so I enjoyed a steady diet of studio screenings for Disney animated films plus stacks of LP albums and 45 read-along record sets. Their music for THE JUNGLE BOOK were the first to capture my imagination and it remains my favorite Disney animated classic today, largely because of the Shermans’ tropical tunes that inspired apes, a bear, a panther and a boy to dance their troubles away in the jungle. Many Disneyland fans can’t help but hear the attraction theme for It’s A Small World in their heads with the slightest mention (no doubt you’re replaying it now), but Robert and Richard’s relentlessly cheery tune There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow was the melodic hook that stuck in my mind and heart when I first heard it at age five-and-a-half on my first park visit.
Robert Sherman’s music and life’s work will live on forever as he does now, just a dream away.