Robert B. Sherman

Robert B. Sherman was born just before Christmas in 1925 in New York City. Parents, Rosa & Al Sherman didn’t know how they would pay the doctor and delivery costs. Fortunately, upon their arrival home from the hospital, Al discovered a large royalty check in the mail. Ironically, it was Al’s song, “Save Your Sorrow”, which saved the day and covered the bill. In 1928, younger brother, Richard M. Sherman, was born. Years later, brothers Robert and Richard would form one of the most prolific, lauded and long lasting songwriting partnerships of all time.

As a youth, Robert excelled in intellectual pursuits, taking up the violin and piano, painting and writing poetry. Following seven years of frequent cross-country moves, the Shermans finally settled down in Beverly Hills, California. Throughout Robert’s years at Beverly Hills High School, he wrote and produced radio and stage programs for which he won much acclaim. At sixteen years old, Robert wrote a stage play, entitled “Armistice and Dedication Day”, which earned thousands of dollars worth in War Bonds and garnered Sherman a special citation from the War Department.

In 1943, Robert obtained permission from his parents to join the army a year early, at only age 17. In early April, 1945, he inadvertently led half a squad of men into Dachau Concentration Camp, the first Allied troops to enter the camp after it had been evacuated by the fleeing German military only hours earlier. On April 12, 1945, the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, Robert was shot in the knee forcing him to walk with a cane ever since.

During his recuperation in Taunton and Bournemouth, England, Robert was awarded the Purple Heart medal. While still rehabilitating, Robert first became curious about British culture, reading voraciously anything he could find on the subject. Once on his feet, Robert met and became friends with many Brits, attaining first-hand knowledge of the United Kingdom, her customs and people. His fascination with England would later prove an invaluable resource to his songwriting career; many of his most well-known works centering around Anglo-themed stories and subject matter.

Upon his return to the United States, Robert attended Bard College in upstate New York where he majored in English Literature and Painting. At Bard, Robert completed his first two novels, entitled “The Best Estate” and “Music, Candy and Painted Eggs”. He graduated in the class of 1949.

Within two years, Robert and his brother Richard began writing songs together on a challenge from their father. In 1953, Robert married the love of his life, Joyce Sasner, which helped to neutralize what had become Robert’s wildly bohemian lifestyle in the years following the war. In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company, “Music World Corporation”, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney’s BMI publishing arm, “Wonderland Music Company”. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first “Top Ten” hit with “Tall Paul”, sung by Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello. The success of this song yielded the attention of Walt Disney, who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers on as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios.

While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote what is perhaps their most well-loved song: “It’s a Small World (After All)” for the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Since then, “Small World” has become the most translated and performed song on earth.

In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won 2 Academy Awards for Mary Poppins (1964), which includes the songs “Feed The Birds”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and the Oscar winner, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. Since Mary Poppins (1964)’s motion picture premiere, the Sherman Brothers have subsequently earned 9 Academy Award nominations, 2 Grammy Awards, 4 Grammy Award nominations and an incredible 23 gold and platinum albums.

Robert and Richard worked directly for Walt Disney until Disney’s death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brother songwriting team has worked freelance on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme park exhibits and stage musicals.

Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli’s motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award Nomination.

In 1973, the Sherman Brothers made history by becoming the only Americans, ever, to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer (1973), for which they also authored the screenplay.

The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976), was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year and was attended by Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, “Slipper” also features both song-score and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. That same year, the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” directly across from the Chinese Theater.

Their numerous other Disney and Non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The AristoCats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte’s Web (1973), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), Snoopy Come Home (1972), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989).

Outside of the motion picture realm, their Tony nominated smash hit, “Over Here!” (1974), was the biggest grossing original Broadway Musical of that year. The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top selling songs including “You’re Sixteen”, which holds the distinction of reaching Billboard’s #1 spot twice; first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and, then, with Ringo Starr, fourteen years later. Other top-ten hits include, “Pineapple Princess”, “Let’s Get Together” and more.

In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for Disney’s blockbuster film: The Tigger Movie (2000). This film marked the brothers’ first major motion picture for the Disney company in over twenty eight years.

In 2002, “Chitty” hit the London stage receiving rave revues. By 2005, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Stage Musical” broke records becoming the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century old theatre’s history. In Spring 2005, a second “Chitty” company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Hilton Theatre. In each subsequent year, new touring companies were formed in the UK, USA and Singapore. The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions.

In April 2002, an exhibition of Robert’s paintings was held in London, England at Thompsons’ Gallery on Marylebone High Street. This marked the first public exhibition of Robert’s paintings, ever, which is amazing considering Robert had been painting since 1941. The London Exhibition was widely covered by TV, radio and printed press. Robert subsequently enjoyed a succession of successful art exhibitions in the United States with the sale of many Limited Edition giclée prints of his work.

In 2002, Sherman moved from Beverly Hills to London, England, where he continues to write and paint.

In 2003, four Sherman Brothers’ musicals ranked in the “Top 10 Favorite Children’s Films of All Time” in a (British) nationwide poll reported by the BBC. The Jungle Book (1967) ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The AristoCats (1970) ranked at #9 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.

In June 2005, The Sherman Brothers were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Also, in June 2005, a tribute was paid to Robert B. Sherman at the Théâtre de Vevey in Switzerland by the Ballet Romand. “Chitty” will be commencing its full UK tour in December 2005.

The Disney/Cameron Mackintosh production of “Mary Poppins: The Stage Musical” made its world premier at the Prince Edward Theatre in December 2004 and features the Sherman Brothers classic songs. This show premiered on Broadway in 2006. In 2013, “Poppins” became the 22nd longest running musical or nonmusical show in Broadway history. Numerous touring companies have toured worldwide since 2008.

The Sherman Brothers were awarded the 2008 American National Medal of the Arts by President George W. Bush for their services to music. In 2009, a controversial documentary about the Sherman Brothers entitled, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (2009) was produced by Sherman’s older son, Jeffrey C. Sherman and brother Richard’s son Gregory V. Sherman. In 2010 the Sherman Brothers were awarded a window on Main Street Disneyland. In 2011, the Sherman Brothers were each given honorary doctorates from their alma mater, Bard College. Sherman resided in London, England until his death on March 6, 2012.

His autobiography “Moose: Chapters From My Life” was posthumously released by AuthorHouse Publishers and was edited by Sherman’s youngest son, Robert J. Sherman. The book’s release happened at the same time as the major film release of Saving Mr. Banks (2013) in which Sherman and his brother are portrayed by B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman respectively.

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