Musicians of Note

"The biggest thrill you can have is to tell people one of your songs, and have them be able to hum it."

~Marvin Hamlisch ~

Marvin Hamlisch, The Maestro

Marvin Hamlisch died suddenly on July 6 after a short illness. His death came as a shock to the music industry and to his audience - that's everyone. At the 1973 Academy Awards, some people may never have heard of Marvin Hamlisch, the slightly nerdy guy with the funny name. But as he accepted his third Oscar in one night, he remarked, "I feel we know each other by now."

That night Hamlisch received two Oscars for "The Way We Were:" Best Music, Original Dramatic Score; and Best Music, Original Song. He won the third Oscar for "The Sting:" Best Original Song Score and/or Adaptation. It's been said that Marvin Hamlisch spends as much time accepting award-winning songs as he spends composing.

At the age of 5 he was adapting, on the piano, songs he heard on the radio. He attended the Juilliard School of Music at age 7, the youngest person ever to be accepted at that time. He hated recitals, because he had violent physical reactions to performing. When he later turned to composing, he wrote the music to a top 20 hit for Lesley Gore, "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows." He was 21.

Hamlisch is one of 11 people who've won the EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. It's called the Grand Slam, and Hamlisch has won the most, with 3 Oscars, 4 Emmys, 4 Grammys and 1 Tony. In addition to the EGOT, he won a Pulitzer Prize for "A Chorus Line," the most successful and longest-running Broadway musical at the time.

Richard Rodgers was the only other EGOT and Pulitzer winner. The lyricist Alan Jay Lerner called "A Chorus Line" "the great show business story of our time."

Hamlisch started his long association with Barbra Streisand as the rehearsal pianist at age 19 for "Funny Girl." The two collaborated on their biggest hit, "The Way We Were," which Hamlisch had to convince Streisand to sing. Streisand was quoted as saying that the world will always remember "his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around."

His second-biggest pop hit was "Nobody Does It Better" from "The Spy Who Loved Me." The lyrics were written by Carole Bayer Sager. Carly Simon recorded the song in 1977, and Radiohead performed it in concert more recently. Hamlisch and Bayer Sager also worked together on the Broadway hit "They're Playing Our Song," based on their own relationship.

He also loved scoring the movies, writing background music for "Ordinary People," "Sophie's Choice," "The Goodbye Girl," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Imaginary Friends," and "The Informant."

Most recently, Hamlisch performed around the country and talked to school students. Regarding cuts in arts education, he said in an interview, "You don't have to become the next great composer. It's just nice to have heard certain things or to have seen certain things. It's part of being a human being."

The music world will miss him. Everyone will.

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