Marilyn Bergman, Oscar-winning composer, dies at 93
NEW YORK: Marilyn Bergman, the Oscar-winning lyricist who teamed up with husband Alan Bergman on “The Way We Were,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and hundreds of other songs, died Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 93 years old.
She died of respiratory failure unrelated to COVID-19, according to a representative, Jason Lee. Her husband was at her bedside when she died.
The Bergmans, who married in 1958, were among the most enduring, successful and productive songwriting partnerships, specializing in introspective ballads for film, television and the stage that combined the romance of Tin Pan Alley with the refinement of contemporary pop. They have worked with some of the world’s finest melodists, including Marvin Hamlisch, Cy Coleman and Michel Legrand, and have been covered by some of the world’s greatest singers, from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson.
“If you really want to write songs that are original, that really speak to people, you have to feel like you’ve created something that didn’t exist before – which is the ultimate accomplishment, isn’t it? not?” Marilyn Bergman told the Huffington Post in 2013, “And to create something that didn’t exist before, you have to know what came before you.”
Their songs included the sentimental Streisand-Neil Diamond duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, Sinatra’s lively “Nice ‘n’ Easy” and Dean Martin’s dreamy “Sleep Warm”. They helped write the rhythmic themes for the 1970s sitcoms “Maude” and “Good Times” and collaborated on the lyrics and music for the Broadway show “Ballroom” in 1978.
But they were best known for their contributions to films, producing themes that were sometimes remembered more than the films themselves. Among the highlights: “It Might Be You” by Stephen Bishop, excerpt from “Tootsie”; “The Windmills of Your Mind” by Noel Harrison, from “The Thomas Crown Affair”; and, for “Best Friends”, the James Ingram-Patti Austin duet “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”
Their pinnacle was “The Way We Were,” from the Streisand-Robert Redford romantic drama of the same name. Set to Hamlisch’s whimsical, pensive melody, with Streisand’s voice rising throughout, it was the best-selling song of 1974 and an instant standard, proof that well into the age of rock, audiences were still embracing a ballad. old.
Fans would have struggled to identify a photo of the Bergmans, or even recognize their names, but they had no trouble invoking the words of “The Way We Were”:
“Memories can be beautiful and yet / What’s too painful to remember / We just choose to forget / So it’s the laughter / We’ll remember / Whenever we’ll remember / The way we were.”
The Bergmans won three Oscars – for ‘The Way We Were’, ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ and the soundtrack to Streisand’s ‘Yentl’ – and received 16 nominations, including three in 1983 alone. They also won two Grammys and four Emmys and have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Fellow songwriter Quincy Jones called the news of his death crushing. “You, along with your beloved Alan, were the embodiment of Nadia Boulanger’s belief that ‘an artist can never be more or less than he is as a human being,'” he said. he tweeted.
“For those of us who loved the Bergman lyrics, Marilyn takes our hearts and souls a bit with her today,” tweeted Norman Lear, creator of “Maude” and “Good Times.”
Marilyn Bergman became the first woman elected to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and later served as president and president. She was also the first chair of the National Recorded Sound Preservation Board at the Library of Congress.
Streisand has worked with them throughout his career, recording over 60 of their songs and dedicating an entire album, “What Matters Most”, to their material. The Bergmans met her when she was 18, a nightclub singer, and quickly became close friends.
“I love their words, I love the sentiment, I love their exploration of love and relationships,” Streisand told The Associated Press in 2011.
On Saturday, she posted a photo of herself with the Bergmans on Twitter, saying they were like family, as well as brilliant songwriters.
“We met over 60 years ago backstage at a small nightclub and we never stopped loving and working together,” Streisand wrote. “Their songs are timeless, just like our love. May she rest in peace.”
Like Streisands, the Bergmans were Jews from lower-middle-class Brooklyn families. They were born in the same hospital, Alan four years earlier than Marilyn, whose single name was Katz, and they grew up in the same neighborhood and were fans of music and movies since childhood. They both moved to Los Angeles in 1950 – Marilyn had studied English and psychology at New York University – but only met a few years later while working for the same composer.
The Bergmans seemed to be free from the boundaries and tensions of many songwriting teams. They compared their chemistry to housework (a lava, a dryer) or baseball (throwing and catching), and were so in tune with each other that they had trouble remembering who wrote a given lyric.
“Our partnership as writers or as husband and wife?” Marilyn told the Huffington Post when asked about their relationship. “I think the aspects of both are the same: respect, trust, all of that is needed in a written partnership or a business partnership or in a marriage.”
Besides her husband, Bergman is survived by their daughter, Julie Bergman.