Marilyn Bergman, half of Oscar-winning songwriter duo, dies at 93
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Marilyn Bergman, who along with her husband, Alan Bergman, gave the world memorable sayings about “the misty watercolor memories” and “the windmills of your mind” and won three Oscars, died on Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 93 years old.
A spokesperson, Ken Sunshine, said the cause was respiratory failure.
The Bergmans lyrics, set to music by composers like Marvin Hamlisch and Michel Legrand, were not everywhere, but sometimes it seemed to be. For many years, their lyrics have also been heard weekly in the opening credits of hit TV shows like “Maude”, “Good Times” and “Alice”.
The Bergmans and Mr. Hamlisch won the Oscar for Best Song in 1974 for “The Way We Were”, from the romance of the same name Robert Redford-Barbra Streisand. (This film’s score album also won the Bergmans’ only Grammy Award.) Their other Best Song winner, “The Windmills of Your Mind” (“Round, Like a Circle in a Spiral / Like a Wheel in a wheel ”), was written with Mr. Legrand for the 1968 film“ The Thomas Crown Affair ”. Their third Oscar was for the music for Ms. Streisand’s 1983 film “Yentl”, also written with Mr. Legrand.
Apart from the Oscar winners, their other popular songs included the title track from Frank Sinatra’s album “Nice ‘n’ Easy”, written with songwriter Lew Spence; the poignant ballad “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” from the 1969 film “The Happy Ending”, with music by M. Legrand; and “Where Do You Start?”, written with Johnny Mandel and covered by artists like Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein and Ms. Streisand.
Ms. Streisand released an album of the Bergman songs, “What Matters Most”, in 2011. The compilation “Sinatra Sings Alan & Marilyn Bergman” was released in 2019.
Television was also an important part of the Bergmans career. They won three Emmy Awards: for music for the 1976 TV movie “Sybil”, written with Leonard Rosenman; the song “Ordinary Miracles”, written with Mr. Hamlisch and performed by Ms. Streisand at a special concert in 1995; and “A Ticket to Dream,” another collaboration with Hamlisch, written for the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Movies” special in 1998.
But their words were probably heard much more often by viewers of popular late-twentieth-century television series. They wrote the lyrics for the bouncy themed songs of the hit sitcoms “Maude”, “Alice” and “Good Times”, as well as the themes for the nostalgic comedy series “Brooklyn Bridge” and the drama series “In the Heat. of the Nuit. “Their hit” You Don’t Bring Me Flowers “, best known as a duet by Neil Diamond (who wrote the music) and Ms. Streisand, was originally written for Norman Lear’s pop-up series” All That Glitters “.
Early in her career, Ms. Bergman was one of the few women in songwriting. In an interview with NPR in 2007, she recalled attending meetings of the performing rights organization ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) where the only women “would be me.” and many widows of songwriters who represented their husbands. ” areas “. She was the first woman to chair ASCAP, a position she held from 1994 to 2009.
Marilyn Katz was born on November 10, 1928, in the same Brooklyn hospital where Alan Bergman was born four years earlier. Daughter of Edith (Arkin) and Albert Katz, she attended Manhattan High School of Music and Art, now LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
A school friend introduced him to an uncle, Bob Russell, who wrote the lyrics to the Duke Ellington hit “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and would later write the lyrics to “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. “. Marilyn regularly went home after school to play the piano for him while he wrote.
By the time she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English from New York University, she had put aside ideas for a musical career and planned to become a psychologist. But a fatal accident sent her back to the arts.
In 1956, she fell down a staircase and broke her shoulder. Seeking help during her recovery, she flew to Los Angeles to stay with her parents, who had moved there. Mr. Russell too, and when she looked for him he suggested that she compose songs herself. Unable to play the piano due to her injury, she recalls many years later, she couldn’t compose and therefore decided to write lyrics instead.
Working under the name Marilyn Keith, she accepted a job with Mr. Spence, who also worked with Alan Bergman. Mr. Spence introduced the two and their musical partnership began immediately. They married two years later.
Asked in 2010 on the “CBS News Sunday Morning” TV show about how she and Mr. Bergman managed to work together while remaining married, she replied, “The way porcupines make love. Carefully.”
Ms. Bergman’s husband survives her, as does their daughter, Julie Bergman, and a granddaughter.
In a 2002 interview with American Songwriter magazine, Ms. Bergman defined the difference between an amateur and professional songwriter as “the ability to rewrite” and “not having fallen so much in love with what you have written that you cannot. not find a better way. “
The Bergmans were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980 and jointly received a Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2013.
Although best known for their work in film and television, the Bergmans tried to write for the Broadway stage, although they did not have much success. “Something More! “, With Barbara Cook and Arthur Hill, for which they wrote the lyrics and Sammy Fain wrote the music, lasted less than two weeks in 1964. They did better, but not by much, in 1978 with” Ballroom ”, an adaptation of the 1975 TV movie“ Queen of the Stardust Ballroom ”with music by Billy Goldenberg. Although it was produced and directed by Michael Bennett, whose previous Broadway show was the hit monster “A Chorus Line,” “Ballroom” closed after three months.
“Our experiences in theater and film,” Ms. Bergman told The New York Times in 1982, “have shown us that the two require entirely different types of writing.” And movies have always been the couple’s first love.
“We found that we had to be more abstract when writing for a movie,” she said, “because the movie really speaks more to the preconscious part of the brain, the part of us that dreams. “
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