Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Composer Marvin Hamlisch, 1944-2012

Marvin Hamlish, the multi-award-winning composer behind "A Chorus Line," "The Way We Were," and other musical contributions that helped define America in the 20th Century, died yesterday at the age of 68.

Hamlisch was one of only 11 people to have won all four of the major entertainment awards that make up the EGOT collection, meaning he'd amassed Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards in his career. In fact, Hamlisch's music was nominated for Oscars twelve times, and he won three in one year -- 1973 -- for the scores of "The Way We Were" and "The Sting" and the title song in "The Way We Were." Hamlisch also shared a Pulitzer Prize with director/choreographer Michael Bennett, lyricist Edward Kleban, and writers Nicholas Dante and James Kirkwood for the collaboration that resulted in the Broadway sensation "A Chorus Line."

From "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," the bouncy Leslie Gore hit from the 60s, to "What I Did For Love" and "One" in "A Chorus Line," "The Way We Were," "Nobody Does It Better," and "Through the Eyes of Love," Hamlisch displayed a knack for creating sweet pop melodies that lingered and resonated.

Hamlisch also arranged the Scott Joplin music that fueled "The Sting," bringing Joplin's rags to a new generation and sparking interest in a whole lot of young piano players.

He had recently been working on the score for a new musical, "The Nutty Professor," which just opened in Nashville and is reportedly headed for Broadway.

Whether it was songs from shows like "A Chorus Line," "They're Playing Our Song," or "The Sweet Smell of Success," scores from movies like "Ice Castles" or "The Informant," musical direction of Barbra Streisand, or even the theme song for David Letterman, Hamlisch's work made an impression. He was prolific, energetic and practical, and he seemed to have an ear for exactly what the public wanted to hear, fusing old style show tunes with radio hits, character music, love songs, laments, and everything else in between.

They don't make 'em like Marvin Hamlisch anymore.

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