Monday, March 12, 2012

Another Farewell

Well, I apologize for the slow posting around here, but I've been spending most of my free time practicing for a bunch of gigs this month. Actually, while I was playing the harp at a wedding in Disneyland this past weekend, it occurred to me that I needed to include a farewell post for this Disney legend.
Last week on March 5th, American songwriter Robert Sherman passed away peacefully at the age of 86 (pictured in the foreground on the right). He was known for his collaboration with his brother, Richard, specializing in musical films, including Mary Poppins, The Parent Trap, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Aristocats. As Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios, the Sherman Brothers actually wrote more musical movie songs than anyone other songwriting team in history. In addition to many other Disney and non-Disney top box office films scores, they also composed music for stage musicals and even theme park attractions including the music for Disneyland's "It's a Small World (After All)" (originally an attraction at the 1964 New York World's Fair) and the Enchanted Tiki Room. However, before his musical career, Robert was a WWII hero at 19 years old, who led a squad of soldiers into the Dachau concentration camp, being the first Allied troops to enter the camp (I greatly appreciate his service to our country).
This first song featured by the Sherman Brothers comes from the 1964 musical motion picture Mary Poppins, which earned them a Grammy Award for "Best Original Score." Sung by Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, "Chim Chim Cher-ee" also won "Best Original Song" at the Academy Awards the following year.

I wasn't planning on featuring two songs from Mary Poppins, but I realized I couldn't leave out this beauty by the Sherman Brothers. "Feed the Birds" is a haunting yet sentimental ballad that became Walt Disney's favorite song (pictured to the right of Robert and Richard). In fact, during Disney's final year of his life when his health was deteriorating, he would call the Sherman Brothers into his office and ask them to sing this song to him, often causing him to cry. After Disney's death two years later in 1966, the brothers would dedicate this song to Disney's memory every time they performed it.

The Sherman Brothers almost wrote numerous top-selling songs that reached the Billboard Top-10 including "Let's Get Together," featuring The Parent Trap's Hayley Mills singing a duet with herself (not the best vocals but definitely a memorable performance!). Another hit song was "You're Sixteen," sung by rockabilly singer Johnny Burnette, and it reached #8 in the US in December of 1960. In 1974, Ringo Starr of The Beatles had a #1 hit with a cover version of this song, featuring Paul McCartney on kazoo and Harry Nilsson on backing vocals (how's that for random?). Here's footage of the original version by Burnette in the early '60s.

Farewell, Robert Sherman. Your legendary music will live on forever.

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