The writer of some of Disney’s most beloved songs, and humanity’s most persistent earworms, Robert Sherman, has died at the age of 86. Sherman was the co-writer of “It’s a Small World (After All),” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “A Spoonful of Sugar,” among other hits (his brother Richard was his songwriting partner).
Now that I’ve mentioned them, you probably have one of those songs stuck in your head (You’re welcome!).
The catchiness of Sherman’s songs was one of his greatest talents — his music was infectious, and it punctuated the happiest and most poignant moments of the films he worked on. Sherman also collaborated on stage musicals and theme-park music, such as the Disney World Carousel of Progress song, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” He won two Academy Awards (for his work on “Mary Poppins,” including the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee”) and a Grammy, and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sherman’s death was announced by his son, via his Facebook page. The Walt Disney Company has been contacted for confirmation, but they have yet to reply.
“His love and his prayers, his philosophy and his poetry will live on forever. Forever his songs and his genius will bring hope, joy and love to this small, small world,” wrote Jeffrey Sherman.
In 2007, Sherman told LAist that he came up with the word “Supercaifragelisticexpialadocious”with his brother, who was his sonwriting partner. The nonsense word was based on double talk words they made up as children.
“We said, ‘Remember when we used to make up the big double talk words, we could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids and that’s where it started,” he said. “Obnoxious is an ugly word so we said atrocious word, that’s very British. We started with atrocious and then you can sound smart and be precocious, we had precocious and atrocious and we wanted something super colossal and that’s corny, so we took super and did double talk to get califragilistic which means nothing, it just came out that way. That's in a nut shell what we did over two weeks. All together you get Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
By the way, in the same interview, he gives some advice on how to get ”It’s a Small World” out of your head — “Play any other beautiful song.” He recommends “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (You’re welcome, again).