American Music: The Sherman Brothers or Some Thoughts on Creative Collaboration

For decades two brothers dominated the scene of movie songs, hired on as the Disney Studio songwriters and later went on to write music for other films.  Robert and Richard Sherman wrote pretty much everything from 1961 to 2000, and now their music is found in Broadway remakes of the movies.

I say everything, because so much of the movie music that I loved from my childhood comes from them.  Here are a few of my favorites (this is not an all inclusive list, just a few from each movie – there are many more for each one);

  • Summer Magic (1963) Femininity, On the Front Porch, Ugly Bug Ball
  • Mary Poppins (1964) Spoonful of Sugar, Stay Awake, Chim-Chim-Cheree, Sister Suffragette, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Stay Awake, Let’s go Fly a Kite
  • Winnie the Pooh (1966 and 1968) Winnie the Pooh, Little Black Rain Cloud, The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, Hefalumps and Woozels, The Rain Rain Rain Came Down, Down, Down
  • The Jungle Book (1967) Colonel Hathi’s March The Elephant Song, I Wanna Be Like You The Monkey Song, That’s What Friends Are For The Vulture Song
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) Hushabye Mountain, Me Ol’ Bamboo, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) The Age of Not Believing, Eglantine, Portobello Road, The Beautiful Briny, Substitutiary Locomotion
  • The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella (1976) Why Can’t I Be Two People?, Once I Was Loved, What A Comforting Thing To Know, Protocoligorically Correct, A Bride Finding Ball, Suddenly It Happens, Secret Kingdom, He Danced With Me/She Danced With Me, Position and Positioning, Tell Him Anything But Not That I Love Him, I Can’t Forget The Melody

I love the way that their lyrics are full of wonderful word play.  For example look at the following song;

What a Comforting Thing to Know

(from The Slipper and the Rose, which was my favorite movie as a girl.)

Good kings, bad kings
Sane kings or mad kings
Benevolent or nefarious
Here is where they bury us
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know
There’s a pre-arranged spot in the family plot where my royal bones will go
Yes, I’ll be slipped into the beautiful family crypt
Oh ho ho
What a comforting thing to know

The lyrics are so clever and the music is catchy, easy to remember.   Here is a site in which you can find all the lyrics to the songs from that musical.

This is one of the songs (again from the movie) Protocoligorically Correct, I think it is such a kick to see these older men dancing in their tights :).

So many, many happy memories are tied to these songs!

Bob & Dick Sherman and Walt Disney

Recently (2009), their sons made a documentary, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story about their lives and their partnership.  Here is a site from the creators that highlights the film.

The filmmakers bring up an interesting point in the movie, that the brothers worked together but due to a family rift, they led separate lives and their families had virtually no contact with each other.  So, men that made music for happy families for over fifty years had a dysfunctional family.  Jeff and Gregg Sherman (the film-making cousins)  do a very good job of not pinning blame on either brother.  The film also showed how amazing it is that their very different personalities intersected in a way that created a tremendous amount of work.  They were able to set aside their difficulties and collaborate together.

Which brings me to some thoughts I’ve been having lately about collaboration.  Steven R. Covey talks a lot about the synergy of ideas that can come when people work together.  I agree that there are times when “two heads are definitely better than one,” but there are also times when collaboration can run away and change your idea so far from the original vision that it hardly seems recognizable.

I think that in those moments, it’s so important to have good communication.  But, when one of the group is overbearing in their ideas, it can become pretty difficult.

There is a difference though between collaborating on an idea as equal partners and getting feedback and collaboration on a project on which you are the “master” – you can take or leave the ideas depending on which ones will work for your overall vision.

What are your thoughts?  When has teamwork been a positive experience?  When has it “backfired?”

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3 thoughts on “American Music: The Sherman Brothers or Some Thoughts on Creative Collaboration

  1. Hmmm, why have I never seen or heard of “The Slipper and the Rose”? But those Shermans were big players….

    And for what it’s worth, I know all the words to the Ugly Bug Ball. 🙂

  2. Love, love, love Ugly Bug Ball! Joyce, it is so strange to me that you, of all people, (Miss My-life-is-a-musical) don’t know The Slipper and the Rose. I think that you will love it. Just another reason to come to visit, I will show it to you. 🙂 It’s recently been turned into a Broadway Musical.

  3. Wow! I’ve never even heard of the Sherman Brothers. I knew someone had to write all of those songs, but who knew that they wrote all of those. I agree–collaboration can be good or bad. I have seen both sides especially as I’ve been in learning teams at the University of Phoenix. Some teammates are great contributors, some are “hogs” and want to do everything, and others are leaches that are sucking the life out of the group and don’t contribute. But, there is nothing like successful collaboration.

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