Marvin Hamlisch

Active - 1967 - 2013  |   Born - Jun 2, 1944 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Jul 6, 2012   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Romance, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

During his first wave of national fame in the mid '70s, American composer/arranger Marvin Hamlisch was a much sought-after talk show guest, due to his quick wit and infectious personality. The son of a prominent Viennese musician, Hamlisch was working on Broadway even while attending college, as Barbra Streisand's rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl. After some minor theatrical composing, Hamlisch met producer Sam Spiegel, which led to Hamlisch's first film scoring assignment, the teeny-bopper musicale Ski Party. Working quickly and inexpensively, Hamlisch created a demand for himself in the world of medium-budget "personal" film productions like Frank and Eleanor Perry's The Swimmer (1968) and Woody Allen's Bananas. In 1972, he was the accompanist/arranger of Groucho Marx' S.R.O. Carnegie Hall appearance, which led to even more valuable showbiz contacts. When Hamlisch finally hit it big in 1974, he hit it BIG -- winning three Academy Awards in a single evening, one for The Sting (1973) and two for The Way We Were (1973). America literally fell in love with this grinning, bespectacled, slightly dishevelled young man who seemed so comfortable with, yet so shy about, his limitless talent. From the night of that Oscar ceremony onward, producers fell over themselves entreating Hamlisch to add prestige to their projects; frequently, as in the case of the 1975 TV bomb Beacon Hill, Hamlisch's music was the only recommendation. Marvin Hamlisch has remained active in all branches of show business for the last two decades; the quality of the projects may have varied wildly at times, but Hamlisch could always take comfort in the fact that his Tony-winning music and lyrics for A Chorus Line were composed for the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Hamlisch died at age 68 in early August 2012.

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  • Became the youngest student, at age 7 in 1951, admitted to the Juilliard School of Music.
  • At age 16, played piano on a demo record that friend Liza Minnelli gave her mother, Judy Garland, for Christmas.  
  • Worked as a rehearsal pianist in 1964 for the Broadway play Funny Girl, which starred Barbra Streisand.  
  • Scored his first pop hit in 1965 when Lesley Gore recorded "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows," which he cowrote with Howard Liebling. 
  • Wrote the music for such Broadway shows as A Chorus Line, They're Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success; and scored such films as The Way We Were, The Sting, Sophie's Choice and Ordinary People.
  • Picked by Groucho Marx to be his pianist-straight man for an early 1970s nightclub tour.
  • Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986 and the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2009.