Richard Sherman, Legendary Songwriter, Passes Away at 95

Richard M. Sherman, one half of the celebrated songwriting duo known for crafting memorable tunes for Disney classics like “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” has died at the age of 95. His work, alongside his late brother Robert, includes the iconic song “It’s a Small World (After All),” which holds the distinction of being the most-played tune globally.

The Sherman brothers’ contributions to music earned them two Academy Awards for the 1964 Disney hit “Mary Poppins,” winning Best Score and Best Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” They also received a Grammy for Best Movie or TV Score. Robert Sherman passed away in London in 2012 at the age of 86.

Richard Sherman passed away on Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital due to age-related issues, as announced by The Walt Disney Co. The company praised the Sherman brothers’ timeless songs, which have introduced countless generations to the magic of Disney. Their extensive catalog includes scores for films such as “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Slipper and the Rose,” “Snoopy Come Home,” “Charlotte’s Web,” and “The Magic of Lassie.” They also ventured into Broadway with musicals like 1974’s “Over Here!” and stage adaptations of “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

In a 2005 interview, Richard Sherman reflected on their lifelong collaboration: “Something good happens when we sit down together and work. We’ve been doing it all our lives. Practically since college we’ve been working together.” Their achievements include 23 gold and platinum albums, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and numerous prestigious awards, including the first prize at the Moscow Film Festival for “Tom Sawyer” in 1973 and induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2005. President George W. Bush awarded them the National Medal of Arts in 2008 for their contributions to music.

The Shermans’ songs are known for their appeal to audiences of all ages, a philosophy they learned from Walt Disney himself, who advised them not to write down to children but to create music that resonated with both the young and the old. Their partnership with Disney began in the 1960s, producing over 150 songs for various films, including “The Sword in the Stone,” “The Parent Trap,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “The Aristocats,” and “The Tigger Movie.”

The song “It’s a Small World” is especially notable, accompanying the popular ride at Disney theme parks and believed to be the most performed composition worldwide. The Shermans credited their father, Al Sherman, for instilling in them a love for songwriting. Al Sherman himself was a composer of popular songs like “You Gotta Be a Football Hero.”

Despite occasional estrangement, the brothers maintained a close professional relationship and continued to work together into their 70s. Richard Sherman is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, their two children, Gregory and Victoria, and a daughter from a previous marriage, Lynda. A private funeral is planned for Friday, with a public celebration of life service to be announced later by Disney.

Reflecting on their partnership, Richard Sherman once said, “We’re human. We have frailties and weaknesses. But we love each other very much, respect each other. I’m happy that he’s a successful guy. That makes me a successful guy.”

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