As the sons of successful Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman both Robert Bernard Sherman and Richard Morton Sherman seemed destined to pursue a career in music although nobody could have dreamt that their success would completely eclipse their father's. The family relocated to Los Angeles from the East Coast and while both boys received piano lessons Robert also learnt to play the violin and Richard the flute and the piccolo. They attended Beverley Hills High School where Robert wrote radio programs and plays including the acclaimed Armistice and Dedication and he later served in the US Army during World War II during which time he was shot in the knee and awarded the Purple Heart. Back home both brothers studied at Bard College in upstate New York with Robert majoring in English Literature and Richard in music. After graduation while sharing an apartment their songwriting partnership was born out of a dare from their father who bet them they couldn't write a tune that someone would pay money for. The brothers took the challenge and composed 'Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love)' that was recorded by the singing cowboy Gene Autry.
In 1958 Robert established the publishing company Music World Corporation and the duo scored their first US Top 10 hit with 'Tall Paul' that was sung by American child actress Annette Funicello who was a television Mouseketeer on Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. They enjoyed another Top 10 hit the following year when Johnny Burnette recorded their song 'You're Sixteen' that has subsequently been recorded by many other artists. Funicello's recording of 'Tall Paul' brought the Sherman's to the attention of Walt Disney himself and he employed them as staff songwriters at his studios. The duo were successful right from the start, the first movies they wrote songs for included three starring Hayley Mills; The Parent Trap (1961), In Search Of The Castaways (1962) and Summer Magic (1963) plus their first animated feature - The Sword In The Stone (1963). The following year they composed one of their most famous songs for Disney, 'It's A Small World (After All)' which would become globally recognised as the theme and subsequently the name of one of Disneyland's most popular attractions. It was also in 1964 that they enjoyed their biggest success so far with the soundtrack for the blockbuster children's movie Mary Poppins that contained some of the most popular songs ever featured in a film, including 'A Spoonful Of Sugar', 'Jolly Holiday', 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', 'Feed The Birds', 'Chim Chim Cher-ee', 'Step In Time' and 'Let's Go Fly A Kite'. The brothers won Oscars for Best Score and Best Song (for 'Chim Chim Cher-ee') while the soundtrack album Mary Poppins garnered them two Grammy Awards for Best Recording For Children and Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. The theme song to That Darn Cat (sung by Bobby Darin) in 1965 and songs for The Happiest Millionaire (1967) preceded another big hit when they composed songs for The Jungle Book (1967) which included 'Trust In Me', 'Colonel Hathi's March', 'I Wanna Be Like You' and 'That's What Friends Are For'. Following Walt Disney's death the Sherman's left the company although they would continue to write for Disney as well as other companies. In 1968 the duo wrote songs for the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang including 'Toot Sweets', Hushabye Mountain', 'Me 'Ol Bamboo', 'Truly Scrumptious', 'Doll On A Music Box' and the title track 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' itself.
Robert and Richard continued their successful career with songs for The Aristocats (1970), Bedknobs And Broomsticks (1971), 'Snoopy Come Home (1972), Charlotte's Web (1973), The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977), Winnie The Pooh And A Day For Eeyore (1983), Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (1992) and the Tigger Movie (2000). As well as writing the songs the brothers also wrote or co-wrote the screenplay for several movies including The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer (1973), The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (1974), The Slipper And The Rose (1976) and The Magic Of Lassie (1978). In 1974 their Broadway show Over Here that was set during WWII became the biggest grossing original musical of the year.
Although Robert and his family moved to London in 2002 while Richard remained in Los Angles the pair continued to collaborate together particularly on stage productions of some of their movie successes. Despite the brothers maintaining the pretence of a close personal and working relationship it was revealed in the 2009 documentary The Boys that theirs was a stormy and strained association and unlike most siblings had no social contact outside of their work. The brothers even forbade their sons Greg (son of Richard) and Jeff (son of Robert) to have contact although as directors of the documentary the cousins finally got to know each other. While most songwriting teams are comprised of a lyricist and a composer the Sherman's both wrote music and lyrics although people who knew them, such as Walt Disney's nephew Roy commented that their different personalities were reflected in their songs, Richard being more 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' and Robert more 'Feed The Birds'.
Robert died in London in 2012 aged eighty-six and whatever their personal problems his death firmly closed the book on one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of all time and their songs will remain enduring classics with adults and children alike.
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