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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Sherman Brothers, Their Movie Music is as Relevant as Ever

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and Walt Disney - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and Walt Disney

Chances are, Disney songs have been a part of your life. Whether you haven't heard one since you were seven years old or if you have the entire Beauty and the Beast soundtrack on your iPod, we bet you have some memories associated with at least a few Disney songs.

If any of those songs are from Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie The Pooh, The Aristocats, or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, they were written by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.

But those aren't their only songs, the Sherman Brothers, wrote the songs for over 30 Disney films, as well as "It's a Small World," the oh-so-catchy tune featured at the Disneyland ride by the same name.

Collectively known as the Sherman Brothers, the songwriting siblings wrote more movie soundtracks than any other duo of composers ever.

Robert Sherman passed away in 2012, and his memoir Moose: Chapters From My Life was published in late 2013, after undergoing almost two decades of additions and revisions.

Sherman's memoir was an important source for the Oscar-nominated movie Saving Mr. Banks, which details the process Walt Disney underwent when working with Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers to adapt the book into the Disney movie. As The Sherman Brothers wrote the soundtrack for Mary Poppins, they are a big part of the story told in Saving Mr. Banks.

"Without my father's book, there would have been a lot of blank spaces [in the movie]," said Robert J. Sherman, Sherman Sr.'s son as well as the editor of his memoir. "There's one scene between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers where P.L. has said that she doesn't want there to be any color red in the film, and Walt says, 'how can you say there can be no red in the film? It's set in London, there's buses, mailboxes, the English flag...' That scene is taken directly from my father's book. My father witnessed that moment in his life. It was amazing seeing that on the screen."

Sherman Sr., portrayed in the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks by The Office's B.J. Novak, wrote poems, plays, and articles throughout the 1940s. In 1943, he enlisted in the army at age 17, and fought in World War II. In the 1950s, he began composing songs.

click to enlarge The typed version of Robert B. Sherman's 1944 letter to his parents. - ROBERT J. SHERMAN
  • Robert J. Sherman
  • The typed version of Robert B. Sherman's 1944 letter to his parents.

"Two months after my father passed away, I found a letter he wrote to his parents from where he was stationed in the army when he was 18 years old, in 1944," said Sherman Jr.

"The letter was only to be opened at the event of his death, and there I was two months after his death reading a letter he wrote to my grandparents about what to do in the event of his death -- it was really eerie."

The letter is now inscribed in the front of the memoir, serving as a preface for the collection of stories from Sherman's life that follows.

"[The letter] is about how he felt his mission on earth was to be a writer," said Sherman Jr. "It was so profound and so elegant it was hard to believe that an 18 year old wrote it. I thought it was appropriate to inscribe it in the beginning of the book because it showed how focused and driven he was."

Of his father's music, Robert J. Sherman said:

"[The Sherman Brothers] were the first songwriters ever to write a popular song about the merits of giving charity to people and how doing so benefits the giver as well. It has a deep message, but it's dismissed as being a light children's song, and this is my father's genius, that he is able to impart his message in an inoffensive way, a way that people would accept it."

To see if Saving Mr. Banks scoops up the Oscar for music (original score), tune in to ABC this Sunday at 4 p.m. And Robert Sherman's memoir, Moose: Chapters From My Life, is available for purchase on Amazon.

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Jessica Nemire


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