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‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘It’s a Small World’ songwriter Richard M. Sherman dead at 95

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Richard M. Sherman, one half of the prolific songwriting duo with his brother Robert Sherman, has died at 95.

The Walt Disney Company announced the news on their website on Saturday.

“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,” their statement read.

It continued: “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.”

Richard M. Sherman, one half of the prolific and award-winning Sherman Brothers songwriting duo, has died at 95. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for AFI)

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Sherman, with his brother Robert, earned two Oscars and a Grammy for their work on “Mary Poppins,” best score and best original song, for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Disney’s statement also notes that the film’s song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was a pop hit in 1965, and “Feed the Birds” was one of Walt Disney’s personal favorites.

He and his brother also wrote music for the theme park, including “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” and “It’s a Small World.”

Born on June 12, 1928, in New York City, Sherman and his brother followed in their songwriter father Al Sherman’s footsteps. The family moved to Beverly Hills in 1937, and he attended Bard College, majoring in music. 

Drafted into the U.S. Army, he served as the conductor for the Army band and glee club from 1953 to 1955.

Richard M. Sherman conducting a band

Sherman and his brother earned two Oscars for their work on “Mary Poppins,” best score and best original song, for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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According to Disney’s website, Gene Autry was the first to record a Sherman brothers song in 1951, with “Gold Can Buy You Anything But Love,” and they got their big break through Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, who recorded their song “Tall Paul.”

At Disney, they wrote over 150 songs, including the soundtracks for such films as “The Sword and the Stone,” “The Parent Trap,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Aristocats” and “The Tigger Movie.”

In the 1970s, the duo moved away from Disney and wrote music for other family films, including “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Slipper and the Rose.”

“Something good happens when we sit down together and work,” Richard Sherman told The Associated Press in a 2005 joint interview with his brother. “We’ve been doing it all our lives. Practically since college we’ve been working together.”

Richard M. Sherman on stage with his brother, Robert B. Sherman

Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman at their induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2005. (L. Busacca/WireImage for Songwriter’s Hall of Fame)

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Robert died in London in 2012.

The Sherman brothers’ other honors include 23 gold and platinum albums, induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2005, and the National Medal of Arts, awarded by President George W. Bush in 2008 for music that “has helped bring joy to millions.”

They also hold the distinction of being the only Americans to win first prize at the Moscow Film Festival for their musical “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 1973.

Disney confirmed a private funeral service will be held on Friday, May 31, followed by a “celebration of life” to be held at a later date.

Richard M. Sherman clapping on stage

Disney confirmed a private funeral service will be held for Sherman on Friday, May 31, followed by a “celebration of life” at a later date. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for The Walt Disney Family Museum)

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“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,” the company noted.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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