Oscar-Winning ‘Mary Poppins’ Songwriter Richard Sherman Dies at 95

Oscar-Winning ‘Mary Poppins’ Songwriter Richard Sherman Dies at 95

Songwriter Richard M. Sherman holds a stuffed Winnie the Pooh as he poses at the world premiere of Disney's "Christopher Robin," in Burbank, Calif., on July 30, 2018. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Audrey Enjoli

Audrey Enjoli

5/26/2024

Updated: 5/27/2024

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Famed composer Richard Sherman, one-half of the songwriting duo known as the Sherman Brothers, has died at the age of 95—just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday.
The musical luminary passed away at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, California on May 25 due to an “age-related illness,” The Walt Disney Company has confirmed.
Mr. Sherman and his late brother, Robert, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 86, created music together for over 50 years, contributing some of the most popular songs and scores for many of Disney’s iconic films, including “The Parent Trap” (1961), “That Darn Cat!” (1965), “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree” (1966), “The Jungle Book” (1967), “The Aristocats” (1970), and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” (1971).
Their work on the 1964 cult classic “Mary Poppins” garnered them two Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” sung by Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, Matthew Garber, and Karen Dotrice. According to the media conglomerate, the brothers’ lullaby “Feed the Birds” was one of Walt Disney’s most favorite tunes. The Sherman Brothers also crafted music for many of Disney’s theme park attractions, including the boat ride “It’s a Small World.”
“Richard Sherman was the embodiment of what it means to be a Disney Legend, creating along with his brother Robert the beloved classics that have become a cherished part of the soundtrack of our lives,” Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
“The music of the Sherman Brothers has captured the hearts of generations of audiences,” he continued. “We are forever grateful for the mark Richard left on the world, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”

Remembering a Music Legend

Born in New York City on June 12, 1928, Mr. Sherman was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Al Sherman, a popular songwriter during the Tin Pan Alley era, and actress Rosa Sherman.
At the age of nine, his family moved to the affluent Los Angeles neighborhood of Beverly Hills, where Mr. Sherman attended Beverly Hills High School, learning to play several instruments, including the piano and flute. Mr. Sherman went on to study music at Bard College in upstate New York before being drafted into the United States Army, leading the Army band and Glee Club as conductor from 1953 to 1955.
During the early 1970s, Mr. Sherman and his brother left their positions as contract songwriters for Walt Disney Studios to pursue other ventures, including composing music for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968), “Charlotte’s Web” (1973), “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” (1973), and “Huckleberry Finn” (1974), among other films.
In 1998, the brothers debuted their autobiography, “Walt’s Time: From Before to Beyond,” documenting their time with Disney. They returned to The Walt Disney Studios that same year to develop the music for the animated film “The Tigger Movie,” released in 2000.
In recognition of their illustrious careers, the accolades of which included nine Oscar nominations, two Grammy Awards, and 23 gold and platinum-certified albums, the brothers were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
In the fall of 2008, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush awarded the duo with the prestigious National Medal of Arts “for unforgettable songs and optimistic lyrics that have brought magic to the screen and stage,” according to a press release from The White House. During the ceremony, a military aide noted that “the Sherman Brothers’ music has helped bring joy to millions.”
The following year, a documentary about the brothers’ incredible life, entitled “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story,” was released, directed by Mr. Richard Sherman’s son, Gregory, and Mr. Robert Sherman’s son, Jeffrey.

Spreading His Creative Wings

On July 30, 2018, Disney recognized Mr. Sherman and his late brother for their contributions to the company’s musical history by dedicating its historic Sound Stage A at The Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California in their honor. The stage, constructed in 1939 for live orchestra recording, was renamed the Sherman Brothers Stage as a tribute to their extraordinary legacies.
“This is hallowed ground for me. This was a place where [Robert] and I had a chance to truly spread our creative wings and to achieve so many wonderful goals that were set for us by this wonderful man named Walt Disney,” Mr. Sherman said during the dedication ceremony, held just a few days before the release of Disney’s comedy-drama “Christopher Robin.”
Mr. Sherman created three songs for the live-action/animated film, which was directed by Marc Foster—known for his work on 2001’s “Monster’s Ball,” 2004’s “Finding Neverland,” and 2013’s “World War Z”— and starred Ewan McGregor and Bronte Carmichael, all of whom attended the event.
During the ceremony, the legendary composer credited the “brilliant, brilliant people” that he and his brother worked with throughout their decades-long career, including Mr. Walt Disney. “His great inspiration and his great assignments are the things that made us the Sherman Brothers, that made us what we were,” said Mr. Sherman.
In addition to his son, Gregory, the songwriter is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter Victoria, as well as his daughter, Lynda, from a previous marriage and several grandchildren.
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Audrey Enjoli

Audrey Enjoli

Author

Audrey is a freelance entertainment reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California. She is a seasoned writer and editor whose work has appeared in Deseret News, Evie Magazine, and Yahoo Entertainment, among others. She holds a B.A. from the University of Central Florida where she double majored in broadcast journalism and political science.

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