6:21pm

Tue March 6, 2012
Songs We Love

Songs We Love: Disney Songwriters The Sherman Brothers

Originally published on Wed March 7, 2012 1:35 pm

A little piece of our childhood has left us. Robert Sherman, one half of a phenomenally successful songwriting duo (the other half is his brother Richard), died in his sleep Monday at 86. Together, the Shermans wrote some of Disney's most memorable songs. Their tunes appeared in some of the biggest kid movies of all time: Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Jungle Book. And that's not to mention a song for an amusement-park ride that will never leave your head if we mention it. (You know the one.)

To celebrate the life and talent of Robert Sherman, we asked NPR staffers to share some of their favorite Sherman Brothers-penned songs and memories. We hope you'll do the same.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S A SMALL WORLD")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (Singing) It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all...

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Who knows? Maybe as women gather from different places, someone on stage will hum this song, co-written by Robert Sherman, who many Americans are remembering this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WINNIE THE POOH")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #2: (Singing) Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff. He's Winnie the Pooh...

MONTAGNE: Sherman, who died yesterday [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Sherman died on Monday, March 5], was one of the pair that co-wrote the soundtrack to millions of childhoods. He composed dozens of scores and songs for children with his brother, Richard.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The brothers worked closely with Walt Disney, who told them: Don't insult the kid; don't write down to the kid; and don't write just for the adult.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS")

JULIE ANDREWS: (as Mary Poppins) (Singing) It's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious. If you say it loud enough, you'll always sound precocious: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

MONTAGNE: That's Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, one of the many stars that Robert Sherman wrote for, beginning with teen pop stars like Mousketeer Annette Funicello. Here's the 1959 hit "Tall Paul."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALL PAUL")

ANNETTE FUNICELLO: (Singing) Shotgun sidewalk, writing on the wall, everybody knows it, I love Paul. Tall Paul, tall Paul...

MONTAGNE: The big break for the Sherman Brothers came in the 1960s, when they signed on as Disney songwriters.

INSKEEP: They wrote over 150 songs for Disney, including those for "The Jungle Book" and "The Aristocats." And they also wrote the score for this family classic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #3: (Singing) ...Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Oh, you pretty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you. And in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang what we'll do.

MONTAGNE: The Sherman brothers came from a musical background. Their father was a composer, part of the New York music publishing scene known as Tin Pan Alley; their mother, an actress in silent films. And according to family legend, their grandfather served as court composer for Austria's emperor Franz Joseph.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ARISTOCATS")

MAURICE CHEVALIER: (Singing) Which pets get to sleep on velvet mats? Naturalment, the Aristocats.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: I wonder if Franz Joseph ever sang that one. Robert and Richard had a difficult personal relationship, but still collaborated on work that was nominated for nine Oscars and won two. Richard told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009: Once we closed that door and started writing, we had a great time.

MONTAGNE: Case in point: The brothers composed perhaps the world's most famous song about friendship, which they sang on this program back in 2008.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ROBERT SHERMAN: (With Richard Sherman) (Singing) It's a small world after all. It's a small world after all. It's a small world...

SHERMAN: SHERMAN: I think that people either want to kill us, or kiss us, for that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S A SMALL WORLD")

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP #1: (Singing) It's a world of laughter, a world of tears. It's a world of hopes and a world of fears...

MONTAGNE: This song plays at California's Disneyland and Florida's Disney World - a kind of earworm that people on the "Small World" boat ride hear in English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and more.

INSKEEP: Robert Sherman once joked: We've driven teenagers crazy in every language.

But decades after they grew up, of course, young people still remember their songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA BE LIKE YOU")

LOUIS PRIMA: (as King Louie) (Singing) Now, I'm the king of the swingers, oh, the jungle VIP...

INSKEEP: You can hear some of our favorite Robert Sherman songs. and share your own. at NPRMusic.org and on our new NPR Music iPad app.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA BE LIKE YOU")

PRIMA: (as King Louie) (Singing) Oh, ooh-be-do, I wanna be like you. I wanna walk like you, talk like you, shoo...

INSKEEP: This is NPR newbie-newbie-new News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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