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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Chim Chim Cher-ee”

I’m realizing as I go along that I have personal attachments to some of these songs that go back to childhood. That’s the case again this time around, with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. Back in elementary school our music teacher chose me to sing this as a solo as a part of a school-wide variety show that included performances by each of the grade levels. For my school that meant everyone from kindergarten to seventh grade. As a fourth grader I wasn’t yet eligible for a lead in the yearly musical, but this solo gig as a singing chimney sweep meant that I was in line for that sort of thing in a couple of years. It was also the first time I remember getting positive reactions from the kids around me related to my performing aspirations. Boys who I knew mostly as grubby playground antagonists suddenly seemed to be recognizing that I had value. It was weird. Unfortunately because this performance happened back in the olden days of the Carter administration all photographic records of the event have been lost in the sands of time. I know we’re all really sad about that.
The rest of this article will actually be about the song itself. I promise.

Three days later and we’re back in Disney territory. That’s about the pace we’ll set. For the big fans of the entertainment empire Uncle Walt built, the two men who wrote today’s song and took home Oscar gold for it are significant pieces of the overall Disney legacy. Those gentlemen were the Sherman brothers.

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Robert and Richard Sherman were actual brothers who were sons of a successful tin pan alley songwriter named Al Sherman who had several hits recorded in the twenties through the forties. The pair started their own songwriting based on a challenge from their Father and found they had a knack for it (they were already skillful musicians from a family in which that was typical). They caught Walt Disney’s attention when their song “Tall Paul” became a top 10 hit for Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, and were signed on to work exclusively for the Disney company. This meant they would end up taking on a huge and varied workload.

In addition to writing the legendary set of songs from Mary Poppins, including “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and “A Spoonful of Sugar,” the Sherman brothers created memorable tunes for movies like The Jungle BookChitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The brothers wrote more than thirty musical scores for feature motion scores, which some folks have claimed makes them some sort of record-holders in the work. On top of this, several of the most memorable attraction songs in the Disney theme parks were written by the Sherman Brothers, including “It’s a Small World,” “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room,” “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” and “One Little Spark.” They’re well-regarded enough that they’ve been given a shout out on one of the doors on Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland.

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“Chim Chim Cher-ee” was inspired in part by the artwork Disney’s production team was putting together for Mary Poppins, with the artist sharing the tidbit that a handshake with a chimney sweep was considered lucky in some quarters of British society. It certainly seemed to bring luck to the Sherman brothers, in the form of a highly coveted Academy Award. The song quickly caught on after its release, garnering several cover versions, including those by Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Mannheim Steamroller. While all of these are interesting, none is quite the display of genius as the one I’ve decided to share with you. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the unfettered talent of Mr John Coltrane…

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Posted on February 17, 2017, in Awards, Movies, Music, Nostalgia, Oscars, theme parks, Walt Disney World and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Just stumbled onto your blog! Have you ever shared your writing on other sites?

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  2. I wonder if “Feed the Birds” would have won Best Song, had it been submitted instead of this?

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    • There are probably 4 songs from Mary Poppins that could have won against the field they were facing. The only other competing song that is still familiar is “My Kind of Town.”
      Despite my history with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” my favorite from Mary Poppins is probably “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”

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      • We all know that song got the cantankerous author, P. L. Travers, to get up and dance when she heard it. Or so the movie about the making of Mary Poppins made by the studio that made Mary Poppins tells us.

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