Marvin Hamlisch: One Singular Sensation

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

In a career that spanned nearly five decades, Marvin Hamlisch won every major entertainment award, most more than once. Hamlisch won four Emmys, four Grammys, three Oscars and one Tony. (Hamlisch completed his sweep of the coveted "EGOT" in 1995, when he was just 51.) Hamlisch died on Monday at age 68 following a brief illness.

Hamlisch's most famous song is one of the top standards to emerge from the 1970s: "The Way We Were," which Barbra Streisand introduced in her 1973 movie of the same name.

In a 2010 interview with, Hamlisch said that, in composing the song, he sought to capture the bittersweet quality of the film, a romantic drama in which Streisand starred opposite Robert Redford.

"I wanted to write something that was uplifting and positive. On the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of bittersweet-ness to that film—and bittersweet romance—so, it's a real duality. And that's why I think the song, though it's (composed) in the major mode, is quite sad."

"The Way We Were" became an instant-standard when it was released in the fall of 1973. In February 1974, it became Streisand's first #1 single. That April, it won an Oscar as Best Song. In December, it ranked #1 on Billboard's recap of the year's top 100 singles. In March 1975, it won a Grammy as Song of the Year. That July, it returned to the top 15 in a cover version by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

Hamlisch and Streisand had a long and fruitful collaboration. He won two Oscars, three Emmys and two Grammys for his work with the legendary star. In addition to composing the title song and score to The Way We Were, he served as music director for her 1995 TV special Barbra Streisand: The Concert (for which he won two Emmys) and her 2001 special Barbra Streisand: Timeless (for which he won one).

Hamlisch also co-wrote Streisand's most recent top 10 hit, "I Finally Found Someone," from her 1996 film The Mirror Has Two Faces. The soft rock ballad, a collaboration with Bryan Adams, received an Oscar nomination for Best Song.

In a statement on her website,, 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 won both an Oscar and a Grammy for scoring the 1973 movie The Sting, in which he adapted 70-year old works by ragtime king Scott Joplin. The soundtrack logged five weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200 in May and June 1974. (It went head-to-head with albums by Chicago, Cat Stevens and Paul McCartney & Wings.) One of the instrumental pieces, "The Entertainer," reached #3 on the Hot 100. The Paul Newman/Robert Redford film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.

In June 1976, Hamlisch won a Tony for co-writing the score to A Chorus Line, the most successful musical of the 1970s. The show produced such instant standards as "What I Did For Love" and "One." The show opened in July 1975 and ran for 6,137 performances. It won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In 1984, it received special Tony in honor of becoming Broadway's longest-running musical (to that point). In 2007, a revival was nominated for two Tonys.

Hamlisch achieved most of his great, historic successes by the time he was in his early 30s. He won all three of his Oscars in one night (April 2, 1974). He won all four of his Grammys in one night (March 1, 1975.) But if he never again achieved such dizzying success, he kept going and achieved much more in his career.

Hamlisch was nominated for both the Oscar and Grammy in the top songwriting category for co-writing Carly Simon's sexy 1977 smash "Nobody Does It Better" from the James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me. The song lost both awards to "You Light Up My Life," a rather dull ballad which was a mystifyingly big hit for Debby Boone.

Hamlisch's 12 Oscar nominations included three collaborations with Alan and Marilyn Bergman: "The Way We Were," "The Last Time I Felt Like This" (from Same Time, Next Year) and "The Girl Who Used To Be Me" (from Shirley Valentine) and two collaborations with Carole Bayer Sager: "Nobody Does It Better" and "Through The Eyes Of Love" (from Ice Castles).

Hamlisch was also nominated for an Oscar for scoring Meryl Streep's classic 1982 movie Sophie's Choice.

Hamlisch's seven Emmy nominations include two installments in AFI's long-running 100 Years… franchise and the sitcom Brooklyn Bridge, for which he co-wrote the theme song.

He was nominated for a second Tony for co-writing the 2002 musical Sweet Smell Of Success. The musical was based on the 1957 movie of the same name which co-starred Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.

Hamlisch even won a Grammy as Best New Artist, beating Bad Company, Johnny Bristol, David Essex, Graham Central Station and Phoebe Snow. Hamlisch didn't fit the usual profile of winners in that category, to say the least. He charted with only one album that wasn't a movie soundtrack or cast album (1974's The Entertainer). But he had a long-running career with success in multiple mediums which more than justified his award.

Hamlisch has two recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame: "The Way We Were" and A Chorus Line.

Here's a link to an interview with Hamlisch.