December 19, 1925 – Songwriter and Disney Legend Robert B. Sherman is Born
“When I grew up, I wanted to be a writer. Novels and plays. I used to write poetry.”
On December 19, 1925, songwriter and Disney Legend Robert Bernard Sherman was born in New York City, New York. After traveling cross-country for several years, the Sherman family settled down in Beverly Hills, California, where Sherman excelled in school, on the piano and violin, and in painting and creative writing. As a child, he and his brother Richard put on shows for the neighborhood, which Robert wrote and Richard performed. In 1943, Robert got permission from his parents to join the Army at age 17. He was shot in the knee in 1945, and walked with a cane for the rest of his life. He was awarded several awards during his military service, including the Purple Heart.
After his service, Sherman attended Bard College in New York, majoring in English Literature and painting. His father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman, challenged Sherman and his brother to write a song “that some kid would give up his lunch money to buy.” The two took up the challenge, and a partnership was born. Their song, “Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love),” was recorded by Gene Autry, but didn’t make a huge impact. However, they continued to write. In 1958, the two founded Music World Corporation, a music publishing company, and the two had their first Top Ten hit writing a song for Annette Funicello, “Tall Paul.” This song, among the others they wrote for Funicello, caught the attention of Walt Disney, who hired the Sherman Brothers to work at the Walt Disney Studios. Their first assignment was a song for the new Annette Funicello movie, The Horsemasters, entitled “Strummin’ Song.” The two also wrote for the film The Parent Trap, starring Hayley Mills, and in 1964, they wrote their most well known song: “It’s a Small World (After All).”
In 1965 they became the first songwriters on contract at the Disney Studios. They had their greatest success with the Mary Poppins’ songs “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious;” Walt’s favorite, “Feed the Birds;” and the Academy Award winner, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” The two continued to work under Disney until his death in 1966. After this, they worked freelance, still contributing to Disney films, but also on some non-Disney assignments, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Slipper and the Rose, and Charlotte’s Web. In 2002, Sherman moved from Beverly Hills to London, England, where he continued to write and paint; that year he also had an exhibition of his paintings at the Thompsons’ Gallery on Marylebone High Street, London. He published his autobiographical novel, Moose, in 2008. On November 17, 2008, the Sherman Brothers were awarded the National Medal of Arts, and were inducted as a Disney Legend in 1990. On March 5, 2012, Robert Sherman passed away at the age of 86.