By Chris Talbott, Associated Press
Marvin Hamlisch, who composed or arranged the scores for dozens of
movies including "The Sting" and the Broadway smash "A Chorus Line," has
died in Los Angeles. He was 68.
Hamlisch collapsed and died Monday after a brief illness, his publicist
Ken Sunshine said, citing the family. Other details were not released.
Hamlisch's career included composing, conducting and arranging music
from Broadway to Hollywood, from symphonies to R&B hits.
He won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards,
four Emmys, four Grammys, a Tony and three Golden Globes.
The one-time child prodigy's music colored some of Hollywood and
Broadway's most important works.
Hamlisch composed more than 40 film scores, including "Sophie's Choice,"
"Ordinary People," "The Way We Were" and "Take the Money and Run."
He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for
"The Sting." His latest work came for Steven Soderbergh's "The
On Broadway, Hamlisch received both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize in
1976 for the long-running favorite "A Chorus Line" and wrote the music
for "The Goodbye Girl" and "Sweet Smell of Success."
He was scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tenn., this week to see a
production of his musical "The Nutty Professor," Sunshine said.
Hamlisch even reached into the pop world, writing the No. 1 R&B hit
"Break It to Me Gently" with Carole Bayer Sager for Aretha Franklin. He
won the 1974 Grammys for best new artist and song of the year, "The Way
We Were," performed by Barbra Streisand.
"He was classic and one of a kind," Franklin said Tuesday after learning
of his death, calling him one of the "all time great" arrangers and
producers. "Who will ever forget 'The Way We Were'?" Hamlisch's interest
in music started early.
At the age of 7 he entered the Juilliard School of Music, stunning the
admissions committee with his renditions of "Goodnight Irene" in any key
In his autobiography, "The Way I Was," Hamlisch admitted that he lived
in fear of not meeting his father's expectations. "By the time Gershwin
was your age, he was dead," the Viennese-born musician would tell his
son. "And he'd written a concerto. Where's your concerto, Marvin?"
In his teens, he switched from piano recitals to songwriting. Show music
held a special fascination for him. Hamlisch's first important job in
the theater was as rehearsal pianist for the Broadway production of
"Funny Girl" with Streisand in 1964. He graduated to other shows like
"Fade Out-Fade In," "Golden Rainbow" and "Henry, Sweet Henry," and other
jobs like arranging dance and vocal music.
"Maybe I'm old-fashioned," he told The Associated Press in 1986. "But I
remember the beauty and thrill of being moved by Broadway musicals;
particularly the endings of shows. The end of 'West Side Story,' where
audiences cried their eyes out. The last few chords of 'My Fair Lady.'
Although he was one of the youngest students ever at Juilliard, he never
studied conducting. "I remember somebody told me, 'Earn while you
learn,'" he told The AP in 1996.
"The Way We Were" exemplified Hamlisch's old-fashioned appeal; it was a
big, sentimental movie ballad that brought huge success in the rock era.
He was extremely versatile, able to write for stage and screen, for
soundtracks ranging from Woody Allen comedies to a somber drama like
He was perhaps even better known for his work adapting Joplin on "The
Sting." In the mid-'70s, it seemed everybody with a piano had the sheet
music to "The Entertainer," the movie's theme song. To this day, it's
blasted by ice cream trucks.
Hamlisch's place in popular culture reached beyond his music. Known for
his nerdy look, complete with thick eyeglasses, that image was sealed on
NBC's "Saturday Night Live" during Gilda Radner's "Nerd" sketches.
Radner, playing Lisa Loopner, would swoon over Hamlisch.
Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in
Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego at the
time of his death. He was due to lead the New York Philharmonic during
its upcoming New Year's Eve concert.
He was working on a new musical, "Gotta Dance," at the time of his death
and was scheduled to write the score for a new film on Liberace, "Behind
He leaves behind a legacy in film and music that transcended notes on
the page. As illustrative as the scenes playing out in front of the
music, his scores helped define some of Hollywood's most iconic works.
He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.
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