Marvin Hamlisch 1944 – 2012

I was so sad to hear of Marvin Hamlisch’s death on Monday. He died on August 6 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 68, following a brief illness. I have long been a fan of his work and music, particularly the theme song of the wonderful 1973 movie, The Way We Were.

Hamlisch was born in Manhattan and was a child prodigy entering the Juilliard’s pre-school division (rather like the junior departments which are held on saturdays for children at our music colleges here in the UK). He attended Queen’s College and received his B.A. in 1967 before landing his first job as a rehearsal pianist for the movie Funny Girl, where he first met Barbara Streisand.  Later he was hired by producer Sam Spiegel to play piano at Spiegel’s parties. This connection led to his first film score, The Swimmer.

Compositions and/or musical adaptations for films that Hamlisch wrote include; Sophie’s Choice, Ordinary People, The Swimmer, The Sting, The Spy who Loved Me, Three Men and a Baby, Ice Castles, Take The Money and Run, Bananas, Save The Tiger, Shirley Valentine, Frankie and Johnny, and The Informant. His stage works have included A Chorus Line (1975) and The Goodbye Girl (1993).

He was Musical Director and arranger for “Barbra Streisand: The Concert” in 1994 and has held the position of Principal Pops Conductor for the following orchestras: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Symphony,the Seattle Symphony, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The National Symphony Orchestra Pops,and The Pasadena Symphony and Pops.

Hamlisch also wrote a classical orchestral suite in 1991 called  Anatomy of Peace (Symphonic Suite in one Movement For Full Orchestra/Chorus/Child Vocal Soloist), which was recorded and performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1992.

Marvin Hamlisch was one of only eleven people to have been awarded an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. He was also one of only two people to have won those four prizes and also a Pulitzer Prize (the other was Richard Rodgers). Hamlisch also won two Golden Globes.

My association with his music however will always be the theme tune of his most successful film score, The Sting (1973), where he cleverly adapted Scott Joplin’s ever popular ragtime minature, The Entertainer. This theme tune reached number three on the Billboard pop chart and spent a week at number one on the easy listening chart in 1974.

It was a regular feature in many of my concert programmes too and as a tribute here is my version of the Entertainer.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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