A Conversation with Richard M. Sherman

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Club TCM’s last discussion on Saturday night featured composer and lyricist Richard D. Sherman. Interviewed by film critic Leonard Maltin, Sherman discussed his parents, partnership with his brother Robert B. Sherman and his legendary career at Disney. Seated in front of a keyboard Sherman played a few bars from his father’s songs, several hits including “Tall Paul,” “You’re Sixteen,” “I Wan’na Be Like You” from The Jungle Book (1967), “Admiral Boom” which was cut from 1964′s Mary Poppins, and closed the interview by singing “Feed the Birds” from the same film, which led to a standing ovation from the teary-eyed crowd. Below are a few additional highlights:

  • “Truly, I’m just excited about the world, and everything around me today as I did when I was 25. Todays a wonderful day, tomorrow will be even more exciting because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have a wonderful life. I am a very, very, very fortunate fellow and I don’t feel my age at all – and I’m 84 now.”
  • “Dad’s rule for a good song: keep it simple, singable, sincere and original.”
  • “Bob was going to write plays, I was going to be the great American playwright. So we were both living in an LA apt digging the Great American Hole. Dad said ‘You two college graduates, I bet you couldn’t write a song a kid would give his lunch money to buy,’ and dad walked out. The gauntlet had been thrown! Long story short, we came up with a little pop song called Gold Can Buy Anything But Love and Gene Autry recorded it.”
  • “When I was graduating from high school Andre Previn was my accompanist. But then he got a little high hat because he was working at MGM.”
  • “Walt was very sentimental, he hid it with a Midwestern façade, a coolness. But basically he cried at stop signs – didn’t show it, but that’s what he was. “Feed the Birds” was his life story. He was not after money or fame, he did it to make people happy. We sang that song for him once, and went on with our meeting. At the end he said ‘Play me that bird lady song again. That’s the whole story in a nutshell. You guys think story. How would you like to work here?’ And he gave us our contract.”
  • “Dad was our inspiration for “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.” He thought there was nothing more exciting then building your own kite and taking it out to fly. My dad, he was our inspiration for that one.”
  • On “It’s A Small World After All:” “We were the troubleshooters [as contract writers] out of pure good luck we were at the right place at the right time. Walt said ‘I want you to write me a song that’s simple and can be translated into any language. That we have to be kind, and respect each other. And I need it yesterday, because the ride opens the World’s Fair in eight months.’ And you either want to kiss us or kill us for it.