Book Jeff

Feed the Birds

Like many other Disney fans, I was sad last Saturday when I heard the news that Richard Sherman had passed away. Fortunately, his legacy will live on through the unforgettable songs he and his brother, Robert, crafted for so many movies and theme park attractions. For most, the Sherman Brothers are the soundtrack of Disney. Can you imagine a world without the music of Mary Poppins or the joy that is “The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Room”?

The Sherman Brothers’ most famous song may also be their most polarizing. Love it or hate it, “it’s a small world” is believed to be the most played song in music history. Consider this: Today, the sun never sets on a Disney Park anywhere in the world, so it never stops playing. Which is exactly what happens to each of us internally every time we hear it. And if you’ve ever heard it, you know it never stops playing in your head, either!

For Richard, who served in the United States Army, and Robert who was wounded in World War II and helped liberate Dachau, “it’s a small world” was always a “prayer for peace.”

Walt Disney often relied on the Sherman Brothers and their songs whenever he faced a story problem. Later in life, Walt leaned on one specific Sherman Brothers song to get him through the week or tough times in his own life.

“Play it.” That’s all Walt Disney had to say, often late on a Friday afternoon, and the Sherman Brothers knew exactly what Walt wanted. He wanted to hear the lullaby from Mary Poppins, “Feed the Birds.”

Not “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Not “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Not even the song that won Best Original Song at the 1964 Academy Awards, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

Just “Feed the Birds.”

At first listen, “Feed the Birds” might be heard as a simple song about a woman feeding birds. But it’s so much more. It’s a reminder. A reminder that small gestures are important. A reminder that compassion still counts. A reminder to notice the neglected, care for those in need, and that we can find meaning and purpose in everyday acts of kindness.

Richard Sherman believed that “Feed the Birds” mattered to Walt because it was Walt Disney’s mantra. It’s a song about giving love. And it doesn’t take much to give love. After hearing it again, late one Friday afternoon, Walt muttered under his breath, “Yep. That’s what it’s all about.”

It’s what we should be about. In honor of Richard Sherman, take a moment this week to “feed the birds.” Give love. Engage in your own simple act of kindness. Pray a prayer for peace.

Walt Disney died in December 1966. Robert B. Sherman passed away in 2012. With Richard’s passing this past Saturday, the trio are finally united in their own “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Together again, I think I know what Walt’s words this Friday afternoon will be.

“Play it.”

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