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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Walt Disney's Melody Makers: A Biography of the Sherman Brothers is written by Kathryn M. Price. Bob and Dick Sherman came from a musical family, and they would prove to be no exception to the family’s gifts. While they were youngsters, they created musical shows which they would perform for the neighborhood kids. After both served in the military, Bob during World War II and Dick during the 1950s, the two brothers took part-time jobs to support their families and continued their efforts to get their big break in show business. It came when one of their pop songs recorded by Annette Funicello got them an audience with Walt Disney, and things only looked up after that. The brothers would go on to do great things with Walt and the Disney Organization, including much of the work behind Mary Poppins and the universally beloved song, It’s a Small World, which they wrote for the 1964 World’s Fair. According to Price’s work, they were nominated for nine Academy Awards, won two Oscars and three Grammys. President George W. Bush awarded them the National Medal of Arts. Price shares the Sherman brothers’ lives with the reader, starting with their early childhood experiences and following them through to Bob’s death. She reports that Dick is still creating songs, including those he wrote and composed for the 2016 production of The Jungle Book. Price includes an extensive bibliography of sources for her work.
Walt Disney's Melody Makers: A Biography of the Sherman Brothers is sure to strike a chord with just about anyone of any age who reads this book. I was captivated by her extensive coverage of the making of Mary Poppins, including the difficult negotiations with the author of the series, and the casting challenges faced by Walt Disney. Learning the genesis of the song celebrating the made-up word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was sheer delight, and I could vividly visualize the two young brothers gleefully playing with the sounds and silliness of the word at summer camp. Best of all, Price gives the reader a glimpse into the workings of the Disney studios when Walt was alive. We are privy to Walt’s quirks and foibles, and soon learn, along with Bob and Dick, that calling him “Mr. Disney” was not at all acceptable. Witnessing the creation of Disney movies first-hand as it were is a joy indeed. Reading this well-written and fascinating book immerses the reader in the lives of Bob and Dick Sherman, and, of course, the world of Walt Disney. Walt Disney's Melody Makers: A Biography of the Sherman Brothers is most highly recommended.