Marvin Hamlisch, one of the single most accomplished musicians of the 20th century, died Monday at the age of 68 after a brief illness. This is one of the more grueling celebrity deaths for me. Titans shouldn’t ever leave us, you know? Particularly the unbelievably productive ones. Fortunately, I’ve created a fact sheet featuring Hamlisch’s most noteworthy (and conversation-worthy) trivia bits and accomplishments. Now he’ll definitely be with us forever.
1. His first job was as a rehearsal pianist for Barbra Streisand
If you know anything about Hamlisch, you know his thriving partnership with Barbra Streisand is part of his career’s backbone. Their collaboration began unceremoniously during the Broadway production of Funny Girl when Hamlisch acted as Streisand’s rehearsal pianist, but the two connected, and they’d stay bonded through work on The Way We Were, Streisand’s 1994 concert tour, The Mirror Has Two Faces, a number of TV specials. He even performed at her 1998 wedding.
2. He’s (half) responsible for the single best James Bond theme, “Nobody Does It Better”
Paul McCartney‘s “Live and Let Die” is OK. Tina Turner‘s “Goldeneye” is hilariously screamy (and so is Nicole Scherzinger‘s cover — Oh. My. GOD.) Shirley Bassey‘s “Goldfinger” is snappy and fun. But none of these come close to the power of “Nobody Does It Better,” the Hamlisch-composed theme of 1977′s The Spy Who Loved Me that manages to be both wholesome and, as Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke once claimed, “the sexiest song that was ever written.” Carly Simon sang it in ’77, but the version she sings from her marvelous HBO concert at Martha’s Vineyard in ’87 is my favorite. For today’s purposes, be sure to watch Hamlisch perform it alongside Carly in ’89.
3. He’s the biggest reason why The Way We Were is a generational touchstone.
Yeah, yeah, you can claim that Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand were two of the most popular thespians of the ’70s, but The Way We Were is not exactly thrilling cinema. There are two things that rule about it: 1) the way Barbra delivers that heartbreaking and very quotable line, “Your friends make me feel like I’m invited for drinks and everyone else is staying for supper,” and 2) the score and titular single, both composed by Hamlisch. It’s a lot like Love Story in that way — a drippy, cliched romance punctuated with astounding sonic pleasures. (Though don’t get it twisted: The sexist, nonsense Love Story is about 30 times worse than The Way We Were. Chills.)
4. He’s won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony — and a Pulitzer
In order: He’s a four-time Emmy winner (with two for his Streisand specials), a four-time Grammy winner (including 1974′s Best New Artist!), a triple Oscar winner for The Way We Were and The Sting, a Tony winner for A Chorus Line‘s score, and a Pulitzer winner for the same show. The only other person to achieve that quintuple feat? Richard Rodgers.