Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In Memoriam: Marvin Hamlisch (1944-2012)

Like so many people, I was very saddened to hear this morning that Marvin Hamlisch has died at the age of 68.

A statement from his family, which was released through a representative on Tuesday, said that Mr. Hamlisch collapsed after a brief illness and died on Monday in Los Angeles. They did not provide additional details.

His sudden death took many by surprise. On his own Facebook page, he said he was looking forward to returning to the podium of the Pasadena Symphony and Pops: "Love you Pasadena symphony ! ... Wow ! Can't do it without you ! See you in September!"

In a career that extended from small screen to big screen and Broadway to Symphony Pops, Marvin Hamlisch won almost every award available to someone of his stature. He was nominated for an Academy Award twelve times and took home three: for the score of The Sting as well as the score and title song from The Way We Were. He won a Tony Award for his score to the musical A Chorus Line, which also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976. Hamlisch also took home four Grammy Awards and four Emmy Awards - two of those Emmys were for the television special, Barbra Streisand: The Concert.

In fact, it was with Barbra Streisand that Marvin Hamlisch had one of his deepest artistic collaborations.

The duo met in 1964 when Hamlisch was the rehearsal pianist for the Broadway production of Funny Girl starring Streisand. Later, not only did Hamlisch write the ballad The Way We Were - which is synonymous with Streisand's name - but, he also wrote the score for her 1996 film The Mirror has Two Faces, and also served as musical director and arranger of Streisand’s 1994 concert tour. It was during those concerts that she introduced him as her "conductor, arranger and dear, dear friend, Marvin Hamlisch".

Broadway music held a special fascination for him. In 1986, Marvin Hamlisch told The Associated Press:
Maybe I'm old-fashioned, 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. Just great.
Marvin Hamlisch also felt at-home on the conductors podium of numerous symphony orchestras. At the time of his death, he was the principal pops conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, San Diego Symphony and the Pasadena Symphony and Pops - with whom he had just signed a 3 year contract. And, Hamlisch was just about to add another appointment to his list. Next week, he was to be announced as the principal pops conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In addition to his current conducting duties, Hamlisch was working on a musical adaptation of the Jerry Lewis comedy The Nutty Professor, for which he wrote the score - as well as a new Broadway musical called Gotta Dance. He had also just finished writing the score for a coming HBO movie, Behind the Candelabra, about the life of Liberace.

The legacy that Marvin Hamlisch leaves behind - as well as the passion and fervor with which he constantly worked - will be admired and lauded for decades and decades to come.

In an interview this last July, Mr. Hamlisch talked about the passion he put into each piece of music he composed.
I’m not one of those people who says, ‘I never read reviews,’ because I don’t believe those people. I think they read ‘em. These songs are my babies. And I always say, it’s like having a baby in a hospital, taking a Polaroid and going up to someone and saying, ‘What do you think?’ And he goes, ‘I give you a 3.’ That’s what criticism is like. You’ve worked on this thing forever — ‘I give you a 3.’ And it’s part of you. That’s the bargain you’ve made.
Marvin Hamlisch is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.


Barbara Streisand just released the following statement on her website:
I’m devastated. He was my dear friend. He’s been in my life ever since the first day I met him in 1963, when he was my rehearsal pianist for 'Funny Girl'. He played at my wedding in 1998… and recently for me at a benefit for women’s heart disease. The world will remember Marvin for his brilliant musical accomplishments, from 'A Chorus Line' to 'The Way We Were,' and so many others, but when I think of him now, it was his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity, and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around. Just last night, I was trying to reach him, to tell him how much I loved him, and that I wanted to use an old song of his, that I had just heard for the first time. He was a true musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being. I will truly miss him. ~ Barbra Streisand
For more reaction from stars like Liza Minnelli, Aretha Franklin, Idina Menzel, Alan Menken and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, just click over to The Huffington Post.

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