The Sherman Brothers were an American songwriting duo that specialized in musical films, made up of Robert B. Sherman (December 19, 1925 – March 6, 2012) and Richard M. Sherman (born June 12, 1928).
The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history. Film scores of the Sherman Brothers include Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book (except “The Bare Necessities,” which Terry Gilkyson wrote), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Happiest Millionaire, Charlotte's Web, and The Aristocats. Their work also includes the theme park songs There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and It's A Small World (After All). According to Time.com, the latter song is the most performed song of all time.
Sons of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Robert and Richard Sherman began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman. The brothers wrote together and with different songwriting partners throughout the rest of the decade.
In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company Music World Corporation, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney's BMI-affiliated publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with "Tall Paul", sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet on the Surf Records label and then covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. They wrote the international hit "You're Sixteen," first recorded in 1960 by rockabilly singer Johnny Burnette, and a chart success again in 1973 for Ringo Starr. They also wrote the title song for Doris Day's album Bright and Shiny, recorded in 1960 and released a year later.
The success of these songs gained the attention of Walt Disney, who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers as staff songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. The first song they wrote on personal assignment by Walt Disney was "Strummin' Song" in 1961. It was used in the Annette Funicello made-for-television movie called The Horsemasters. The first song that the Sherman Brothers contributed to a Disney movie was "Medfield Fight Song" from the film The Absent-Minded Professor (1961).
While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. They also wrote what is perhaps their best-known song, "It's a Small World (After All)", for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Since then, some have claimed that this has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is largely due to the fact that it is played continuously at Disney's theme park "It's a Small World" attractions of the same name.
In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes the songs "Feed The Birds," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and the Oscar-winning "Chim Chim Cher-ee." Since Mary Poppins' premiere, the Shermans have subsequently earned nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, and 23 gold- and platinum-certified albums.
Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live-action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney's death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brothers have worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme-park exhibits, and stage musicals.
Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli's motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for United Artists in 1968, which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for its particularly memorable titular song.
In 1970, the Shermans returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The latter film garnered the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar nominations. 1972 saw the release of Snoopy Come Home, for which the brothers received a Grammy nomination.
In 1973, the Sherman Brothers also made history by becoming the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer, for which they also authored the screenplay.
In 1976, The Slipper and the Rose was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year. The performance was attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, Slipper also featured songs, score, and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. Two further Academy Award nominations were garnered by the brothers for the film. That same year the Sherman Brothers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame directly across from Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
The Sherman Brothers' numerous other Disney and non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte's Web (1973), Huckleberry Finn (1974), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989). Outside the motion-picture realm, their Tony Award-nominated smash hit Over Here! (1974) was the biggest-grossing original Broadway musical of that year and broke box-office records for its Off-Broadway revival (2019). The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top-selling songs including "You're Sixteen," which reached Billboard's Hot 100 top 10 twice: first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then at #1 with Ringo Starr more than thirteen years later. Other top-ten hits include "Pineapple Princess," "Let's Get Together," and more.
In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for the Disney film The Tigger Movie. This film marked the brothers' first major motion picture for the Disney company in over 28 years.
In 2002, Chitty hit the London stage, receiving rave reviews. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century-old theater's history. On April 28, 2005, a second Chitty company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Foxwoods Theatre. The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions.
In 2003, four Sherman Brothers' musicals ranked in the Top 10 Favorite Children's Films of All Time in a British nationwide poll reported by the BBC. Most notably, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.
In later years, with Robert's move to London, the brothers wrote new songs for the stage musical presentation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
For their contributions to the motion picture industry, the Sherman brothers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Blvd. and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005. On November 16, 2006, Mary Poppins premiered at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway.
On November 17, 2008, the Sherman Brothers received the National Medal of Arts, which is the highest honor conferred on artists or patrons of the arts by the United States Government. The award was presented by United States President George W. Bush in an East Room ceremony at The White House.
On May 22, 2009, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story, a critically acclaimed documentary film about the pair, was theatrically released. The film was directed and produced by their sons, Gregory V. Sherman and Jeff Sherman, and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
In October 2009, Disney released a 59-track, two-CD compendium of their work for the studio spanning 42 years. The CD is titled The Sherman Brothers Songbook.
On March 11, 2010, the Sherman Brothers were presented with a specialized window on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in honor of their contribution to Disney theme parks. On May 17, 2010, the Sherman Brothers received the "Career Achievement Award" at The Theatre Museum's 2010 Awards Gala in New York City.
From 2002, Robert Sherman lived in London, England. He moved from Beverly Hills, while Richard Sherman remained in California. Robert Sherman died in London on March 6, 2012.
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Robert J Sherman, son of Robert B. Sherman and a successful composer in his own right brings the utterly compelling story of one family’s century-long, award-winning musical journey to UK audiences in 2018.
The whole show is filled with whimsy, magic and some of the most memorable songs ever written; it does the Sherman family proud. I can’t remember when I spent a more joyful or moving evening at the theatre.