Obituaries

Richard M. Sherman, Disney Legend Behind ‘Mary Poppins’ And ‘It’s A Small World,’ Dies At 95

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  • Richard M. Sherman died on May 25 at the age of 95.
  • He and his brother Robert were part of an iconic songwriting duo that composed some of Disney’s most enduring hits.
  • They won two Oscars for their work in ‘Mary Poppins,’ and their influence is heard in several Disney musicals.

 

On May 25, Richard M. Sherman died. The acclaimed songwriter passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center due to age-related illness. He was 95 when he died. News of his passing comes from a Saturday announcement issued by the Walt Disney Company.

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In collaboration with his brother, Robert, Sherman was known as a celebrated songwriter behind some of Disney’s most famous and memorable tunes. His discography includes “It’s a Small World (After All)” as well as songs for Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman has died

THE BOYS: THE SHERMAN BROTHERS’ STORY, from left: Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman, 2009. ©Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett Collection

The Walt Disney Company is mourning the loss of one of its brightest stars. In their statement regarding his death, the studio called Sherman “one of the most prolific composer-lyricists in the history of family entertainment, and a key member of Walt Disney’s inner circle of creative talents.”

RELATED: The Cast Of ‘Mary Poppins’ Then And Now 2024

“Even today, the duo’s work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney,” the statement continues. Sherman and his brother brought Disney and its army of fans “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” in Mary Poppins. The latter earned the brothers the Oscar for Best Original Song, and the duo also won for Best Score – Substantially Original thanks to their work in the 1964 musical fantasy.

Richard M. Sherman was quintessential in forming the enduring Disney sound

The songwriters earned critical acclaim for films like Mary Poppins / Everett Collection

Born on June 12, 1928, Sherman and his family settled down in Beverly Hills, California in 1937 after years of cross-country moves. During high school, Sherman fell head over heels in love with studying music and took up several instruments at once.

In the late ’50s, Sherman and his brother created their first Top 10 hit with “Tall Paul,” sung by Annette Funicello. This also officially put them on Walt Disney’s radar and the two were subsequently hired as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. Variety notes that such a position as in-house songwriter for a studio, no longer exists in such a concept anymore.

THE SWORD IN THE STONE, Disney animated film, 1963 / Everett Collection

The network also notes that Disney had a mind for optimizing what fans could get out of each film, and so wanted movies to have something able to play on the radio repeatedly. That’s where Sherman came in, writing for The Absent-Minded Professor, The Parent Trap, Summer Magic, In Search of the Castaways, and more, including 1963’s Sword in the Stone.

“It’s a Small World” made its debut at the New York World’s Fair, which helped transfer that same enthusiasm from musical movies to Disney’s growing theme park footprint.

It may be a small world, but swaths of generations would be exposed to Sherman’s iconic music, and he had a hand in classics such as The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band, as well as “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book. Rest in peace, Richard M. Sherman.

The brothers played a huge role in shaping the DIsney sound in some of the studio’s best years / ©Walt Disney/Courtesy Everett Collection

RELATED: Disney Legend Ruthie Thompson Dies At Age 111

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