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Friday, December 19, 2014

A small world

If you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, you’ve encountered several of the songs of Robert Sherman, not least being the happy and hopeful It’s A Small World (After All).

That was just one of the many, many successful songs he and his brother Richard wrote while working for Walt Disney and Disney Studios as staff songwriters – a title created for them by Walt in order to keep them working for him and on behalf of the many successful films they helped score.

Among their most notable – and part of the subject of this past year’s successful movie Saving Mister Banks – was the score for Mary Poppins, for which they won two Academy Awards and more importantly convinced Mary’s creator, the cantankerous P.L. Travers, that having a song with a nonsensical title was okay, despite her misgivings.  Thus, both the word and the song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious came to be.

Sherman was born on this day in 1925 and began his writing career as a teenager.  At age 16, he wrote Armistice and Dedication Day, a stage play that showed how Americans’ lives were changed following the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.  The play yielded thousands of dollars for War Bonds and earned a special citation from the War Department.    He also fought in the war – joining at age 17 – was wounded and won citations for his bravery. 

After the war he went to Bard College, was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and authored two novels – all before graduating.  Then he switched to writing music lyrics and eventually formed the partnership with his brother.

In 2007 the Shermans were awarded the National Medal in the Arts by President George W. Bush, recognizing their contribution to our nation’s culture through their words and music.   He was recognized with dozens of major awards for his work, but probably the best of them was a vote by children.  In 2003, four Sherman Brothers' musicals ranked in the "Top 10 Favorite Children's Films of All Time" -- The Jungle Book (1967)_ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The Aristocats (1970) ranked at #9 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) which topped the list at #1.   High praise indeed.   

Here’s a link to “Small World.”  Enjoy.  
Robert Sherman

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