Marvin Hamlisch; A Musical Virtuoso's Symphony of Success (1944-2012)

By Jo Ann Vick


Marvin Frederick Hamlisch, born on June 2, 1944, in New York City, was a prolific American composer and conductor whose versatile talent left an indelible mark on the world of music. Renowned for his extraordinary ability to traverse genres from Broadway to film scores and his knack for creating unforgettable melodies, Hamlisch was a true musical virtuoso whose career spanned several decades.

Early Life and Musical Prodigy

Marvin Hamlisch's musical journey began at an early age. Recognizing his prodigious talent, his parents enrolled him in the Juilliard School of Music at the age of seven. Hamlisch's unparalleled gift for music manifested itself as he quickly excelled in his studies, showcasing proficiency not only as a pianist but also as a composer.

In 1958, at just 14 years old, Hamlisch made history by becoming the youngest student ever accepted into Juilliard. This early recognition set the stage for a remarkable career that would see him achieve success in various musical realms.

Early Career and Broadway Breakthrough

Hamlisch's Broadway debut came in 1964 with the musical "Funny Girl," starring Barbra Streisand. As the rehearsal pianist, Hamlisch impressed the producers with his talent, leading to his appointment as the show's dance music arranger. The success of "Funny Girl" marked the beginning of Hamlisch's Broadway career, earning him his first Tony Award for Best Musical.

His subsequent work on Broadway included the immensely successful "A Chorus Line" (1975), a groundbreaking musical that explored the lives of Broadway dancers. Hamlisch's contributions as the composer and arranger for "A Chorus Line" earned him critical acclaim, and the musical became a cultural phenomenon, winning numerous Tony Awards, including Best Original Score.

Iconic Film Scores and Academy Awards

Marvin Hamlisch's genius extended beyond the theater to the silver screen. His foray into film scoring marked the beginning of a prolific collaboration with directors and producers. In 1973, he composed the score for "The Way We Were," starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. The film's title song, sung by Streisand, became an instant classic and won Hamlisch his first Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Hamlisch continued to make cinematic history with his work on "The Sting" (1973), a film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The ragtime-infused score, featuring Scott Joplin's compositions, contributed significantly to the film's success. Hamlisch earned his second Academy Award, this time for Best Original Score.

EGOT Achievement and Prolific Output

By the mid-1970s, Marvin Hamlisch had achieved an extraordinary milestone in his career by becoming one of the few individuals to win all four major American entertainment awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony commonly known as the EGOT achievement. His remarkable versatility across various mediums was a testament to his exceptional talent and adaptability.

Hamlisch's Grammy Awards were a testament to his success not only in film and theater but also in the world of popular music. He won several Grammy Awards for his compositions and arrangements, showcasing his ability to resonate with a broad spectrum of audiences.

Continued Success and Collaborations

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Hamlisch continued to compose for both stage and screen, further solidifying his reputation as a prolific and versatile musician. His collaborations included work on films such as "Sophie's Choice" (1982) and "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977), contributing memorable songs to the James Bond film.

In the realm of musical theater, Hamlisch's Broadway credits expanded with works like "They're Playing Our Song" (1978) and "Smile" (1986). His ability to craft melodies that resonated with audiences, combined with his skillful orchestration, ensured a lasting impact on the world of musical theater.

Personal Touch and Versatility

One of Hamlisch's defining characteristics was his ability to infuse emotion and depth into his compositions. Whether creating a poignant ballad or a lively, upbeat tune, he had a unique knack for connecting with listeners on a personal level. His music possessed a timeless quality that transcended trends and genres, appealing to a broad and diverse audience.

Hamlisch's versatility was evident not only in his work across different entertainment platforms but also in the genres he effortlessly navigated. From classical compositions to jazz-infused scores and memorable pop songs, Hamlisch's musical palette was vast and eclectic.

Legacy and Awards

Marvin Hamlisch's contributions to the world of music were recognized with numerous awards and honors. In addition to his EGOT achievement, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "A Chorus Line," cementing his status as one of the most celebrated composers of his time.

Hamlisch's impact extended beyond accolades; his influence was felt in the countless musicians and composers he inspired. His legacy lived on through the continued popularity of his compositions, which were often revisited, reimagined, and incorporated into new artistic projects.

Later Years and Passing

In the latter part of his career, Hamlisch continued to engage with various artistic endeavors. He served as principal conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1995 to 2000 and frequently conducted other major orchestras around the world. His enduring commitment to music education also led him to mentor aspiring musicians.

Marvin Hamlisch passed away on August 6, 2012, at the age of 68. His death was a significant loss to the world of music, and tributes poured in from fellow artists, colleagues, and admirers who acknowledged the profound impact he had on the industry.

Marvin Hamlisch's life was a symphony of accomplishment, a testament to his unparalleled talent, versatility, and enduring contributions to the world of music. From Broadway to Hollywood, from classical compositions to chart-topping hits, Hamlisch's ability to connect with audiences across genres and generations remains a testament to his timeless artistry.

His melodies, infused with emotion and a touch of magic, continue to resonate with listeners, evoking memories and emotions. Marvin Hamlisch, the musical virtuoso, left an indelible legacy that transcends the boundaries of time and genre, ensuring that his impact on the world of music endures as a source of inspiration for generations to come.

Jo Ann Vick is a private piano instructor with 20 years of training and performing experience
and has a home based studio in Frisco, Texas. Her mission is to develop in others, a love
for playing the piano. Her website is located at