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Marvin Hamlisch: Five Fun Facts

Published: 6/2/2014
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Marvin Hamlisch (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

Composer Marvin Hamlisch, who would have celebrated his 70th birthday June 2, won every major creative award possible during his lifetime: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony, a Pulitzer Prize, two Golden Globes and many other honors. But success didn't spoil him, and he was remembered for his kindness as well as his musical skills when he died at 68 in August 2012. Here are five fun facts about the late artist:

1. A musical prodigy, Hamlisch auditioned for the Juilliard School of Music when he was 6 years old. He played the popular hit song "I'm Yours," but Hamlisch soon proved that little about him was ordinary – performing the song in any key the admissions committee requested.



2. Hamlisch enjoyed poking fun at himself. His outgoing nature and ability to charm audiences led him to remark that his last name began with "ham" for a reason. Hamlisch described himself as a "square," according to his Los Angeles Times obituary, and was celebrated on Gilda Radner's "Nerd" sketches on Saturday Night Live.

3. In his 1992 memoir The Way I Was, Hamlisch describes how producer Ray Stark asked him to write a theme song for the new movie he was working on – on spec. "Which meant that if he didn't care for the song, it was no harm, no foul. I'd be here today, gone tomorrow," Hamlisch wrote. "If, on the other hand, he liked it, I would get the job of scoring the whole movie. What Stark didn't tell me till the end of the conversation was that the director was Sydney Pollack, the stars were Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, and the movie was The Way We Were. For this I would certainly work 'on spec,' and I must confess that I sensed from the beginning that this was going to be my watershed in the movies."

4. Streisand, who met Hamlisch in 1964 when he was a rehearsal pianist for her Broadway show Funny Girl, originally thought the title song for The Way We Were was too simplistic. "Hamlisch said he had to beg her to sing it, and she agreed only after the rest of the cast outvoted her," The Los Angeles Times said. Streisand made two changes to the song, according to the Turner Classic Movies website –– making a slight adjustment in the melody at one point in the song, and changing the first line from "Daydreams light the corners of my mind" to "Memories light the corners of my mind."



5. Hamlisch composed scores for more than 40 movies, including The Sting and Ordinary People. But he felt background music was unappreciated. "He said he would love for an audience to 'see a movie once without the music' to appreciate how the experience changed," according to The New York Times.
 

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. Her lifelong love of obituaries raised eyebrows when she was younger, but she's now able to explain that this interest goes beyond morbid curiosity. Says Pompilio, "Obituaries are mini life stories, allowing a glimpse into someone's world that we're often denied. I just wish we could share them with each other when we're alive."

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