Marvin Hamlisch, a composer who moved effortlessly from movies to musical theatre to television, winning Grammys, Emmys, Oscars and a Tony award, died unexpectedly on Monday, August 6, at the age of 68 after a brief illness. Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers are the only two composers who have won all of those awards as well as a Pulitzer Prize. As the composer of “A Chorus Line,” Hamlisch shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976.
Hamlisch’s award-winning work spans decades. He won his first two Oscars for the score and title song for “The Way We Were” (1973) and collected the third music Oscar offered that year for his adaptation of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music for “The Sting.” He wrote the score or songs for more than 40 movies.
Among his Oscar nominations were the score for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982) and the score for “The Spy Who Loves Me.” (1977.) “Nobody Does It Better,” the song he wrote for that James Bond movie with his then girlfriend, lyricist Carole Bayer Sager, was nominated for best original song. His relationship with Bayer Sager also spawned a hit Broadway musical, “They’re Playing Our Song,” (1979) about the romantic problems of a composer and a young lyricist. Hamlisch’s last Oscar nomination came in 1997 for the song “I Finally Found Someone” from Barbra Streisand's “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”
Marvin Hamlisch was born on June 2, 1944. Viennese Jews, his parents had come to America to escape the Nazis. His father, Max, was an accordionist and bandleader, and Marvin was a musical prodigy. At the age of seven, he was offered a place at Julliard. When he left 13 years later, his first job was as a rehearsal pianist for the Broadway musical, “Funny Girl.” That job began an association and friendship with the musical’s star, Barbra Streisand, that would last for decades and lead in later years to Emmys for HBO’s documentary of Streisand’s 1994 concert tour and, in 2001, for “Barbra Streisand – Timeless.”
In recent years, Hamlisch had a second career as a conductor. He was currently the principal pops conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and several others. Within the last few weeks, according to the Pasadena Symphony president Melinda Shea, he had signed a three-year contract with the symphony.
Hamlisch is survived by his wife Terre Blair.