RSS Feed for This PostCurrent Article

“The Way We Were”: Marvin Hamlisch

[Yes, this gets political ... eventually ...]

Some people should never die. Among the creative popular composers, Marvin Hamlisch is one such person. Or was. He passed away at age 68 in Los Angeles.

Marvin Hamlisch wrote this. Oh, the jazz, Americana through and through … the saxophone … the strings … the lilting, fluttering piano … the harmonica … the oboes:

… and the captions that describe Hamlisch’s remarkable creative achievements … a YouTube user named texpaco lovingly prepared that video. Texpaco has a marvelous collection of music. I see that he loves Susannah McCorkle too. Who wouldn’t.

Marvin Hamlisch gave us another song. The unforgettable Dick Cavett introduces the artist:

Call me corny, but that song — particularly as it is sung by Streisand — always makes me cry. It was my great privilege, thanks entirely to my parents’ good friends, to see Barbara Streisand perform in “Funny Girl” on Broadway. First, more about Marvin Hamlisch, written by texpaco:

Marvin Hamlisch is an American composer, arranger and conductor primarily known for his movie scores. He has received ten Golden Globe Award nominations and six Emmy Award nominations.

He is one of only two people to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and a Tony, and also won two Golden Globes. His adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for the film “The Sting” (his 3rd Oscar) revived many of Joplins classics. He won 2 Golden Globes for Best Original Song, “Life’s What You Make I”t in 1972 and “The Way We Were” in 1974.

His “The Way We Were” won two of his three 1974 Academy Awards and also four Grammy Awards.

He composed the score for the 75 Broadway musical “A Chorus Line” and won both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He co-wrote “Nobody Does It Better” for the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”. He won four Emmy Award nominations, twice for music direction of Barbra Streisand specials, in 1995 and 2001. This selection is from the soundtrack of “The Mirror Has Two Faces” starring Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges.

Back to “Funny Girl”: I was one of those over-achievers who’d won a trip to the United Nations. My parents’ friends (Johnny and Eileen) happened to be in New York City when I was there, and they gave me an impossible choice: Did I want to see Richard Burton in “Hamlet” or Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl”?

To this day, I worry that I made the wrong choice. Actually, I know I did. But I was young and had only seen Streisand once on television (we had but one TV station in those days), and my mother had let me use my money saved from picking asparagus to buy a Streisand album. (Yes, my mother didn’t allow me to spend my own money without her approval — not a bad thing, now that I think about it.)

But Richard Burton? How could I have been so wrong. That’s not a question. Oh well … I must tell you in truth that Streisand’s performance that night was not her best. I am cursed with perfect pitch and she was off-key sometimes that particular night, and her voice was cracking from the very real strain of too many performances. Neither was her fault. She is a thoroughbred, and like all thoroughbreds, she shouldn’t be made to run a race every day. (Her politics? That is completely beside the point.)

The evening was not over. Johnny and Eileen were determined to make my trip to New York City unforgettable. After the show, they took me to Sardi’s for dinner. Yes, I remember the sketches on the walls. But I don’t remember what I ate.

Eileen and my mother met when they shared a room in the community hospital after giving birth to me and Ellen, who is truly my oldest friend.

In rural communities in those days, men and women cherished each opportunity to meet a kindred spirit. Johnny and Eileen became my parents’ dear friends forever more.

About Johnny: He was a genius at business. Don’t tell Barack Obama, but Johnny built a greenhouse business from scratch, toiling incalculably long hours and hiring more and more employees, until he’d made a modest fortune and traveled the United States to market his agricultural seedlings, decorative landscaping plants, and carefully grafted fruit trees.

Just as my father, with my mother’s help, built a lumberyard business from scratch, working far too many hours and rarely giving himself any time off. But he always made time for me. Always. Although his pride in my modest accomplishments — like playing Debussy at the piano — was truly embarrassing. Every poor soul who came to visit my parents had to listen to me play Debussy. Then, one day, the lumberyard was gone. My mother and I found out why from our dear family physician. It’s my secret. People get to have a few. Secrets, that is. But that didn’t stop my father. He built another business from scratch, this time selling real estate, building entire subdivisions of homes, and selling all kinds of insurance. He was a natural at whatever he set his mind to. He too was one of a kind.

And I know, that had he lived this long, he would be profoundly disturbed by the state of our nation, its economy, and its workers. My mother too. But it’s no consolation that she was spared the presidency of Barack Obama. I’d give ANYTHING to hear her RANT about Obama, Harry Reid, and the U.S. Congress. My mother would be beside herself.

However, she would be ecstatic about the Republican running for governor this year. Which is a good thing, since she had become disgusted with the Republican Party that she once loved and had supported for decades. She was embarrassed by George W. Bush. Here was her problem: She’d been spoiled by the magnificent Republican public servants we were so used to, at one time, in this state.

I’ve veered far afield. So it goes when one listens to Hamlisch music and the memories come flooding in.

Memories? Do you have a few?

  • BronwynsHarbor

    An idea: Visit Mitt’s blog to view the new ad. You know why.

  • buzzlatte3

    omg- I just figured out who this is…I always thought he looked like the captain from Captain and Tenille….while not that into show tunes, I find them strident and repetitive for the most part, or maybe that’s because my sister played Barbra Streisand ad nauseum, I am sad to see his talent gone.

  • foxyladi14

    great post.

  • DianaLC

    It can’t be. Hamlisch is one of those people you assume will live forever because they are so wonderful that all generations should be around to receive his gifts.

  • twobits2

    Hamlisch did not write the song “Ruby” – it was the theme of a 1952 movie starring Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston. The song was written by: Mitchell Parish (words) and Heinz Roemheld. Not sure that Mr. Roemheld would appreciate the idea that Hamlisch supposedly wrote this when he was 8 years old.

    • HELENK2

      I loved that movie. as a young teenager, i had a crush on Charlton Heston

  • Flop_Flipper

    Your story about having to play Debussy whenever guests came by reminded of me of something similar that happened to me. My father decided that my punishment for doing poorly in school was to learn the song Call Me Irresponsible. He made me play it constantly. And every time he had a friend come over, didn’t matter what I was doing, I was summoned to play the song for them while my father recounted just how irresponsible I was. It was humiliating.

    Since I was a musician (once taking lessons on 7 instruments at the same time) I spent much of my youth playing in a musical corps. We were national champions during the 7 years I stayed with it. I hit 18 and no more for me thanks. But it had it’s perks. We traveled all over the country for competitions. We were featured on one of the early 60 Minutes shows. I was in at least 3 Macy’s Day parades that I remember. Ran into Lorne Greene on an escalator in New York once. Was big into Bonanza so it was awesome. Visited the United Nations and loved putting the headset on and being able to switch to all these different languages.

    Once, when in Houston, I got to meet Michael Collins, the dude that flew the command module for Aldrin and Armstrong during their moon landing, before that historic journey. And I actually sorta felt a part of things when they landed on the moon. I know, silly. I was just a kid. But hey, I knew one of those guys up there.

    Perhaps the coolest memory was playing for President Nixon. I didn’t particularly like the dude but he kept his word and finally got us out of Vietnam. I protested the war outside immediately after the performance. Hippie peacenik to the core folks.

    Oh well, that was so long ago. But they are memories I cherish and experiences that helped shape me.

  • buzzlatte3

    I have memories of my dad putting in 16 hour days between a full time job and running a ranch yes, both at the same time. He enjoyed it all in his retirement years and was very disturbed that Obama was president because of his “commie” ways. (dad’s word). He was a democrat from FDR days and would shake his head is disgust at what the party had done to itself.

    He’s gone now. But, I know he’s cheering Romney on from Heaven.

  • HELENK2

    very few people give the gift of memories to people they do not know. Writers like this with their music give such an unbelievable gift to the world.
    Hear a song, remember what you were doing the first time you heard it. Hear a song change your outlook for a while. My granddaughter just posted on facebook yesterday, how when ever she is in a bad mood for some reason a song that brings a good memory will play . What a truly wonderful gitt.
    Harry Hamlisch gave that gift to millions.
    THANK YOU HARRY

  • arabella_trefoil

    Great stuff, Browyn. My mom took me to see Funny Girl on Broadway. (Like you, I bought the Funny Girl record and played it until the grooves war out.)
    Apparently, Streisand got tired of performing in FG, even though it made her a big star. Many times she just kind of walked through the performance. She has the kind of voice that can’t withstand the grind of 8 shows a week. I think at one point she swore she’d never do a Broadway musical again. Worth seeing her live so early in her career, even if she had the attitude of schlepping through the the performance at times.

    • BronwynsHarbor

      Yes. It is too much to ask any singer — including those in the chorus — to perform like that. It’s literally insane.

      You’re correct, of course. It didn’t help that I was with a group of teens — we’d traveled by bus across Canada and down to New York City. We didn’t get much sleep. And I was so tired during “Funny Girl” that I actually caught myself nodding off … so embarrassing.

      Btw, we were all so innocent then. There wasn’t any “hanky panky.” We all behaved as we were expected to. My parents didn’t worry, and they didn’t need to. I expect the other teens’ parents felt the same way. We all felt so fortunate for the opportunity. And I’d been through three grueling phases to win the trip, the last judged by college professors who, I think, I won over when I told them that the United Nations did well at humanitarian efforts but was rather useless politically. They nodded their heads as I said that. It wasn’t in me to give the U.N. florid praise, not with what I’d read about it. It was just astonishing that I still had any faith in the U.N., surrounded as I was by the John Birch wing of the Republican Party — which thankfully my parents stayed FAR from.

      To their great credit, my parents were moderate Republicans, and so were the marvelous GOP leaders we had in our state. God we were so lucky back then. REAL servants of the people, they were. Oh, they had to play political games, but they never let those games deter them from putting their constituents first. (I probably have rose-colored glasses on, but then again …)

      Hey! I met the second Democrat I’d ever known when I got to college. And those professors … everything I’d been warned about was true … that I let myself fall sway to some of their thinking … well, I’d probably been too innocent for my own good.