By Sandra Birungi
Composer of A Chorus Line and The Way We Were, Marvin Hamlisch died Monday at the age of 68.
The cause of death is not clear but according to a family spokesman, he died in Los Angeles after suffering a brief illness. The Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award winner started his career as a rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl with long time friend, Barbra Streisand. He said Streisand “has the best voice there is”. He was born in New York City and lived and was raised by Jewish parents.
Hearing of his death, Streisand said she had lost a great friend of 45 years. “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 … He was a true musical genius but above all that, he was a beautiful human being. I will truly miss him,” she said in a statement.
Liza Minnelli said she was friends with Hamlisch since she was 13 years old. “I have lost my first lifelong best friend, and sadly we have lost a splendid, splendid talent,” the singer and actress said in a statement.
In an interview way back in 2010, Hamlisch told Broadway World that in writing “The Way We Were” he was trying to match “a very yin-yang sort of movie.” He explained: “I wanted to write something that was uplifting and positive; on the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of bitter-sweetness to that film – and bittersweet romance – so it’s a real duality. And that’s why I think the song – though it’s in the major mode – is quite sad,” he said.
He has several film scores including the score for Streisand’s 1996 film, “The Mirror has Two Faces,” “I’ve Finally Found Someone”, “Sophie’s Choice” and “Ordinary People” and he co-wrote the ballad “Nobody Does It Better” for the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
Former first lady, Nancy Reagan recalled how Hamlisch wrote a 77th birthday song for her late husband, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Hamlisch was “a dear friend and I am truly stunned by his death at such a young age … I don’t think you could ever find a more contemporary and talented musician,” Reagan said in a statement.
“Music can make a difference. There is a global nature to music, which has the potential to bring all people together,” he said on his website.
At the time of his death, he was principal pops conductor for several U.S. symphony orchestras. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.