A familiar song from everyone’s childhood has a polio-related backstory. Jeffrey Sherman, son and nephew of Robert and Richard Sherman (songwriting duo responsible for the music of classics like “Mary Poppins,” shared how the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” came about. Sherman describes the inspiration behind the lyrics, “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”…
When I was a kid, I was given the vaccine for polio at school on a sugar cube. I went home and my dad, who was working on Mary Poppins, asked how my day was. What I didn’t know was that Julie Andrews who was hired to play Mary had not really liked the song my dad and uncle had written – “Through the Eyes of Love” – and it was rejected. That song was my dad and uncle’s favorite song for the movie. Walt Disney asked the Sherman Brothers to produce a new song that would be in line with Mary’s/Julie’s philosophy.
“Dad asked me how my day was, and I told him about getting the polio vaccine at school. I was known for rejecting booster shots at my doctors’ office and running away.” He said, “Didn’t it hurt?”
I told him they put it on a sugar cube and you just ate it. He stared at me, then went to the phone and called my Uncle Dick. They went back to the office that night and wrote – “A Spoonful of Sugar” (Helps the Medicine Go Down). It’s my little corner of film music history I suppose. Inadvertently.
FAST FORWARD TO DECEMBER 2020… Sherman’s advice – “We are all dependent on each other in this pandemic. Trust science and doctors and epidemiologists. We are a small world, and we will beat this enemy if we listen to those who know. Be Safe. Wear a Mask. Be Kind and Thoughtful and Considerate to your Fellow Man and Woman. WE WILL BEAT THIS. Just like we are beating polio