Monday, March 19, 2012

Tinker, Tailor*, Music Man, Dad

On February 14, I posted my blog interview featuring the wonderful and very affable comedian Wendy Liebman.

On March 6, I saw a comment on Wendy's FB page that made me wonder what was I jumped over to Wendy's husband, Jeffrey Sherman's FB page, and then I knew: Jeffrey's father, Wendy's father-in-law had passed away.

I did not know the man as a man; I knew the man through his music. Robert Sherman was one half of the Sherman brothers, who worked for the Disney studio for many years, and wrote the music and lyrics to a plethora of memorable family films, among them: Mary Poppins, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, Charlotte's Web, The Aristocats, Winnie the Pooh.
When we go to the movies, especially when we're kids, we don't care to read the credits. We might hear a catchy tune from the movie's soundtrack and sing it again and again or learn to play it on an instrument. It is rare that we wonder about who wrote it.

But when one stops to think of just how many memorable, classic songs these Sherman brothers wrote in their lifetime, and how many of those songs have stayed with us throughout our lives, it is quite mind-boggling. Their music has lasted for two and three generations of families and will last for many more.

The earliest film I recall seeing at a movie theater was Mary Poppins. I saw it as a young four-year-old with my grandfather, who died a short time later, and I associate the movie with him. We owned the song album, and I'd play it on our stereo Hi-Fi over and over throughout the years, moved by the lighthearted tunes of "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious" (did I even spell that right? I can sing it, but am not sure of the spelling without looking it up) and "Step in Time", and equally moved by the sadder "Feed the Birds". 

And who would have known that "You're Sixteen" -- familiar to many of us as recorded by Ringo Starr -- was a Sherman brothers tune? A catchy tune then; an equally catchy tune now.

Jeffrey and his cousin, Greg Sherman (Richard Sherman's son), produced and directed a wonderful documentary about their dads a few years back. The Boys is a gift really -- a gift to the senior Sherman brothers, a gift to the junior Sherman brothers, and a gift to the world at large, taking us behind the scenes of this very talented, yet complicated musical duo.

Since Robert Sherman passed away, I've been following closely the comments and messages on Wendy's blog and FB page as well as on her husband's FB page. In his time of sorrow, Jeffrey Sherman has opened his arms and his heart  and his FB page to so many friends, family members and strangers who have wanted to comfort him, while clearly wanting to comfort themselves with this great loss.

People have posted their own stories and memories associated with the Sherman brothers' music, and Jeffrey has bared his soul as well, taking his readers into the well-worn and well-loved pages of his life with his father, of his father's life as a Disney songwriter, of the interesting people whose paths crossed his father's over the years. The stories are endless; the photos keep coming, as well.

Robert Sherman told his tales through song lyrics and music; in his recent FB entries Jeffrey tells his tales through his simple, but astutely warm and loving descriptions.

His is a story about one's love for a father, one's admiration for a father, one's acceptance of a musical legacy as passed down through three generations.

*The name "Sherman" is Yiddish for "tailor", from "sher," meaning scissors. Robert Sherman, along with his brother, and their musical father -- Al Sherman, a Tin Pan Alley songwriter/entertainer -- before him, were a "cut above the rest." Their music, like a tailor's fine fabric, created a backdrop for beauty, creativity,  whimsy, and awareness of the world around them.

Robert's son, Jeffrey, creative in his own right via his music, his producing, writing for and directing television shows and films, and clearly his personal writing, was one well-loved son. And Robert, may he rest in peace, was one well-loved father, music man and "tailor"!