With His Brother, He Crafted the World's Most-Played Song

Richard Sherman of Disney and 'It's a Small World' fame dies at 95
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 26, 2024 7:43 AM CDT
With His Brother, He Crafted the World's Most-Played Song
Richard M. Sherman in 2018.   (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

Richard M. Sherman, one half of the prolific, award-winning pair of brothers who helped form millions of childhoods by penning the instantly memorable songs for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang—as well as the most-played tune on Earth, "It's a Small World (After All)"—has died at age 95. The Walt Disney Co. announced that Sherman died Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital due to age-related illness, per the AP.

  • Sherman, together with his late brother Robert, won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney's 1964 smash Mary Poppins—best score and best song, "Chim Chim Cher-ee." They also picked up a Grammy for best movie or TV score. Robert Sherman died in London at age 86 in 2012.

  • Their hundreds of credits as joint lyricist and composer also include the films Winnie the Pooh, The Slipper and the Rose, Snoopy Come Home, Charlotte's Web, and The Magic of Lassie. Their Broadway musicals included 1974's Over Here! and stagings of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the mid-2000s.
  • "Something good happens when we sit down together and work," Richard Sherman told the AP in a 2005 joint interview. "We've been doing it all our lives. Practically since college we've been working together." Their awards include 23 gold and platinum albums and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 2005.
  • Most of the songs the Shermans wrote—in addition to being catchy and playful—work on multiple levels for different ages, something they learned from Disney. "He once told us, early on in our career, 'Don't insult the kid—don't write down to the kid. And don't write just for the adult.' So we write for grandpa and the 4-year-old—and everyone in between—and all see it on a different level," Richard Sherman said.
  • The Shermans began a decade-long partnership with Disney during the 1960s after having written hit pop songs like "Tall Paul" for ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and "You're Sixteen," later recorded by Ringo Starr. They wrote over 150 songs at Disney, including the soundtracks for such films as The Sword and the Stone, The Parent Trap, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Jungle Book, The Aristocrats, and The Tigger Movie.
  • "It's a Small World"—which accompanies visitors to Disney theme parks' boat ride sung by animatronic dolls representing world cultures—is believed to be the most performed composition in the world. It was first debuted at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair pavilion ride.
(Read other notable obituaries.)

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