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HomeBlogMarilyn Bergman, lyricist for Barbra Streisand, dies at 93

Marilyn Bergman, lyricist for Barbra Streisand, dies at 93

Marilyn Bergman, the prolific lyricist who, as one half of a songwriter duo with her husband, Alan, wrote the lyrics for dozens of widely performed songs, including “The windmills of your mind, “What do you do the rest of your life?And the Oscar winning theme of 1973’s “The Way We Were” passed away on Saturday. She was 93 years old.

His death, at his Beverly Hills home, was confirmed by his spokesperson, Ken Sunshine, who said the cause was respiratory failure unrelated to COVID.

A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Bergman wrote about romance – his first breath of fresh air and his last breath – with a flair for striking visual imagery and an almost philosophical bent: Consider “hazy watercolor memories” of happier days of a couple as evoked in “The Way We Were”, or the growing existential questions that two aging lovers face in “How do you play the music?

“How do you get lost with someone and never lose your way?” Asks this latest song, best known in a lush 1982 rendition recorded by Patti Austin and James Ingram, “And since you know we’re always changing, how can it be the same?”

Yet Bergman also spoke vividly to other subjects, such as in “Windmills of Your Mind,” a trippy conspiracy of the exhausted mental state of a bank robber set to music by Michel Legrand, and “In the heat of the Night, with his austere take on American racial conflicts: “Evil-eyed stars look down from the sky, all wicked and shining,” sang Ray Charles in the gospel version he recorded, with music by Quincy Jones, for the film by Norman Jewison from 1967 starring Sidney Poitier, who died Thursday.

Over a career spanning more than half a century, the Bergmans collaborated frequently with Legrand and Jones as well as with composers Henry Mancini and Marvin Hamlisch; their songs have been recorded by countless stars including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Dusty Springfield, Sting and Gladys Knight.

With a chord progression from minor to major by Hamlisch, “The Way We Were” – a commercial success in rendering by Streisand – inspired later interpretations by acts as diverse as Barry Manilow, Willie hutch and Donna Summer. In 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan sampled Knight’s cover of the song for “Can everything be so simple“, a haunting cut from the rap group’s groundbreaking debut album,” Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). “

Beyond the Oscar for “The Way We Were” (written for Sydney Pollack’s tearful blockbuster starring Streisand and Robert Redford), the Bergmans won the Oscars for “The Windmills of Your Mind” (sung by Noel Harrison in “The Thomas Crown Affair” in 1968) and remade as a sultry torch song by Springfield on his classic “Dusty in Memphis”) and their score for Streisand’s 1983 film “Yentl”. They have also won four Emmys, two Golden Globes and two Grammys, including the coveted Song of the Year award for “The Way We Were.”

Marilyn Bergman in 1995.

(Lawrence K. Ho / The Los Angeles Times)

On Instagram Saturday, Streisand – who also recorded “Windmills”, “What are you doing the rest of your life?” And “Where do you start?” – called the Bergmans “brilliant lyricists” and said the couple “were like family” to her. “We met over 60 years ago behind the scenes of a small nightclub and have never stopped loving each other and working together,” she wrote. Songwriter Diane Warren thanked Marilyn on Twitter for writing “so many songs that will live on forever”; a social media post from Bennett identified “How do you play music? As his favorite song.

Norman Lear, the veteran writer and television producer, tweeted: “There was only one Marilyn Bergman” and said she “takes a bit of our heart and soul with her today. “. In the late 1970s, the Bergmans wrote “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with Neil Diamond for Lear’s short-lived series “All That Glitters”; the song topped Billboard’s Hot 100 duet between Diamond and Streisand.

In 2011, Streisand released an album of Bergman songs, “What Matters Most”. A collection of Sinatra’s recordings of the music of the Bergmans – including “LA is my lady”, About his adopted home and that of the songwriters – was released in 2019.

Marilyn Katz was born on November 10, 1928 in Brooklyn – in the same hospital, in fact, where Alan Bergman was born three years earlier. Alan, 96, survives his wife, as well as their daughter, Julie Bergman, and a granddaughter.

Marilyn studied music in high school and graduated with a BA in Psychology and English from New York University. After breaking her shoulder in a fall in 1956, she came to Los Angeles, where her parents had moved; eventually, she landed a gig writing lyrics for composer Lew Spence, who introduced her to Alan Bergman, with whom Spence also wrote. The couple married in 1958, Alan having written “That Face” with Spence as an engagement gift.

The three went on to write the title song for Sinatra’s charts “Nice and easy“album.

The Bergmans met Streisand, who they described as their muse, in the early 1960s after a concert the singer gave at New York’s Bon Soir nightclub.

“As soon as she started singing, Marilyn started to cry”, remembers Alan in an interview with The Times in 2011. Behind the scenes, Marilyn said that she had asked the singer: “Know- how wonderful you are? “

Stephen Sondheim receives a crystal sculpture from Barbra Streisand under the gaze of Warren Beatty and Marilyn Bergman.

Stephen Sondheim receives a crystal sculpture from Barbra Streisand as Warren Beatty and Marilyn Bergman watch on July 8, 2005.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In the 1970s, the couple wrote lyrics for TV show theme songs such as “Maude“,” Alice “and” Good Times “, but they did not consider this work less deserving of their imagination than music for films. “Lady Godiva was a freedom rider / She didn’t care the whole world was watching,” the theme of “Maude” read, memorablely sung by Donny Hathaway.

“You have to reach for their songs – they don’t denigrate you,” Lear, who created “Maude,” told The Times in 2008.

In 2009, Bergman retired as the first female president of the performing rights organization ASCAP, a position she held for 15 years. She was also a founding member of the Hollywood Women’s Policy Committee, which raised funds for Democratic political candidates. In 1993, she and her husband wrote material for President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration.

“More than one person told me they were married to” What are you doing the rest of your life? “, parted on” Where do you start? “and divorced from” The Way We Were “, said Marilyn in 2008.” It’s a big responsibility, being the soundtrack of people’s lives. “



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