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Goodbye to a great songwriter

Robert_shermanNormally I don't like to report on musical obituaries because, I mean, there are so many of them. But I just read that Robert Sherman had died. I heard it first from Norman Lebrecht and now I see that tributes are appearing around the world.

Robert Sherman is half of the songwriting team that produced the songs for "Mary Poppins." And "The Jungle Book," and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." His brother Richard Sherman is the other half of the team. As far as I know, Richard Sherman is still among us.

I have often thought longingly that it would be so much fun to meet and interview the Sherman brothers. Luckily other people have already done that. There are a few great videos on YouTube of the brothers explaining how they came up with the ideas they did.

They are marvelous at that. While all songwriters are all interesting people, not all of them are good at discussing their elusive craft. It is sometimes hard to put that art into words. The Sherman Brothers have a very good way of discussing what they do. You can follow their thought processes and it gives you a new appreciation of their songs. Also they seem to have no egos, unbelievable considering their accomplishments.

Here they are talking about "Mary Poppins."

"At one point Walt said..." Hahahahaa! Imagine knowing Walt Disney and calling him Walt.

 In that video you get to hear them playing the piano and singing "Chim Chim Cheree" and other songs. Those melodies have good bones, you know? Coltrane played "Chim Chim Cheree."

And the words ... I always get a kick out of them because they are wasted on the kids.

I'm the lord of my castle, the sovereign, the liege/I treat my subjects ... servants, children, wife .../With a firm but gentle hand/Noblesse oblige.. That is from the song Mr. Banks sings, "The Life I Lead." It just popped into my head.

Fascinating to hear how they came up with "Chim, Chim, Cheree." How the word "chimney" was a mouthful, so one brother suggested breaking it down to "one chim-ney, two chim-ney," and the other brother thought that was a bad idea, but did it anyway -- and that was when the music came into his head.

Then they began exploring all the British lore surrounding chimney sweeps, and the whole movie changed.

"It's all me own work, from me own memory." And they laugh happily. Still proud of it. They talk about how the song sounded too "Russian" at some point and how they made it more universal.

We marvel anew at the great dance sequence "Step in Time."

That moment when they dance on top of the chimneys always kills me! Then when they teeter on the railing and finally get their footing and do that Rockettes kick line.

Those were great days, the days of the Sherman Brothers.

God love them!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

 

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Film | Movies
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