Marvin Hamlisch was an American conductor and composer who mainly composed film music. Hamlisch is one of the only two people in history to have won a Pulitzer Prize, an Emmy, an Oscar, a Tony, and a Grammy. He also won three Oscars in one night, a feat which has only been accomplished by ten people who were not directors or screenwriters.
Marvin Frederick Hamlisch was born on June 2, 1944, in New York, United States. He derived much of his early musical influence from his father, who was a bandleader and an accordionist. Having learnt the piano from his father, Hamlisch could replicate the music he heard on the radio at the tender age of five. By the age of seven, Hamlisch was accepted by the Julliard School of Music, Pre-College Division.
After graduating from the Julliard School, Hamlisch worked as a rehearsal pianist for Barbra Streisand’s musical, ‘Funny Girl’, after which he was hired by Sam Spiegel as a pianist for his social gatherings. Hamlisch extraordinary piano exhibitions at Spiegel’s parties caught the eye of Frank Perry. Perry, who was an Academy Award Nominee, decided to let Hamlisch write the score to his 1968 film, “The Swimmer”, which was Hamlisch’s first score. Hamlisch was no stranger to success at the time of writing the score for ‘The Swimmer’; in 1965, a song he co-wrote with Howard Leibling (titled “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows”) reached No.13 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Hamlisch also co-wrote “California Nights” with Leibling in 1967.
Hamlisch’s first scores for films included scores for some Woody Allen movies such as “Bananas” (1971) and “Take the Money and Run” (1969). He then soared to popularity in 1973; the year he won two Academy Awards; one for his score for “The Way We Were” and the other for his adaptation to “The Sting”. Hamlisch’s score for “The Way We Were” also won a total of four Grammy Awards in 1974. His 1977 power ballad titled “Nobody Does it Better” was also nominated for an Academy Award. A lot of people remember Hamlisch as the composer of the first and longest running score for “Good Morning America”; a piece that ran for about twelve years. Hamlisch also composed the score for the 1980 release “Ordinary People”, and the 1982 classic “Sophie’s Choice”. In 1986 Hamlisch received another Academy Award Nomination for the film release of the 1975 Broadway Musical “A Chorus Line”. Nonetheless, the score for “A Chorus Line” went on to win both a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize in the 1970’s. Hamlisch’s other notable works include his 1986 musical, “They’re playing our song”.
As a conductor, Hamlisch was highly renowned for his exemplary performance as music director for Barbra Streisand’s 1994 Tour of the U.S. and England. The television special, “Barbra Streisand: The Concert”, also won two Emmys. Hamlisch served as Principal Pops Conductor for many orchestras, including but not limited to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008, Hamlisch was inducted to the highly prestigious American Theatre Hall of Fame. Marvin Hamlisch died on August 6, 2012 due to respiratory arrest in a coma. Today, he is remembered as a legendary figure of American theatre and film music scene.