Along with his brother Richard, who is still living, the World War II vet composed the songs crooned by the best nanny ever hired, Mary Poppins; the tunes for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and, of course, “It’s A Small World (After All),” the globally unifying ditty that plays repeatedly during the famous Disney amusement park ride of the same name.
But that’s just the tip of the Sherman brothers’ contributions to pop cultural history. In honor of the late Robert Sherman and the work he did with his sibling, we run down our personal favorites from his long career.
“Spoonful of Sugar” — “Mary Poppins”
The chipper way Julie Andrews sings this ode to making unpleasant tasks pleasant is a spoonful of melodic sugar in itself. Sure, the advice — if taken literally — would prompt many to accuse Ms. Poppins of contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic. But leaving that aside, the swoops from note to note (“medicine go do-own”) and its unrelenting happiness make it one of the peppiest Disney numbers ever recorded. (Extra points for spawning a sensational “Simpsons” satire as well.)
“I Wan’na Be Like You” — “The Jungle Book”
The Sherman brothers were not responsible for the most famous song from this Mowgli story, “Bare Necessities.” But they deserve much credit for this lively, hip and hip-swiveling Louis Prima song, performed by King Louie.
“Fundamental Friend Dependability” — “Snoopy Come Home”
Not everything the Sherman brothers touched was a Disney production. They also wrote the songs for this notoriously tear-jerking Peanuts movie. Rather than include the weepy song about poor little sick Lila, I’ve once again gone the upbeat route and chosen this rouser, in which a weird girl named Clara attempts to establish a bond with Snoopy. Or, as she calls him, Rex. For reasons unknown, someone on YouTube semi-autotuned this clip of the song. But even in semi-distorted form, its infectious childlike energy cannot be denied.
“Hushabye Mountain” — “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
The Sherman Brothers first strayed from Disney to create the music for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” the Dick Van Dyke-led musical about a father and inventor who creates a flying car. Thank goodness they did.
From the title song to “Truly Scrumptious,” “Chitty Chitty” is a film made great by its music. But “Hushabye Mountain,” a sweet lullaby sung by Van Dyke, is the song that most endures even when heard outside of the film’s context.
“That’s What Makes the World Go Round” — “The Sword in the Stone”
“The Sword in the Stone” may not be the best known Disney animated films, but the tale of a young King Arthur is certainly one of my favorites. For some reason, my sister Lauren and I still love “That’s What Makes the World Go Round,” a catchy tune sung by Merlin and Arthur as fish. It’s very simple, but it matches the scene to a tee.
“The Beautiful Briny” — “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”
There are so many fantastic songs in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” the 1971 film about an aspiring witch (Angela Lansbury), a con artist (David Tomlinson) and three children who take an adventure on a bed as WWII rages on around them.
While it was extremely difficult to pick my favorite track from the movie, I chose “The Beautiful Briny,” sung by Lansbury and Tomlinson as they visit a supper club under the sea. The melody and sweet lyrics perfectly compliment the whimsical imagery. It also introduced me to the phrase “bobbing along,” which I still use to this day.
What is your favorite Robert and Richard Sherman song? Share your pick or picks in the comments.