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Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68

Marvin Hamlisch conducts during the Marvin Does Marvin

Marvin Hamlisch conducts during the Marvin Does Marvin at the Pasadena Symphony and Pops near the Rose Bowl. (July 23, 2011) Credit: MCT

Marvin Hamlisch, the wide-ranging composer whose music for "The Sting," "The Way We Were" and the Broadway hit "A Chorus Line" helped him earn nearly every entertainment-industry award in existence, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 68.

Hamlisch -- who maintained a home in Westhampton Beach for many years -- collapsed after a brief illness, according to his publicist, Ken Sunshine, citing the composer's family.

Over a 45-year career that covered feature films, in addition to his theater and television work, Hamlisch won three Academy Awards, four Emmys, four Grammys, three Golden Globes, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. He was also inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2008. He proved adept in nearly every genre imaginable, including comedies, melodramas, literary adaptations and spy films, scoring Woody Allen's "Bananas," Robert Redford's "Ordinary People," the Barbra Streisand romance "The Way We Were" and the 10th James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me." His last film soundtrack was for Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" starring Matt Damon.

On Broadway, Hamlisch received his Tony and Pulitzer in 1976 for the long-running favorite "A Chorus Line." He also wrote the music for Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl" and "Sweet Smell of Success," a stage version of the 1957 film noir.

Hamlisch's credits also extended into the pop world. His theme song to "The Way We Were," performed by Streisand, won the 1974 Grammy for song of the year. His James Bond theme, "Nobody Does It Better," co-written with Carole Bayer Sager, became a No. 2 hit for Carly Simon in 1977 and remains one of her best-known ballads. "Break It to Me Gently," co-written with Sager for Aretha Franklin, became a No. 1 R&B hit in 1977.

"He was classic and one of a kind," Franklin said Tuesday after learning of his death, calling him one of the "all-time great" arrangers and producers. "Who will ever forget 'The Way We Were'?"

Streisand recalled Hamlisch Tuesday: "The world will remember Marvin for his brilliant musical accomplishments . . . 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."

Born June 2, 1944, in New York City to Viennese parents, Marvin Frederick Hamlisch displayed his musical gifts early. A child prodigy on the piano, he became one of the youngest students ever to enter the Juilliard School of Music, at the age of 7. In his teens, he switched from piano recitals to songwriting, and in 1964 he landed his first important job in the theater as rehearsal pianist for the Broadway production of "Funny Girl" with Streisand. In 1967, he received his bachelor of arts degree from Queens College. He eventually moved on to other stage shows, including "Fade Out Fade In," "Golden Rainbow" and "Henry, Sweet Henry."

"Maybe I'm old-fashioned," he told The Associated Press in 1986, "but I remember the beauty and thrill of being moved by Broadway musicals -- particularly the endings of shows. The end of 'West Side Story,' where audiences cried their eyes out. The last few chords of 'My Fair Lady.' Just great."

In his autobiography, "The Way I Was," Hamlisch revealed that despite his success, he lived in fear of not meeting his father's expectations. "By the time Gershwin was your age, he was dead," Max Hamlisch, an accordionist and bandleader, would tell his son. "And he'd written a concerto. Where's your concerto, Marvin?"

Nevertheless, Hamlisch grew up to become the principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego at the time of his death. He was to be announced to the same position with the Philadelphia Orchestra and was due to lead the New York Philharmonic during its upcoming New Year's Eve concert. Hamlisch was working on a new musical, "Gotta Dance," at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score for a new film on Liberace, "Behind the Candelabra."

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.

With AP

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