Saturday, March 10, 2012

Remembering Robert Sherman

In ev'ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job's a game
And ev'ry task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It's very clear to see that
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
-Mary Poppins, words and music by The Sherman Brothers


We lost another Hollywood legend this week. Robert Bernard Sherman was born in New York City on December 19, 1925. He spent his last years in London, where he died, at the age of eighty-six, on March 6, 2012. He, of course, was part of the famed Sherman brothers. Together, they added so much to the landscape of the still golden years of Hollywood. It is so hard to imagine the later years of Walt Disney's magical world without the contributions that Robert and Richard made to the Disney franchise. 
Walt Disney put them under contract to write songs for his studio’s films; the Sherman brothers were among the last songwriters in Hollywood to work exclusively for a single studio. Their most successful Disney film was Mary Poppins.
The Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes the songs "Feed The Birds,"(Disney's favorite song and mine also by the Sherman brothers), "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and the Oscar-winning "Chim Chim Cher-ee." Since Mary Poppins' premiere, the Shermans have subsequently earned nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, and 23 gold- and platinum-certified albums.


As a kid growing up in the 60s and obsessed by Hollywood, especially musicals, The Sherman Brothers music was always present. The original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills came out the year I was born. When I was 3, Mary Poppins came out. When I was eight, there was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Sunday nights, we were at my grandparents' Skipper and at 7PM, it was The Wonderful World of Disney. That incredible overture that began each show was more than half of The Sherman Brothers music. Next to George and Ira Gershwin, the only major fraternal songwriting team in the history of American popular music has been Robert and Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman composed the music for their songs, and both he and Robert wrote the lyrics.
Disney Enterprises

From left, Richard M. Sherman, Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Robert B. Sherman on the set of “Mary Poppins,” from the 2009 documentary “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers.”
A couple of years ago, there was an incredible documentary about the Shermans. Sad to hear about the feuding over the years of these two geniuses. They gave so much joy to the world and yet there was so much angst in their personal lives. Hearing of Robert's death this week really saddened me. I felt as if a good friend had passed on. 
In a sense, he was/is a good friend. Thank God for the legacy left behind. So today, I am celebrating Robert Sherman! His creative mantra: "Keep it simple; keep it singable; keep it sincere." So, whether a composer or singer, follow this philosophy and success is sure to follow. Their music gave every child in the world so much JOY and the music will live on. And then there's Mary Poppins, of course!
 Sons of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Robert and Richard Sherman began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman. The brothers wrote together and with different songwriting partners throughout the rest of the decade.
 In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company Music World Corporation, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney's BMI-affiliated publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with "Tall Paul," sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet on the Surf Records label and then covered by Mouseketeer 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. 
The first song they wrote on personal assignment by Walt Disney was "Strummin' Song" in 1961. 
It was used in the Annette Funicello made-for-television movie called The Horsemasters. 
 The Sherman brothers had their first major success in 1960 with a rock ’n’ roll song, “You’re Sixteen (You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine),” which Ringo Starr revived in 1974.

Here is a fun trivia fact: The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history.. Some have claimed that It's A Small World has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is largely due to the fact that it is played continuously at Disney's theme park "it's a small world" attractions of the same name.

Walt Disney, a great storyteller himself, admired the Sherman brothers work because they wrote songs that were integrally tied to the story and characters of a musical. Their most famous song, however, was written as an independent number for the 1964 New York World’s Fair — It's A Small World was written as part of an exhibit for the 1964 World's Fair. I remember as a child hearing this song everywhere! Years later, when I finally got to Disneyland, I was crushed to find that they were doing renovations on the It's A Small World ride and I never got to see it! It's a Small World (stylized as "it's a small world" by The Walt Disney Company) is a popular musical boat ride located in the Fantasyland area at each of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide: Disneyland Park in California, the Magic Kingdom (in Florida), Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride features over 300 brightly costumed audio-animatronic dolls in the style of children of the world, frolicking in a spirit of international unity, and singing the attraction's title song, which has a theme of global peace.
 It's a Small World was created by WED Enterprises as the 1964 New York World's Fair's UNICEF pavilion sponsored by Pepsi. It featured a kinetic sculpture, The Tower of the Four Winds, a 120-foot perpetually spinning mobile created by WED designer Rolly Crump, at its entrance. It was one of four attractions (Magic Skyway [Ford], Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln [Illinois], and The Carousel of Progress [GE]) which were used by Disney to test concepts and ride systems, then moved and re-built at Disneyland after the World's Fair closed in 1966. The company was given only 11 months time to create and build the ride.
 Mary Blair was responsible for the attraction's whimsical design and color styling. Blair had been an art director on several Disney animated features (including Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan). Like many Disneyland attractions, scenes and characters were designed by Marc Davis, while his wife, Alice Davis, designed the costumes for the dolls. Rolly Crump designed the toys and other supplemental figures on display. The animated dolls were designed and sculpted by Blaine Gibson. Walt was personally involved with Gibson's development of the dolls' facial design (each animated doll face is completely identical in shape, hence the name "it's a small world").
 Children of the World" was the working title of the attraction. Its tentative soundtrack featured the national anthems of the countries represented throughout the ride all playing all at once, which resulted in a cacophonous noise. Walt showed a scale model of the attraction to his staff songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, saying "I need one song that can be easily translated into many languages and be played as a round."
The Sherman Brothers then wrote "It's a small world (after all)" in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song's message of peace and brotherhood. When they first presented it to Walt, they played it as a slow ballad. Walt requested something more cheerful, so they sped up the tempo and sang in counterpoint. Walt was so delighted with the final result that he renamed the attraction "it's a small world" after the Sherman Brothers' song.
The song can be heard worldwide on musical devices ranging from keyboard demos to ice cream trucks.
 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.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
A hapless inventor finally finds success with a flying car, which a dictator from a foreign government sets out to take for himself.

Ian Fleming's beloved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Fleming, best known as the creator of James Bond, wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1964 for his son Casper — and it was turned into a movie musical in 1968 starring Dick Van Dyke.

Order it today on Amazon.



They even tried their hand at Broadway.  Over Here! is a musical with a score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and book by Will Holt. The original Broadway production was directed by Tom Moore and choreographed by Patricia Birch, with scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt and costumes by Carrie F. Robbins.
Will Holt (born April 30, 1929 in Portland, Maine) is an American singer, songwriter, librettist and lyricist known first and primarily as a folk performer during the 1950s and 1960s and as an interpreter of the music of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht in performances and recordings with Martha Schlamme. Later in life, Holt also made significant contributions to Broadway theatre during the 1970s. In 1974, Holt wrote the book for the Andrews Sisters musical "Over Here", a nostalgic look at the home front during World War II.
 Over Here! was a follow-up to the Sherman brothers' World War II musical Victory Canteen, an off-Broadway production that featured 1940s icon Patty Andrews. The setting is a cross-country train trip in the United States during World War II (hence the name of the play, in contrast to the popular patriotic war anthem entitled Over There). The show begins as a nostalgic look at 1940s America (where fashion, music, big bands and swing dance dominates) but, quickly evolves into a social commentary about the fear of dying in battle, prejudice, and discrimination.
 After thirteen previews, the show opened on March 6, 1974 at the Shubert Theatre, where it ran for 341 performances and became the top-grossing production of the 1974 Broadway season. It is largely credited as the Broadway musical which launched many careers.
The opening night cast included Patty and Maxene Andrews (of the Andrews Sisters) and newcomers John Travolta, Treat Williams, Marilu Henner, Samuel E. Wright, and Ann Reinking, all of whom went on to achieve successful careers. Despite still playing to capacity audiences, the show closed on January 4, 1975 under controversial conditions. "The producers blamed Patty and Maxine, claiming they wanted more money and made unreasonable demands, and cancelled the national tour. The Andrews sisters blamed the producers, claiming they had mismanaged the show from the beginning and were now using them as scapegoats."According to an article in The New York Times, the tour was cancelled due to a "salary dispute" between the Andrews sisters and the producers. 
Recently remarried  Dick Van Dyke had agreed to head an all-star cast however he was forced to withdraw days before the start date when his partner Michelle's illness became terminal. Unable to find an immediate replacement for Van Dyke at such short notice, the producers rescheduled the production to premiere in California in 2012, following which a US tour is being planned.

 In 1970, the Shermans returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The latter film garnered the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar nominations. 1972 saw the release of Snoopy Come Home, for which the brothers received a Grammy nomination.

 How do you cover a career in a blog? You don't! I've only given an appetizer! I hope that this blog will inspire you to revisit Robert Sherman's legacy!
In addition to the other projects mentioned here, Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live-action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney's death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brothers have worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme-park exhibits, and stage musicals.

WIKIPEDIA WAS A MAIN SOURCE OF THIS BLOG!

Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman at the London Palladium in 2002 during the premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Stage Musical.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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with George Marcy and Carol Lawrence
Please join me Monday night with several of the original cast members of Hello, Dolly! (various productions)
$30.00 tickets sold out and $50.00 tickets going fast for DO40 CARES: It's Not Where You Start, March 12th with Host Carol Lawrence and Guest Star Chita Rivera and the merry murderesses from the original CHICAGO! $100 seats are still available! Call telecharge now! 212-239-6200 At the Ailey Citigroup Theater/The Joan Weill Center for Dance, 405 West 55th St., NYC. For more information, call the DO40 Hotline, 212-330-7016 or visit our website, www.dancersover40.org.




Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Tomorrow's blog will be... Fran Leonardis!






Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!





 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                
This Blog is dedicated to ALL ARTISTS: Past, present and future and the gifts they give to the world!



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