The Life I Lead

David Tomlinson, Disney

About The Life I Lead

"The Life I Lead" is a song from the 1964 Walt Disney film Mary Poppins, composed by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. Music arranger Irwin Kostal used the theme from this song as the leitmotif of the protagonist George Banks, as it most expresses the way he "marches" through life. The song is first sung as George Banks (played by David Tomlinson) marches through the front door of his home, on "[his] return from daily strife to hearth and wife". The song is reprised several times throughout the film, with Julie Andrews also singing a verse. The final reprise is sung when Banks thinks he has lost everything. The music is now more somber and is retitled, "A Man Has Dreams". Some lyrics of the song say:Lyricist Robert B. Sherman was making an inside comment about his own life. Having just secured a position with the Walt Disney Company, he also purchased a home in Beverly Hills, California. The house is located at 601 North Oakhurst Drive. In the lyric, 6:01 is a reference to time. In the songwriter's personal life, it was the address of his home. Although he moved away from that house in 1969, years later a more recent owner put up a plaque which reads: "Casa Poppins" because it was in that house that Sherman lived during the writing of Mary Poppins. The plaque is still at that location. An adaptation of this song called "Precision and Order" is evident in the stage musical version. It is through this song that the audience learns what year the story takes place. It is the only time it's mentioned in the film: "It's grand to be an Englishman in 1910 / King Edward's on the throne; it's the age of men!" The original books were set in 1934 but due to the film's great popularity, 1910 became the base point at which the stories took place. This new, preset date was later used to inform the 1930s setting of the 2018 sequel film, Mary Poppins Returns. 


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I feel a surge of deep satisfaction
Much as a king astride his noble steed
When I return from daily strife to heart and wife
How pleasant is the life I lead!

Mrs. Banks:
Dear, it's about the children...

Mr. Banks:
Yes, yes, yes!

I run my home precisely on schedule
At 6:01, I march through my door
My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02
Consistent is the life I lead!

It's grand to be an Englishman in 1910
King Edward's on the throne;
It's the age of men
I'm the lord of my castle
The sov'reign, the liege!
I treat my subjects: servants, children, wife
With a firm but gentle hand
Noblesse oblige!

It's 6:03 and the heirs to my dominion
Are scrubbed and tubbed and adequately fed
And so I'll pat them on the head
And send them off to bed
Ah! Lordly is the life I lead!

A British nanny must be a gen'ral!
The future empire lies within her hands
And so the person that we need to mold the breed
Is a nanny who can give commands!

A British bank is run with precision
A British home requires nothing less!
Tradition, discipline, and rules must be the tools
Without them - disorder!
Catastrophe! Anarchy! -
In short, we have a ghastly mess!

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The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS), commonly referred to as Disney, is an American diversified multinational mass media corporation headquartered in Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, California, United States. It is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue. Founded on October 16, 1923, by Walt and Roy Disney as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into live-action film production, television, and travel. Taking on its current name in 1986, The Walt Disney Company expanded its existing operations and also started divisions focused upon theatre, radio, music, publishing, and online media. In addition, it has created new divisions of t… more »

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Written by: Richard Sherman, Robert Sherman

Lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

6 facts about this song

Song Details
"The Life I Lead" is a famous song from the 1964 Disney musical film "Mary Poppins." - The song was written by the Sherman Brothers, who composed numerous iconic songs for Disney movies. - It's performed by the character Mr. Banks (played by actor David Tomlinson), as he sings about his structured, disciplined life that is centered around precision and order.
Historical Context
Set in 1910, "The Life I Lead" reflects the values and expectations of the Edwardian era, particularly regarding patriarchy and men’s role within the family and society. - The film, including this song, provides a vivid glimpse into the pre-WW1 British upper-middle-class society and its standards of living.
Song Interpretation
"The Life I Lead" is Mr. Banks's self-affirming song where he praises the sense of discipline, order, and control in his life. - It implies his reluctance to change and adherence to routine.
Musical Elements
The song's melody and rhythm are formal and almost march-like, echoing Mr. Banks’s upright character and orderly nature. - Despite it being a solo song, it includes dialogues with his wife and children, showing his interactions with his family under the structured routine.
Cultural Impact
"The Life I Lead" is recognized as an iconic Disney song that has been covered and referenced in various media. - It’s often used to represent the character of Mr. Banks in various Mary Poppins adaptations, including the stage musical version.
Connection with the Story
The song serves as an important narrative tool, establishing Mr. Banks’s character at the start of the movie and thereby setting the stage for his transformation by the end.

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