Robert B. Sherman was born on December 19, 1925. With his brother, Richard M. Sherman, he wrote some of the most well-known songs in the world. The songs for Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” “Winnie the Pooh,” and such theme park favorites as “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room” and “It’s a Small World” are just a very small sampling of the great scope of their work.
Today, I remember Bob, on what would have been his 90th birthday.
I remember the first time I went to Bob’s house. I rang his doorbell, which played the first few notes of “It’s a Small World,” before Bob answered the door. I had some photographs for him that he had requested. We sat in a room and he was happy to answer my questions about his Disney days. He told me how he and his brother Richard wanted to donate their proceeds from “it’s a small world” to Unicef, but Walt told them no, Walt was making sure Unicef gets a good donation, but “it’s a small world” was going to put their kids through college!
Right from that first time, Bob felt like an old friend or favorite uncle, which made it easy to forget the awards next to us on the mantle, like his Grammy and Academy Awards.
We had a wonderful conversation and I was sure I was close to overstaying my welcome, but Bob offered me a cup of coffee. I didn’t drink any caffeine at that time, but I said, “Sure!” and knew that would buy me some more time. Somehow we got to talking about some of my favorite singers and I mentioned Michael Feinstein. Bob moved me into another room where he then played several then unreleased Sherman Brothers recordings by Michael, “The Ugly Bug Ball” from “Summer Magic,” a duet with another one of my favorites, Rosemary Clooney on “Ten Feet Off the Ground” from “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band,” and “The Eyes of Love,” written for Mary Poppins, but which did not make it to the film. Boy, was I glad I had that cup of coffee!
Then there was the time that I introduced B0b to Shani and he so sweetly and sincerely said to her, “You’re name means beautiful… and you are.” I also remember him telling me that both he and I had something in common, that the first time we went out with our wives, we both talked about marriage. Shani and I agreed we were going to get married on our first date, and Bob asked Joyce to marry him on their first date. She said yes on their second date.
One time, I was having lunch with Bob and his son, Robbie, along with our mutual friend, Randy Thornton, a producer for Disney Records. We had lunch at the Garden Terrace restaurant on the Disney Studios lot. Randy was telling us his proposed playlist for the Sherman Brothers CD set he was working on at the time, and he mentioned the song “On the Front Porch” from the film “Summer Magic.” That’s when we learned that was Bob’s favorite song! Bob started singing it, and I just had to join in. Then all of us were singing “On the Front Porch” at our table in the Disney Studios. Later, when Randy produced another Sherman Brothers CD collection called “The Sherman Brothers Songbook,” he included that story in the liner notes as one of his favorite memories.
In recent times, I’ve heard people who never met Bob describe him as “dark” or “grumpy.” Perhaps it’s because although Bob cherished his Disney days, he didn’t care for the spotlight, unlike his brother, Richard, who is a natural onstage entertainer. I believe that Bob’s lack of desire for public attention translated into the public thinking that he was distant to people, but I never felt that way. He was proud of his work, but very humble and he was always happy to talk about his Disney days with me.
As time marches on, people, particularly those in the public eye, are sometimes remembered in ways that were not reality, but the Bob I was fortunate enough to be friends with was kind, funny, warm and generous, and that’s the way he should be remembered.