Composer Robert Sherman dies

The elder of the two Sherman brothers, famous composers of countless memorable Disney songs, has passed away in London at the age of 86. (Here is a full obituary from NPR.)

There’s a phrase in children’s animation production circles, “timeless and classic”, which simply means “make it look and sound generic enough that it won’t become dated and we can keep selling the thing for the next 100 years”. The songs of Robert and Richard Sherman, however, are bona fide examples of “timeless and classic” in the good sense. Consider Mary Poppins – “Chim Chim Cheree”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Feed the Birds”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”… or The Jungle Book – “The Bare Necessities”, “I Wan’na Be Like You”… or “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, or “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat” from The Aristocats, or “Winnie the Pooh”, or even the theme park classic “It’s a Small World (After All)”. (Okay, that last one is a real ear-worm, guaranteed to drive you crazy if it gets into your brain, but that’s just further testament to the Shermans’ skill!)

I find the music in current kids’ movies to be sheer treacly pop – trendy and instantly-dated, but also amazingly forgettable. Not to mention seriously lacking in charm. The Sherman brothers’ songs were the opposite, featuring such warmth, sincerity, clarity, wit, and, yes, timelessness that they never seem to fade from the memory. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen Mary Poppins, and we had it on heavy rotation for nearly a year, every time Julie Andrews sings “Feed the Birds” it still makes me cry. What a wonderful legacy.

Robert (right), with Richard, Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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