Robert B. Sherman, Legendary Disney Tunesmith Behind Mary Poppins, Dies at 86

Beloved songwriter penned the songs to some of Disney's most enduring films, including The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

By Alexis L. Loinaz Mar 06, 2012 5:20 PMTags

It's a smaller world now that one of music's most vital and imaginative voices is gone.

Robert B. Sherman, the celebrated songwriter who helped pen some of Disney's most enduring and beloved tunes including "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "It's a Small World," has died.

He was 86.

Sherman's son Jeffrey announced his father's passing on his Facebook page earlier today. Although the cause of death was not disclosed, Jeffrey wrote that the elder Sherman, who died in London, "went peacefully after months of truly valiantly fending off death."

Together with his brother and frequent collaborator Richard, Sherman helped energize Disney's musical tradition in the 1960s by creating the music to films that have since become cultural touchstones to generations of fans.

Over a sparkling career that spanned five decades, Sherman cowrote the music to Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and, more recently, The Tigger Movie, among hundreds of projects.

Sherman's numerous accolades are a testament to the vast and enduring appeal of his music.

In 1964, he and his brother won two Oscars for their work on Mary Poppins—one for its score and another for the memorable song "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

He also won a Grammy Award, racked up almost two dozen gold and platinum albums, and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2008, Sherman received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush.

But his most ubiquitous tune, many will argue, is the Disney anthem "It's a Small World," which has reportedly become one of the most translated songs in history.

Sherman's music transcended the silver screen: His work made the leap to Broadway, including acclaimed stage adaptations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, which is still currently playing.

In his Facebook message, Sherman's son Jeffrey went on to commemorate his father's generous spirit.

"He wanted to bring happiness to the world and, unquestionably, he succeeded," Jeffrey wrote. "His love and his prayers, his philosophy and his poetry will live on forever. Forever his songs and his genius will bring hope, joy and love to this small, small world."