Robert B. Sherman

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This article is about the American songwriter and screenwriter. For other people named Robert Sherman, see Robert Sherman (disambiguation).
Robert B. Sherman
Robert Sherman.jpg
Sherman in 2002.
Background information
Birth name Robert Bernard Sherman
Born (1925-12-19)December 19, 1925
New York City, New York, USA
Died March 5, 2012(2012-03-05) (aged 86)
London, England, UK
Genres Musical film, musical theatre, animation
Occupations Songwriter, screenwriter, publisher
Years active 1950–2012
Website http://www.shermanmusic.com

Robert Bernard Sherman (December 19, 1925 – March 5, 2012)[1] was an American songwriter who specialized in musical films with his brother Richard Morton Sherman. Some of the Sherman Brothers' best known songs were incorporated into movies and animations like Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Slipper and the Rose, Charlotte's Web and the theme park song of "It's a Small World (After All)".

Early life[edit]

Robert Bernard Sherman was born on December 19, 1925, in New York City, to Russian Jewish immigrants, Rosa and Al Sherman. Al Sherman, a songwriter, paid for Robert's hospital delivery costs with a royalty check that had arrived that day for the song "Save Your Sorrow". Al Sherman was to become a well known Tin Pan Alley songwriter.[2]

As a youth, Robert Sherman excelled in intellectual pursuits, taking up the violin and piano, painting and writing poetry. Following seven years of frequent cross-country moves, the Shermans finally settled down in Beverly Hills, California. Some of the primary schools Robert attended in Manhattan included PS 241 and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School; in California, the El Rodeo School.

Throughout his years at Beverly Hills High School, he wrote and produced radio and stage programs for which he won much acclaim. At age 16, he wrote Armistice and Dedication Day, a stage play centered on contemporary 1940s Americans that showed how their lives were inextricably changed following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. The play yielded thousands of dollars for War Bonds and earned a special citation from the War Department.[3][4]

World War II[edit]

In 1943, Sherman obtained permission from his parents to join the army a year early, at age 17. In early April 1945, he led half a squad of men into Dachau concentration camp, the first Allied troops to enter the camp after it had been evacuated by the fleeing German military only hours earlier. On April 12, 1945, Sherman was shot in the knee, forcing him to walk with a cane for the rest of his life.

For his service to his country, he received a Combat Infantryman Badge, two Battle Stars for his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, an American Campaign Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and a Good Conduct Medal. In addition, Sherman was also awarded several Army Weapons Qualifications badges including a "Sharpshooter badge" with bars for both rifle and submachine gun; a "Marksman Badge" for carbine and an "Expert Badge" for rifle and grenade.

During his recuperation in Taunton and Bournemouth in the UK, Sherman was awarded the Purple Heart medal. While still rehabilitating, Sherman first became curious about British culture, reading anything he could find on the subject. Once back on his feet, Sherman met and became friends with many British people, attaining first hand knowledge of the United Kingdom, its customs and people.[5]

Years later, Sherman credited this time in his life as the origin of his fascination with England, believing that it proved an invaluable resource to his songwriting career. Many of his best-known works center around English stories, authors and subject matter.

United States Military Qualification Badges[edit]

Combat Infantry Badge.svgArmyqual.jpg

Education[edit]

On his return to the United States, Sherman attended Bard College in upstate New York where he majored in English Literature and Painting. Sherman also served as the editor-in-chief of The Bardian which is the campus newspaper. At Bard, Sherman completed his first two novels, The Best Estate and Music, Candy and Painted Eggs. He graduated in the class of 1949. On May 12, 1990, Sherman received an Honorary Doctorate from Lincoln College.

Songwriting career[edit]

(Left to right) Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and Walt Disney sing "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" (1964)

Within two years, Sherman and his brother Richard began writing songs together on a challenge from their father, Al Sherman, a successful popular songwriter in the "Tin Pan Alley" days ("No! No! A Thousand Times No!!", "You Gotta Be a Football Hero"). In 1953, Robert married Joyce Ruth Sasner, which moderated what had become his bohemian lifestyle in the years following the war. His first child, Laurie, was born in 1955, followed by Jeffrey in 1957, Andrea in 1960 and later, Robert in 1968.

In 1958, Sherman founded the music publishing company, Music World Corporation, which later worked with Disney's BMI publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first Top Ten hit with "Tall Paul", which was sung by Annette Funicello. The success of this song yielded the attention of Walt Disney who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote what is perhaps their most recognized song: "It's a Small World (After All)" for the 1964 New York World's Fair.

In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won 2 Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, including "Feed The Birds", "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", and the Oscar winner, "Chim Chim Cher-ee". Since Mary Poppins' premiere, Robert B. Sherman subsequently earned 9 Academy Award nominations, 2 Grammy Awards, 4 Grammy Award nominations and 23 gold and platinum albums.

Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney until Disney's death in 1966. After leaving the company, the brothers worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme park exhibits and stage musicals.

Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli's motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968 which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award Nomination. In 1973, the Sherman Brothers made history by becoming the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer for which they also authored the screenplay.

The Slipper and the Rose was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year and was attended by Queen Elizabeth. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, Slipper also features both song-score and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. That same year the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood "Walk of Fame" directly across from Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Their numerous other Disney and Non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte's Web (1973), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (1992).

Outside the motion picture realm, their Tony-nominated Over Here! (1974) was the biggest-grossing original Broadway Musical of that year. The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top selling songs including "You're Sixteen", which holds the distinction of reaching Billboard's Top Ten twice; first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then with Ringo Starr fourteen years later. Other top-ten hits include, "Pineapple Princess", "Let's Get Together" and more.

In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for Disney's blockbuster film: The Tigger Movie (2000). This film marked the brothers' first major motion picture for the Disney company in over twenty eight years.

Original London cast - "Janes and Michaels". Left to right (Front): Poppy Lee Friar, Jack Montgomery, Perry Millward, Harry Stott, Ben Watton, Jake Catterall, Nicola Bowman. Left to right (BACK): Charlotte Spencer, Faye Spittlehouse, Carrie Fletcher, Robert B. Sherman. (Photo Date: 19 July 2004)

In 2002 the stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang premiered in London. It is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century-old theatre's history. In early 2005 a second Chitty company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Foxwoods Theatre (then the Hilton Theatre). The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions.

In 2002, Sherman moved from Beverly Hills to London, England, where he continued to write and paint. In 2003, four Sherman Brothers' musicals ranked in the "Top 10 Favorite Children's Films of All Time" in a (British) nationwide poll reported by the BBC. The Jungle Book (1967)_ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The Aristocats (1970) ranked at #9 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.

A new Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins: The Stage Musical made its world premiere at the Prince Edward Theatre in December 2004 and features the Sherman Brothers classic songs.

In June 2005, Robert B. Sherman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame with his brother. Also in June 2005, a tribute was paid to Robert B. Sherman at the Théâtre de Vevey in Vevey, Switzerland by the Ballet Romand. Chitty opened on Broadway in 2005 and commenced its first full UK tour in December 2005 with subsequent tours and/or tour dates in each year since. Poppins opened on Broadway in 2006.

In 2008, Robert Sherman completed an autobiographical novel entitled Moose, while Poppins embarked on a UK tour as well as a world tour beginning in Göteborg, Sweden. Chitty embarked on a tour of 29 cities in the U.S. which ended in 2009.

Painting[edit]

Sherman dedicating a print of his painting, "Sacrifice" (Behind) to the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London in 2004. Officiating was Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire and Commonwealth.

A lesser known aspect of Sherman's life was his painting which he had done since 1941 and kept private (except from his family and close friends)[6] until 2002. Sherman studied painting while attending Bard College, receiving a double degree in both Painting and English Literature. Sherman has worked in various visual arts media, including clay and metal sculpture, but his main focus was oil painting throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s until he switched to acrylics in the mid-1960s, and stuck to that medium.

In April 2002, an exhibition of Sherman's paintings was held in London, England, at Thompsons' Gallery on Marylebone High Street. This marked the first public exhibition of his paintings since he started painting in 1941. Sherman subsequently exhibited his paintings in Florida and California. A series of Limited Edition Giclées of Sherman's art were also published at this time on both canvas and paper.

Paintings which have appeared at the various exhibitions include: "On Route 9G" (c.1949), "Self Portrait" (1970), "San Francisco (1970)", "Moses" (1977), "Carousel In The Country" (1982), "From the Dining Room (1982)", "Sacrifice" (1983), "Florid Window" (1984), "Geisha (1986)", "Fine Four Fendered Friend (2002)" and "Park Lane" (2003).[7] On March 4, 2007, Sherman and his younger son, Robbie, donated limited edition prints of "Moses" and "Sacrifice" to the Giffnock Synagogue in Glasgow, Scotland.

Robert Sherman was also a metal sculptor, poet, and short story author.

Marriage and family[edit]

Sherman married Joyce Ruth Sasner on September 27, 1953. Joyce and Robert Sherman are survived by four children: Laurie Shane, Jeffrey Craig, Andrea Tracy and Robert Jason, and five grandchildren Joshua, Alex, Sarah, Amelia, and Ryan. Joyce Sherman died on October 16, 2001.

Recent achievements[edit]

The Sherman Brothers receive the National Medal of Arts which is the highest honor conferred on artists or patrons of the arts from the United States Government on behalf of the American people. Honorees are fielded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and selected by the President of the United States. (left to right: Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and U.S. President George W. Bush at The White House on November 17, 2008
  • In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the award winning score to The Tigger Movie which achieved number one status in both theatrical box office and video sales.
  • The Sherman Brothers' classic motion picture, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was adapted into a London West End Musical in 2002 and premiered at the London Palladium on April 16, 2002 featuring many new songs and a reworked score by both Sherman Brothers. It was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Musical. The Sherman Brothers each received the "Musical Theatre Award" from the Variety Club of Great Britain that year as well for Chitty. Chitty finished a record breaking, three and a half year run at the Palladium becoming the longest running show in the theatre's century long history. 2004 saw the premiere of Mary Poppins on the stage. In 2005, Poppins was nominated for nine Olivier Awards. In 2005 Chitty went to Broadway and was nominated for 9 Tonys and also began its nationwide (UK) tour.
  • In May 2009, a documentary called The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story was released. In October 2009, Disney released a 59 track, two CD compendium of their work for the studio spanning forty-two years. The CD is entitled "The Sherman Brothers Songbook".
  • In 2011, Sherman begins preproduction on the film project Inkas the Ramferinkas. Animatic work has already been produced out of London, Munich and Los Angeles. Sherman collaborates on both the script and score for this film.
  • On May 21, 2011, the Sherman Brothers were each awarded honorary doctorate degrees in Fine Arts from their alma mater, Bard College. This was Robert's second honorary doctorate. His first was granted by Lincoln College on May 12, 1990.

Robert B. Sherman Scholarship[edit]

In 2005, Robert Sherman established an annual scholarship award in his name through the BMI Foundation.[9] The awardee is chosen by BMI's Lehman Engel program with some consultation with Sherman. The first awardee was announced in November 2006. Awardees are chosen for their excellence in musical comedy songwriting with an emphasis on lyric writing.[9] Following is a list of the annual winners since the award's inception:

  • 2006 - Andrew Nellessen
  • 2007 - Michael Mitnick[10]
  • 2008 - (No Award This Year)
  • 2009 - Jeffrey Simno
  • 2010 - Andy Roninson[11]

Collaboration from afar[edit]

From 2002 until his death, Robert Sherman lived in London, England. He moved from Beverly Hills while Richard Sherman remained in California. The geographical separation did not impede the brothers' collaborative process. The brothers credited this to the technological advents of fax machines, email and low-cost international telephone service. Also, both brothers travelled between Los Angeles, New York and London frequently which also facilitated their work. After Robert's move, the brothers continued to collaborate on various musical plays as well as a feature, animated, film musical which incorporates their original story, song score and screenplay. In his later years, Sherman was a frequent visitor to Ireland, stating that the Irish persona was like a "continuous pantomime."[12]

Death[edit]

Robert B. Sherman died in London on March 5, 2012 from an age-related illness. He was aged 86.[1] A public memorial service and funeral was held for him on March 9, 2012 at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City.[13]

Posthumous achievements[edit]

In 2013, Moose: Chapters From My Life, an autobiography edited by his son Robert J. Sherman, was released by AuthorHouse. The book was acknowledged in the credits of the film Saving Mr. Banks.[14]

Major film scores[edit]

Motion picture screenplays[edit]

Stage musicals[edit]

Venues

The London Palladium in 2004

Theme park songs[edit]

Professional awards[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Annie Awards[edit]

BAFTA Awards[edit]

BMI[edit]

  • 1977 "Pioneer Award" awarded in Los Angeles, California.
  • 1991 "Lifetime Achievement Award" awarded at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

Christopher Award[edit]

Disney[edit]

Golden Globes[edit]

Golden Videocassette Award[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Laurel Awards[edit]

Moscow Film Festival[edit]

  • 1973 First Place Award in the category of "Best Music" for Tom Sawyer

National Medal of Arts[edit]

Olivier Awards[edit]

Songwriters Hall of Fame[edit]

  • 2005 induction at the Marriott Hotel on Times Square in New York City.

Theatre Museum Award[edit]

  • 2010 Career Achievement Award presented on May 17, 2010 at The Players Club in New York City.

Variety Club Awards[edit]

Walk of Fame[edit]

  • 1976 A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame awarded to "Richard & Robert Sherman" on November 17, 1976, located at 6914 Hollywood Blvd.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]