It's a Small World, Mary Poppins songwriter Robert Sherman dies

Songwriter Robert B. Sherman, who co-wrote memorable songs in films such as Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book, as well as the ubiquitous Disney tune It's a Small World (After All), has died.

Sherman died peacefully in London on Monday at the age of 86, his agent Stella Richards confirmed on Tuesday.

"His rule in writing songs was keep it singable, simple and sincere," said his son, Jeffrey Sherman.

"He was a very simple guy — complex but simple. If you ever want to know about my Dad, listen to the lyrics of his songs."

Robert Sherman and his younger brother Richard were the sons of Rosa and Al Sherman, who was a successful composer on New York's Tin Pan Alley. Together, the brothers became an award-winning songwriting duo who created wrote more than 150 songs for Walt Disney films.

In addition to songs for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the prolific pair also wrote the musical scores for such films as:

The Sword and the Stone
The Parent Trap
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
The Aristocats
Charlotte's Web
Tom Sawyer
Huckleberry Finn
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Snoopy, Come Home
The Tigger Movie

The duo's catchy, family-friendly tunes earned them a raft of honours, including gold and platinum albums, two Academy Awards, a Grammy, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and entry into the U.S. Songwriters Hall of Fame.

When former U.S. president George W. Bush awarded the brothers the National Medal of Arts in 2008, he hailed them for creating music that "helped bring joy to millions."

War hero-turned-songwriter

Sherman grew up in New York and Beverly Hills, Calif. In 1943, at the age of 17, he joined the army and was stationed in Europe during the Second World War. He eventually received multiple honours for his military service, including a Purple Heart medal.

After the war, he returned to New York to study English literature and painting. During this time, he also began writing novels. Not long after, however, he and his brother began writing songs after their father challenged them to give it a try.

"Being brothers, we sort of short-cut each other," Richard Sherman once said in an interview. "We can almost look at each other and know, 'Hey, you're onto something, kiddo.'"

In the early 1950s, Sherman also married Joyce Sasner and the couple began their family.

The first Sherman Brothers Top 10 hit arrived a few years later: Tall Paul, sung by Annette Funicello in 1958. The successful track for the former Mousketeer helped draw the attention of Disney executives and led to the Sherman Brothers being hired as staff songwriters for Walt Disney Studios.

It's a Small World (After All), which the pair wrote for the 1964 World's Fair in New York could be considered their most enduring composition. It is one of the most translated and performed songs on the planet since it plays on a continual loop at Disney theme parks worldwide.

"We've driven teenagers crazy in every language," Sherman quipped in a past interview.

Aside from their film work, the brothers also penned the Tony-nominated musical Over Here! and hit songs like You're Sixteen and Let's Get Together.

Though they suffered a period of estrangement, the brothers continued to work together in recent years, including writing new lyrics and songs for the 2005 Broadway production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Sherman spent his final years in London, where in addition to penning songs, he spent time writing and painting. He is survived by his brother, his two daughters and two sons.