John Williams. Hans Zimmer. The Sherman Brothers. One thing connects each of these names: each name is among the movie industry’s great musical minds. Each has composed some of the most well-known and beloved themes that audiences have ever heard. This past September, PBS and Public Media Distribution brought audiences a very special profile of one of those names with the release of Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime. Released Sept. 5, this in-studio performance by its title figure, is a wonderful musical profile of one half of the famed Sherman Brothers creative musical team. That is due in no small part to the songs that Sherman performs for audiences. The stories that he shares along the way are just as entertaining as the songs, and in turn will be discussed later. The program’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements. Each noted element is important in its own right to the recording’s whole. All things considered, they make Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime a release that will leave audiences “singing” its praises.
PBS’ recently released Richard Sherman musical documentary Songs of a Lifetime is a special new “live” recording from PBS and Public Media Distribution that is certain to leave audiences “singing” its praises. That is due in part to the recording’s songs. The songs that Sherman performs throughout the program are not limited to just his Disney compositions. Also included in this intimate setting are songs from Tom Sawyer (1973 — MGM), Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang (1968 — Pinewood Studios), Charlotte’s Web (1973 — Paramount Pictures/Hanna-Barbera Productions), Snoopy Come Home (1972 — Cinema Center Filims/Lee Mendelson Film Productions/Bill Melendez Productions/Sopwith Productions/United Features Syndicate), a Christmas tune that he composed with Joe Van Winkle titled ‘Christmas in New Orleans,’ (which was made famous by Louis Armstrong) and even his own heartfelt composition that he wrote for his wife (who is there to enjoy the song at his side) among so many others. There is even a brand new song included at the recording’s end titled ‘A Kiss Goodnight’ that is certain to move viewers of any age.
In regards to the Disney tunes featured throughout the recording, the movies featured through those songs include: Winnie The Pooh, Mary Poppins, The Happiest Millionaire, The Jungle Book, Summer Magic, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, The Parent Trap and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Needless to say, even though “only” ten movies are on that list, that is still a healthy cross-section of Sherman’s time with Walt Disney Studios. That is especially considering that some of those movies get more than one nod. Mary Poppins gets a handful of nods with the likes of ‘Feed The Birds,’ ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite,’ and ‘Through The Eyes of Love.’ Winnie The Pooh received three nods through a medley of tunes early in the performance while The Jungle Book receives its own share of representations, too. Considering the number of Disney flicks represented in this in-studio concert and the songs used to represent those movies, it goes without saying that even at “only” nine movies, the concert presents a healthy dose of Disney.
When that healthy dose of Disney is coupled with Sherman’s non-Disney compositions, the whole the recording proves quite impressive. Counting the single songs and the medleys, it is safe to say that the recording boasts at least 30 songs. Considering that the performance’s run time is roughly one hour, that is a lot of material pushed into that space, and quite well at that. Staying on that note, while the material in whole is impressive, one cannot ignore the lack of a program guide inside or outside the box printed or physical. The only program guide that does exist is in the scene selection option on the disc’s main menu. The songs are not even listed with their respective movies. Sure it seems on the surface like a not so important aesthetic element, but is in fact very important to the box’s presentation. That is especially in connection to the songs themselves. It would have been nice to have had that listing. Luckily though, as much as it detracts from the recording’s whole, it is not enough to completely ruin the program’s presentation. It just would have been nice to have had that element.
While the extensive list of songs and movies that makes up the body of Songs of a Lifetime are clearly critical to the recording’s whole, they are collectively not the DVD’s only important element. The stories that Sherman shares throughout the recording are just as important to its presentation as those songs. One of the most interesting stories that Sherman shares during his time at the keys is that of the creation of the song ‘Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love),’ which was made famous by country legend Gene Autry. Sherman tells audiences that the song came about after the Sherman brothers’ father (who was himself a well-known and respected musical mind) jokingly told his sons that the pair, even with their college degrees, “couldn’t write a song that a kid would give up his lunch money to buy.” He also notes that the song was the Sherman Brothers’ very first published song, and was written because country western music was big at the time. Another interesting anecdote that Sherman shares in the program tells the story of how Louis Prima and his band ended up as King Louie and his apes in The Jungle Book. He explains that Walt Disney himself sent Sherman and company to a Las Vegas night club where Prima and company were performing, showed them the movie and convinced them to star. There is a little more to the story here, but that will be left to viewers to discover. It goes without saying that the rest of the story (as a certain radio announcer used to say) will leave audiences laughing happily. As if that isn’t enough to get viewers interested, Sherman also shares a moving story tying the creation of the song ‘It Changes’ (from Snoopy Come Home) to how he and others felt when Walt Disney died in 1966 from lung cancer. While the story is short, it is a story that, when coupled with the emotion of the song, will deeply touch audiences as it illustrates expertly that story. When this and the stories featured throughout the concert are joined with the recording’s featured songs, the whole of that material gives audiences more than enough to appreciate here. Even with this in mind, that whole is still not all that audiences will appreciate. The program’s bonus material rounds out its most important elements.
The bonus material included in Songs of a Lifetime is so important because of what it adds to the program’s overall presentation. Audiences learn through this roughly four-minute discussion from 2015, Sherman’s thoughts on PBS’ Walt Disney profile American Experience: Walt Disney. Audiences learn that Sherman approved of that doc, even as it didn’t just sing Disney’s praises, but instead showed both sides of Walt Disney — the good and bad. He also discusses his emotion at holding the interview in Disney’s office, the very place where he, his brother and Walt Disney crafted so many hit tunes. That revelation will capture audiences just as much as anything else in his interview. Audiences also learn that the guest performers included in the recording were hand chosen for the program by Sherman himself. They weren’t just random selections by some faceless person or group. This is all just a sample of what is presented in Sherman’s bonus interview. When it is coupled with the rest of the interview’s discussions, the whole gives audiences even more to to appreciate. The behind-the-scenes photos montage adds one last touch to the whole as it couples the songs from the main feature with the noted photos for an experience that, as simple as it is, is certain to entertain audiences, too. When this is set alongside Sherman’s short but in-depth interview and the program’s main feature, the whole of those elements makes Songs of a Lifetime a presentation that will most certainly leave audiences “singing” its praises.
PBS and PBS’ Distribution’s recently released Richard Sherman “live” recording Songs of a Lifetime is a work that is certain to impress audiences. That is due in no small part to the recording’s featured songs. The songs featured in the program include not only Sherman’s work with Disney, but with other studios and even his own compositions. All in all, they paint a vivid picture of his career, showing why he remains today such a respected figure (along with his brother). The stories that Sherman shares throughout the performance add even more interest to the program’s whole. At times funny and at others emotional, Sherman’s stories are just as certain to keep viewers engaged and entertained as his songs. The bonus material included in the program puts the finishing touch on its program thanks to its own information. Each noted element is critical in its own way to the program’s whole. All things considered, they make this presentation one that will most certainly leave audiences “singing” its praise. Richard Sherman: Songs of a Lifetime is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:
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