Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, whose work included scores for the Broadway musical A Chorus Line and films as varied as Three Men and a Baby and The Way We Were, has died in Los Angeles, The Associated Press reports. He was 68.
Hamlisch collapsed and died yesterday following a brief illness, his publicist Ken Sunshine said, relaying information from the family. No other details regarding Hamlisch’s death were released.
A prolific composer, Hamlisch wrote dozens of scores for film, Broadway and television; composed for and conducted symphonies; and wrote “Break It to Me Gently” with Carole Bayer Sager, which was a Number 1 R&B hit for Aretha Franklin.
Hamlisch scooped up every major award throughout his career, winning three Oscars (two for The Way We Were, one for The Sting and all of them at the 46th Academy Awards in 1974), four Grammys, four Golden Globes, four Emmys and a Tony for A Chorus Line, which also won a Pulitzer.
Incredibly versatile, he composed more than 40 film scores for dramas including Sophie’s Choice and comedies such as Woody Allen’s Bananas. Along with The Way We Were, he was perhaps best known for his re-imaginings of ragtime great Scott Joplin, especially “The Entertainer,” which appeared in The Sting.
Hamlisch acted as principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego. At the time of his death, he was about to take the same position at the Philadelphia Orchestra and was planning to lead the New York Philharmonic during its New Year’s Eve concert.
Although most of his work was for the stage and screen, he dabbled in pop, too, writing “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” and “California Nights” for Lesley Gore (who took the latter to Number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967), and “Break It To Me Gently” for Aretha Franklin.
“He was classic and one of a kind,” Franklin said, calling Hamlisch one of the “all-time great” arrangers and producers. “Who will ever forget ‘The Way We Were’?”
The one-time child prodigy started playing music at an early age, entering the renowned Juilliard School of Music when he was seven. With a particular affinity for show music, Hamlisch landed his first theater job as a rehearsal pianist for the 1964 Broadway production of Funny Girl, which starred Barbra Streisand.
According to Sunshine, Hamlisch was scheduled to head to Nashville this week to see a production of his latest musical, The Nutty Professor. He was also working on a new musical called Gotta Dance, and had planned to write the score for Behind the Candelabra, a new film about Liberace.