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Robert Sherman, 1925-2012

Many people over the years have contributed to what we consider the Disney legacy. Sadly, as time passes, we lose more and more of those iconic figures who were Walt’s hand-picked talent; those who were behind the golden era of Disney animation, film, and theme parks. Today we have lost another titan of old – Robert Sherman, half of the legendary Disney songwriting team – passed away yesterday at the age of 86.

Aside from my condolences to his family and friends, there’s so little that I can say that could adequately encapsulate the magnitude of the Shermans’ contributions to the popular culture of the 20th century. As I said when I reviewed their retrospective musical collection, their contribution to Disney songwriting is so fundamental that one cannot quite grasp it; as staff songwriters, their fingers were in so many pots creatively that the entire soundscape of that era would be vastly different without them.

And, of course, their creations are evergreen. The luckiest songwriters can claim to be the “voice of their generation”; Robert Sherman was a voice of at least four generations and counting with no end in sight. He bridged the eras of Tin Pan Alley, the Hollywood studio system, and theme parks and Broadway. Men are mortal but Robert Sherman’s songs will outlast us all.

Robert Sherman saw many things in his long life, some of which made a lasting mark, but despite it all he left a legacy that charmed and entertained literally billions. How many can say that? I could go on about this at length, so great my respect for this man. But perhaps it’s better – much better – to just sit back and listen. Here are some peeks back at the Sherman legacy.

Thanks, Bob.

First, a Disney Family Album from the Disney Channel…

 

 

And here, in Sherman’s own words, are his thoughts on receiving a window on Main Street USA at Disneyland.

One of the catchiest, yet seldom heard Sherman songs, comes from Meet the World – a Tokyo Disneyland attraction originally planned for Epcot Center.

Here, the boys appear with Walt to promote the Carousel of Progress, and their song There’s a Great, Big Beautiful Tomorrow which plays in the Disney parks to this day.

Perhaps one of the greatest Sherman numbers from my generation was One Little Spark from Journey into Imagination.

Their work was never dull…

And always catchy…

And occasionally trippy!

They invented words…

A lot of words…

And popularized others.

The took us to exotic realms…

And to the cozy yesteryear of middle America.

They even traveled beyond ordinary… MAGNIFICATION.

And finally, perhaps my favorite song that the brothers wrote – On The Front Porch.

Our lives are all richer for Robert Sherman’s efforts. Once again, thanks, Bob.

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19 comments to Robert Sherman, 1925-2012

  • [...] In Memory of Robert Sherman We were so sad to hear about the loss of Disney legend Robert Sherman. While we don’t have the words to express how fully Sherman’s work is threaded through our lives, Michael from Progress City USA does a pretty good job here. [...]

  • Smaha

    I am deeply, deeply sad that Bob has left us. Simply put, he created the soundtrack to my youth and I can never express just how central he has been to my Disney experience. More than characters, shows, attractions, architecture, animation, food, and recreation….it was the *music* of Disney that sparked my imagination.

    What strikes me is that even when a soundtrack or song was not from the Sherman Brothers, Disney composers or musical directors went out of their way to create music that still sounded like it could have been. Bob created the tone and feel of what Disney music should be, and it carried beyond his own compositions.

  • Kim (horizons_pa)

    Wow! What a fabulous blog post honoring a fabulous person. Thank you, thank you for providing all the videos and information. I was familiar with The Sherman Brothers but to see it all tied up was a real treat this AM. I am in awe with what these amazing brothers created. They are Disney! RIP Robert Sherman, a Disney legend who will be sorely missed and never forgotten.

    • Thanks very much. Like I said, even if you know all the things they did, when you look at them all at once it’s overwhelming. This post could have contained hours of audio.

  • Brian

    When I was young (pre-home video), one of the few movies I could count on seeing yearly (like The Wizard of Oz) was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As the talented Marc Shaiman posted this morning, “Along with his brother Richard, Robert Sherman is completely responsible for teaching me the power of song. I learned everything I will ever need to know from listening to my Mary Poppins soundtrack album as a child, both as a songwriter and as a caring human being. His songs make me feel I lost a family member today.”

  • Brian

    PS – Charlotte’s Web :)

  • WC

    It was indeed “fortuosity” to have had Robert Sherman in our lives. The songs he so deftly crafted with his brother became the soundtrack for my life. When Annette was belting out “Tall Paul” over a crystal radio in my bedroom at night way back in the day, I gave no thought to who penned the song. I just knew it was something fresh, catchy and different. I “fell in love” with Hayley Mills when she sang “Let’s Get Together” in the Parent Trap during my “formative” years (a video that Progress City USA grievously left out in the above post ;-) ). In Mary Poppins, the movie in which I “fell in love with” Julie Andrews, animation with live-action was seamlessly woven together with wonderful supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Sherman songs. My first visit to Walt Disney World taught me songs featured in Small World, Carousel and Tiki Room I still hum today. Subsequent visits would find Sherman favorites making EPCOT come alive. The Sherman songbook made people who didn’t even pay attention to music or appreciate music take notice of it and remember it. That is an enviable legacy. Thank you Mr. Sherman.

  • Gary

    It’s a little hard to think about the Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow knowing that Bob Sherman won’t be around to see it. I can’t describe how much the Shermans’ music has meant to me over the years; to a large degree, their catalogue is the soundtrack of my life. I don’t think a day goes by without my humming or whistling at least one of their tunes. “We all have sparks,” indeed, and Robert’s was certainly very bright. I like to think he’s sitting forever in the cool of the evening, on the wicker swing, listening to the night birds sing, awaiting all of us to join him.

  • “On The Front Porch” is also my favorite Sherman tune. I can see why it was Bob’s as well.

    Unlike most online retrospectives, I appreciate how you’re not trying to define what made these tunes so magical. Instead, having the reader view some of the brothers’ work themselves was a great idea.

    However, one cannot mention Bob and Dick’s work without mentioning the importance of “Feed the Birds,” or “Walt’s song.” How he would stare out at the lot in a daze as the Shermans would play his favorite tune of theres. Above all, imagining that scene taking place gets me the most as it demonstrates that evan Walt was not prone to the emotional reactions their songs gave us.

    • I thought about Feed the Birds but decided to leave it out because everyone knows it well and I figured it’s one that would be posted everywhere. I wanted to go with some things peppy or obscure, and my favorite “On the Front Porch.” :) But you’re right, aside from Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, the song that defines the Sherman/Walt relationship is Feed the Birds.

      And yes – there’s no way to put such a legacy in words, so best to just listen!

  • RO93461

    McCartney has lost his Lennon. Richard seemed to be the “brooding artist” of the two and added emotional depth to their great music. tragic loss. Very nice post Michael.

  • beaglelady

    Thank you, Robert Sherman. You greatly enriched our lives with your gift. Our loss is heaven’s gain. (And Michael, thank YOU for this wonderful tribute)

  • philphoggs

    Yes, agreed.

  • [...] are amazing and will allow us feel and hum the magic.  Progress City USA has done a wonderful tribute including audio and video. And now, to celebrate his [...]

  • [...] name, but everyone could certainly recognize him by sound, as he and his brother wrote (literally) dozens of songs that have so permeated popular culture that they are songs we all know by heart. His contributions [...]

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