Goodbye to one of the greats.
By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
When I heard that Marvin Hamlisch passed away this past Monday, I was both shocked and sad. To say the man was a living legend is an understatement. He was arguably one of the greatest composers for stage and screen of all time, and one of only two people to PEGOT in history (I've decided that’s what you have when you've got the famed “EGOT” plus the Pulitzer Prize – also, I've decided both EGOT and PEGOT can be used as verbs. The only other person to PEGOT to date is Richard Rodgers).
I want to share a little of my experience with his work. Most people were first introduced to Marvin Hamlisch’s music via A Chorus Line, which I suppose is true for me as well, but the first time I remember really studying his music was when a vocal teacher in high school had me sing the songs “Fallin’” and “They’re Playing My Song” from the musical They’re Playing Our Song:
From the 1979 Tony Awards. Sorry for the shitty quality but it’s the best I could find on YouTube that would let me embed here. I really wish bluegobo.com would let you have embed codes for their videos. Click here to view it on BlueGobo.
I loved this song, in particular as someone who is decidedly more songwriter than singer (though I wanted to do both at the time). The show is based off of the real-life relationship between Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager (who also wrote the lyrics for the show). I became fond of this little musical. I liked that the cast was simply the two main characters plus backup singers that materialize every so often. The music was a blast to sing, and would get stuck in your head for days. I mean, listen to that melody in “They’re Playing My Song.” It’s so deliciously peppy and unashamedly ‘70’s can you not want to sing that on endless repeat?
Marvin Hamlisch famously won an Oscar for writing the song “The Way We Were” from the movie of the same name:
I love videos of composers explaining their process. PS: this is a clip of a larger 2011 interview. To watch the full interview click here (which in my opinion is hilariously Jewish. FACT: Jews love to talk about being Jewish, and if you think I don't know from this, just look at my two last names).
The song became fodder for one of my favorite comedy routines of all time. After all, why post a video of Barbara Streisand performing it when this exists in the world? This video cuts out the beginning of the sketch but again, it’s all I could find on YouTube (to listen to the whole sketch sans video, click here). Ladies and gents, Gilda Radner as Lisa Loopner:
This is what genius looks like.
It’s always sad when great artists pass, but even more so when you know they had so much more to say. Rest in peace, Marvin Hamlisch. You were truly one singular sensation and will be sorely missed.
And now, I'd be remiss if I didn't close us out with a little Chorus Line:
Love it, but can't help but think that if you wrote a musical with this many characters/actors today, no one would produce your show. End of an era.
GREGORY JACOBS-ROSEMAN is a composer/lyricist and theatrical sound designer currently developing Save The Date: A New Musical Comedy. www.gregjr.com
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