The song was inspired by one of the drawings of a chimney sweep created by Mary Poppins' screenwriter, Don DaGradi. When asked about the drawing by the Sherman Brothers, DaGradi explained the ancient British folklore attributed to "sweeps" and how shaking hands with one could bring a person good luck. In their 1961 treatment, the Sherman Brothers had already amalgamated many of the P.L. Travers characters in the creation of "Bert". His theme music became "Chim Chim Cher-ee". In addition to the "standard" version of the song which Bert sings to the children, he sings short snippets of the song to himself at various times, with different verses specific to an unfolding plot element.
The song was parodied by song parodist Allan Sherman (no relation to the Sherman Brothers), using the song's same title. In his version, he poked fun at the American merchandise seen on TV commercials.