Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

By: Greg Gately

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95. The Walt Disney Company has shared the sorrowful news about the passing of the legendary Richard Sherman, who made up 1/2 of the duo The Sherman Brothers. Creators of some of the most classic Disney Music you have ever heard. Hum a Disney song, and you are more than likely humming a Sherman Bros. written song.

Do yourself a favor and go watch “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story

Or you can watch this amazing Disney Special called “Disney Family Albums: The Sherman Brothers” which can be seen on our Wednesday Night live co-host Sam’s Disney Diary.

Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman, half of the Academy Award®-winning songwriting team of the Sherman Brothers (with his late brother, Disney Legend Robert B. Sherman), passed away Saturday, May 25, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, due to age-related illness. He was 95 years old. One of the most prolific composer-lyricists in the history of family entertainment, and a key member of Walt Disney’s inner circle of creative talents, Richard garnered nine Academy Award nominations (winning two Oscars® for his work on the 1964 classic Mary Poppins), won three GRAMMY® Awards, and received 24 gold and platinum albums over the course of his 65-year career. His career ran the gamut from the early days of rock n’ roll (with such hits as “You’re Sixteen”) and television to Broadway and Hollywood.

Generations of moviegoers and theme park guests have been introduced to the world of Disney through the Sherman brothers’ magnificent and timeless songs. Even today, the duo’s work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney. The Sherman brothers were perhaps best known for their work on Mary Poppins (1964), for which they won two Oscars: Best Score – Substantially Original and Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Another cherished song from the film, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” became a pop hit, entering the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965, while the lullaby “Feed the Birds” became one of Walt’s favorite songs—ever.

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95
Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

“Richard Sherman was the embodiment of what it means to be a Disney Legend, creating along with his brother Robert the beloved classics that have become a cherished part of the soundtrack of our lives,” said Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “From films like Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book to attractions like ‘it’s a small world,’ the music of the Sherman Brothers has captured the hearts of generations of audiences. We are forever grateful for the mark Richard left on the world, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”

Pete Docter, Chief Creative Officer, Pixar Animation Studios, said, “You don’t get songs like ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ without a genuine love of life, which Richard passed on to everyone lucky enough to be around him. Even in his 90s he had more energy and enthusiasm than anyone, and I always left renewed by Richard’s infectious joy for life.”

“The Sherman brothers were professional optimists who found a perfect patron in Walt Disney. Their songs had an upbeat outlook that spilled over into Richard’s life, which was not without its troubles and challenges,” said Leonard Maltin, film historian, author, and educator. “He was especially proud that he and his brother carried on a songwriting career like their father, who encouraged them early on.”

Born on June 12, 1928, in New York City, Richard and his brother would, years later, go on to follow in their Tin Pan Alley songwriter father’s, Al Sherman’s, footsteps. The Sherman family relocated to Beverly Hills in 1937, after years of cross-country moves. Richard attended Beverly Hills High School before he majored in music at Bard College. Drafted into the United States Army, he served as conductor for the Army band and glee club from 1953 to 1955.

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

In 1951, Gene Autry was the first to record a Sherman brothers song, “Gold Can Buy You Anything But Love.” But the songwriters’ big break wouldn’t come until seven years later, when Mouseketeer (and fellow future Disney Legend) Annette Funicello recorded their song “Tall Paul.” That tune peaked at No. 7 on the charts, selling more than 700,000 singles.

The success of such songs caught the attention of Walt, who hired the Sherman brothers as staff songwriters for The Walt Disney Studios. Their first assignment: write a song for the made-for-television movie The Horsemasters (1961), starring Funicello. Soon, they would contribute to such feature films as The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), The Parent Trap (1961), Summer Magic (1963), The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965), Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), The Jungle Book (1967), The Happiest Millionaire (1967), The Aristocats (1970), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). They would ultimately write more than 200 songs for some 27 films and 24 television productions.

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95
Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

Related: Walt Disney Archives Treasures Unearthed: A Look Back at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair

They also contributed music for a number of theme park attractions around the world, including “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room,” and “It’s a Small World”—the latter of which Richard once described as “a prayer for peace.” In the early 1980s, the brothers returned to write songs for EPCOT Center (now known as EPCOT) and Tokyo Disneyland, including “One Little Spark” and “Meet the World.”

In the early 1970s, the Sherman brothers left the Walt Disney Studios to pursue other film projects. Following their work with Disney, the Sherman Brothers went on to provide an array of music, songs and occasional screenplays to such memorable family films as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Snoopy Come Home (1972), Charlotte’s Web (1973), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1973), Huckleberry Finn (1974), and The Slipper and the Rose (1976).

The Sherman brothers made history in 1973 by becoming the only Americans ever to win 1st Prize at the Moscow Film Festival. The Russian equivalent to the Oscar was bestowed to the Sherman Brothers for their film musical The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, for which they penned the script and songs. In 1976, The Slipper and the Rose was selected for Great Britain’s annual Royal Command Performance. This film similarly features a Sherman brothers’ screenplay and musical/song score.

Richard and his brother were inducted as Disney Legends in 1990.

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95
Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

In 1992, Walt Disney Records released a retrospective collection of their music, The Sherman Brothers: Disney’s Supercalifragilistic Songwriting Team. The brothers returned to the studio in 1998 to compose music for The Tigger Movie; that year, they also penned their autobiography, Walt’s Time: From Before to Beyond. In 2009, a second compilation of hits, The Sherman Brothers Songbook, was released, and their life stories were told in the documentary film The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (directed by Richard’s son, Gregory V. Sherman, in collaboration with Robert’s son, Jeffrey Sherman).

In 2005, Richard and Robert were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Three years later, the brothers were awarded the National Medal of the Arts, “for unforgettable songs and optimistic lyrics that have brought magic to the screen and stage. The Sherman brothers’ music has helped bring joy to millions.” During the ceremony, held at the White House, First Lady Laura Bush noted, “These medals recognize great contributions to art, music, theater, literature, history, and general scholarship… Recipients of the National Medal of the Arts represent the breadth of American creativity and the depth of the human spirit.”

In 2010, Richard and fellow award-winning composer John Debney collaborated on the song “Make Way for Tomorrow Today” for Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 2. That same year, The Walt Disney Company saluted the Sherman brothers for their musical contributions to Disney Parks worldwide. They were honored with their very own “window” on Main Street, U.S.A. (at Disneyland Park in California), which states: “Two Brothers Tunemakers – Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman: We’ll Write Your Tunes For a Song.”

Richard was preceded in death by his brother in 2012. The following year, actors B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman portrayed Robert and Richard, respectively, in Saving Mr. Banks (2013), a dramatized account of the making of Mary Poppins. Five years later, The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, rededicated Stage A as the Sherman Brothers Stage. At the time, Richard said, “It’s been a joy, it’s been an honor, and it’s been a privilege to work here at The Walt Disney Studios, working for Walt Disney and for all the brilliant, brilliant people with whom Bob and I associated through the years.”

In 2015, a television special chronicling his life, Richard M. Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime, produced by Disney Legend Don Hahn, debuted on PBS SoCal. Also in 2015, for the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, Richard contributed the song “A Kiss Goodnight,” which was tied to his 2017 book of the same title from Disney Editions. For The Walt Disney Studios, Richard wrote new lyrics for the live-action The Jungle Book (2016) and two years later appeared in Christopher Robin, for which he composed three new songs.

Most recently, Richard wrote a new song (with composer Fabrizio Mancinelli) for Disney Legend Andreas Deja’s 2023 animated short, Mushka. The song, entitled “Mushka’s Lullabye,” was sung by acclaimed soprano Holly Sedillos.

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

In 2023, Walt Disney Animation Studios revisited its 100-year history in the short film Once Upon a Studio. Richard returned to Walt’s office—the same place he and Robert would often perform “Feed the Birds” for Walt on Friday afternoons—to play piano in a key sequence.

Richard is survived by his wife of 66 years, Elizabeth; son Gregory and grandsons William and Matthew; daughter Victoria Wolf, son-in-law Doug Wolf, and grandchildren Mandy and Anthony. He is also survived by his daughter from a previous marriage, Lynda Rothstein, as well as her two children and three grandchildren. A private funeral is scheduled to take place Friday, May 31, at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles. Plans for a celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

Disney and Music Legend Richard M. Sherman Passes Away at 95

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