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Music / Marvin Hamlisch

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Marvin Frederick Hamlisch (June 2, 1944 — August 6, 2012) was an American composer, songwriter and conductor. In his life and career, Marvin was among the most acclaimed names in music. He was one of fifteen EGOTs (winners of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), one of ten people to win three or more Oscars in one night (the only person other than a director or screenwriter to do so), and he was one of only two people to win those four awards and a Pulitzer Prize (the other being Richard Rodgers). He also won two Golden Globes.

Born in New York City to Austrian immigrants, his father, an accordionist and bandleader, saw that he demonstrated great musical talent at a early age, and helped him enroll into the Juilliard School of Arts (specifically, what has become the Juilliard School Pre-College Division) at age 7.

His first job was as a rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, which led to a lifelong friendship and musical partnership.

Liza Minnelli's 1964 debut album included a song he'd written as a teenager ("The Travelin' Life"), but he'd first reached national prominence in 1965, when the song "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows", co-written with Howard Liebling, was recorded by Lesley Gore, hitting #13 on the Billboard Top 100. Hamlisch and Liebling also wrote Gore's hit "California Nights" two years later.

His first work in theater was as an accompanist/straight man to Groucho Marx in his 1972 one man show An Evening with Groucho.

He found critical acclaim in the 1970s with his adaptation of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer", famously featured in the 1973 film The Sting, which hit #1 on the Billboard Contemporary charts, as well as #3 on the top 100 of that year, also earning an Academy Award for Best Adapted Score. That same evening, he'd win two more Academy Awards, for Best Original Song and Best Original Score, for The Way We Were, making him the second person to win 3 Oscars the same evening after Billy Wilder.

In 1975, he collaborated with writers James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, lyricist Edward Kleban, and choreographer Michael Bennett as composer for the Broadway musical A Chorus Line, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical Score and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was the longest-running Broadway show until Cats broke its record. (Ironically, Webber pitched the musical to Hamlisch and Harold Robbins ("Hal, it's about cats"), but Hamlisch was already booked.)

He passed away in August 2012 at age 68 after a brief illness. During the last years of his life, he was an accompanist with Idina Menzel, and at the time of his death, he had been picked as the new conductor for the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra after having worked with the Pittsburgh Pops since 1995.

Tributes were widespread throughout the entertainment world, from Broadway dimming their lights, to Barbra Streisand singing "The Way We Were" during the "In Memoriam" segment of the 2013 Academy Awards.

Theatre Credits:

  • Seesaw (1973)
  • A Chorus Line (1975) - Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Award for Best Musical Score
  • They're Playing Our Song (1978)
  • Jean Seberg (1983)
  • Smile (1986)
  • The Goodbye Girl (1993)
  • Imaginary Friends (2002)
  • Sweet Smell of Success (2002)
  • The Nutty Professor (2012)

Film Credits:

Provides examples of:

  • As Himself: Hamlisch appears in The Simpsons, "Gone Abie Gone", playing a younger version of himself, in one of his last public appearances before his death in August 2012. The episode aired 3 months after his passing.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: In The Nanny, "Val's Boyfriend", Maxwell's business partner C.C. Babcock temporarily quits the partnership, so Fran helps them get back together by making her think Maxwell needs help signing Marvin Hamlisch onto a new production; in reality, he's Fran's former high school music teacher, Alan Neider, played by Hamlisch.
  • Child Prodigy: Marvin Hamlisch had shown musical aptitude at a young age, enrolling in what is now the Julliard School Pre-College Division at age 7. One of his earliest songs written in his teens was sung by Liza Minnelli on her debut album.
  • Last of His Kind: By 1991, only one year after A Chorus Line ended its original Broadway run, four of the five co-creators, James Kirkwood Jr., Edward Kleban, Nicholas Dante, and Michael Bennett had passed away. The last creator, Marvin Hamlisch, survived until August 2012.
  • Medley Overture: Hamlisch had composed a medley for A Chorus Line which included "I Hope I Get It", "Nothing", "At the Ballet", "Dance Ten, Looks Three", "What I Did For Love" and "One", before deciding on an In Medias Res opening with "I Hope I Get It".
  • Posthumous Credit: Hamlisch appears in The Simpsons, "Gone Abie Gone", playing a younger version of himself, in one of his last public appearances before his death in August 2012. The episode aired 3 months after his passing.
  • Young Future Famous People: In The Simpsons, "Gone Abie Gone", Grandpa Simpson worked as a busboy in New York City in the early 1970s alongside a young Marvin Hamlisch.