Marvin Hamlisch

Biography

Born: June 2, 1944 Died: August 6, 2012
A reluctant child prodigy, Marvin Hamlisch became the Juilliard School's youngest student in 1950; after 15 years of not always enthusiastic study, he embarked on a career that would lead to remarkable success as a pop songwriter in the 1970s. His career reached its apogee in 1975 with A Chorus Line, Hamlisch's first musical.

As a teenager, Hamlisch avidly wrote songs, some of which would eventually catch the notice of high school buddy Liza Minnelli. After Juilliard, Hamlisch studied at Queens College, from which he graduated in 1967, all the while working around New York as a rehearsal pianist and accompanist, particularly on the Bell Telephone Hour television show. He scored his first film, The Swimmer, in 1968; more than three-dozen others would follow. Hamlisch's career got a significant boost from an Academy Award nomination for the song "Life Is What You Make It" from the 1971 film Kotch. Three years later he would finally win not one but three Oscars, for his score and title song for The Way We Were and for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for The Sting, the project that did more than anything to launch the Joplin revival. Hamlisch's success depended to a great extent on the work of his lyricists; his most fruitful artistic relationships were with Carole Bayer Sager, with whom he had a long affair (dramatized in the disco-inflected 1979 Neil Simon show They're Playing Our Song) and the team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Hamlisch's soft rock ballad style caught many ears and hearts in the 1970s, most especially with the huge hit musical A Chorus Line from 1975, a show that won multiple Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. A Chorus Line was a showcase of Hamlisch's stylistic versatility, but it was also a career peak he could never quite equal again, not even with his popular score for the 1982 film Sophie's Choice. After They're Playing Our Song, Hamlisch never could write another musical that pleased both audiences and critics, who were beginning to deride his work as excessively sentimental and sappy. Such productions as Jean Seberg (1983), Smile (1989), and The Goodbye Girl (1993) were swift failures. Hamlisch continued scoring films through the 1980s and 1990s (including Little Nikita in 1988 and Shirley Valentine in 1989), but the surest sign of his career's decline was his work as a guest pianist and raconteur on the orchestral pops concert circuit.

There are 23 Marvin Hamlisch recordings available.

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