"It's a Small World" songwriter Robert Sherman dies at 86

Robert Sherman, left, poses with his brother Richard M. Sherman, right, and actress Debbie Reynolds after the brothers won the Academy Award for best music for "Mary Poppins" on April 5, 1965.
AP

(CBS/AP) LONDON - Robert B. Sherman, one half of the award-winning duo who penned memorable songs for "Mary Poppins," "The Jungle Book" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" - as well "It's a Small World (After All)" - has died.

Sherman's agent, Stella Richards, said Tuesday that Sherman died peacefully in London on Monday. He was 86.

Together with his brother Richard, Sherman won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney's 1964 hit "Mary Poppins" - best score and best song, "Chim Chim Cher-ee." They also earned a Grammy for best movie or TV score.

Their hundreds of credits as joint lyricist and composer also include the films "Winnie the Pooh," "The Slipper and the Rose," "Snoopy Come Home," "Charlotte's Web" and "The Magic of Lassie." Their Broadway musicals included 1974's "Over Here!" and stagings of "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" in the mid-2000s.

Son Jeffrey Sherman wrote on Facebook that his father "wanted to bring happiness to the world and, unquestionably, he succeeded."

"His love and his prayers, his philosophy and his poetry will live on forever," his son wrote. "Forever his songs and his genius will bring hope, joy and love to this small, small world.

The brothers' awards include 23 gold and platinum albums and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They became the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for "Tom Sawyer" in 1973 and were inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 2005.

President George W. Bush awarded them the National Medal of Arts in 2008, commended for music that "has helped bring joy to millions."

Alan Menken, composer of scores for Disney films including "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin," said the Sherman brothers' legacy "goes far beyond the craft of songwriting."

"There is a magic in their songs and in the films and musicals they breathed life into," he said.

The Shermans began a decade-long partnership with Disney during the 1960s after having written hit pop songs like "Tall Paul" for ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and "You're Sixteen," later recorded by Ringo Starr.

They wrote over 150 songs at Disney, including the soundtracks for such films as "The Sword and the Stone," "The Parent Trap," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocrats" and "The Tigger Movie."

The two credited their father, composer Al Sherman, with challenging them to write songs and for their love of wordsmithing. His legacy of songs includes "You Gotta Be a Football Hero," "(What Do We Do On a) Dew-Dew-Dewy Day" and "On the Beach at Bali-Bali." His sons went on to popularize the terms "fantasmagorical" and "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Another of their songs - "It's a Small World (After All)" - has become one of the most translated and performed songs on the planet.

Away from the piano, the two raised families and pursued their own interests, yet still lived close to each other in Beverly Hills and continued working well into their 70s. When "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" came to Broadway in 2005, they added new lyrics and four new songs.

Though they were estranged for a number of years, the brothers largely avoided sibling rivalry. When asked about that, Richard Sherman was philosophical, touching and jokey all at the same time - much like the songs he wrote with his brother.

"We're human. We have frailties and weaknesses. But we love each other very much, respect each other," he said. "I'm happy that he's a successful guy. That makes me a successful guy."

Robert Sherman moved to Britain, where he wrote new songs for stage revivals of "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," in 2002 after the death of his wife Joyce. He is survived by his brother and four children: Laurie, Jeffrey, Andrea and Robert.

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