photo: Duffy-Marie Arnoult / WireImageAcademy Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch died at the age of 68. In addition to his Oscars, Hamlisch also won multiple Emmy awards, four Grammy awards, a Tony award, and even a Pulitzer Prize. Hamlisch, who composed the scores for "The Sting," "A Chorus Line," and "Sophie's Choice," was one of only two people to win those major awards plus a Pulitzer. The other was Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame.
Hamlisch was as prolific as he was talented. All told, he composed the scores for dozens of films, including "Ordinary People," "The Way We Were," "The Informant!," and 007's "The Spy Who Loved Me." His scores for "The Sting" and "The Way We Were" may be his most memorable.
His love of music began at an early age. He was identified as an incredibly talented musician as a kid. At the age of 6, he was admitted into Julliard's School Pre-College Division, the youngest student ever admitted. Hamlisch composed his first cinematic score in his mid-20s. Over the course of his career, he composed music for romances, dramas, comedies, and action films.
As the Wrap puts it, Hamlisch's "subtle approach allowed him to be something of a musical chameleon, easily gliding from searing dramas to off-beat comedies and making him a close collaborator to a diverse group of directors such as Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh, and Alan J. Pakula."
In an interview with Cine.org, he explained a bit about what it takes to compose for film. "Writing for movies is all about writing and making something sound inevitably to end when it's supposed to end. Like, for instance, doing a scene that's 48 seconds, you have to make the music sound that at 48 seconds, it would come to a natural conclusion."
In that interview, he remarked that he never wrote a note until he saw the movie in its entirety. "I only want to see the film when I see it in its entirety and know how much music I really have to write. Because this idea that well, you go off and you write these themes somewhere and then you wait for the movie to be finished. … To me, watching and seeing the film changes everything. … For me, I go in to see a movie the first time with no preconceived anything. I don't want to know anything."
Hamlisch, as you might expect for someone so talented, loved doing his job. "I always consider it a privilege to write for a film or a movie. I don't take it for granted. I always think about it as a baseball player who comes up to the bat, you know what I mean? It's a big deal. Are you going to get a chance to hit a home run, or will you blow it and strike out? So it's always, for me, a challenge to write. But on the other hand, it's always a joy when it comes out looking good."
In a statement on her website, Barbra Streisand said: "I'm devastated. He was my dear friend. He's been in my life ever since the first day I met him in 1963, when he was my rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl. He played at my wedding in 1998…The world will remember Marvin for his brilliant musical accomplishments, from A Chorus Line to The Way We Were, and so many others, but 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."
Hamlisch leaves behind his wife of 25 years, television producer Terre Blair.