Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68

Marvin Hamlisch, who composed or arranged the
scores for dozens of movies including “The Sting” and the Broadway
smash “A Chorus Line,” has died in Los Angeles. He was 68.

Hamlisch collapsed and died Monday after a
brief illness, his publicist Ken Sunshine said, citing the family. Other
details were not released.

Hamlisch's career included composing,
conducting and arranging music from Broadway to Hollywood, from
symphonies to R&B hits. He won every major award in his career,
including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, four Grammys, a Tony and
three Golden Globes.

The one-time child prodigy's music colored some of Hollywood and Broadway's most important works.

Hamlisch composed more than 40 film scores,
including “Sophie's Choice,” ''Ordinary People,” ''The Way We Were” and
“Take the Money and Run.” He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of
Scott Joplin's music for “The Sting.” His latest work came for Steven
Soderbergh's “The Informant!”

On Broadway, Hamlisch received both a Tony
and the Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for the long-running favorite “A Chorus
Line” and wrote the music for “The Goodbye Girl” and “Sweet Smell of
Success.” He was scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tenn., this week to see a
production of his musical “The Nutty Professor,” Sunshine said.

Hamlisch even reached into the pop world,
writing the No. 1 R&B hit “Break It to Me Gently” with Carole Bayer
Sager for Aretha Franklin. He won the 1974 Grammys for best new artist
and song of the year, “The Way We Were,” performed by Barbra Streisand.

“He was classic and one of a kind,” Franklin
said Tuesday after learning of his death, calling him one of the “all
time great” arrangers and producers. “Who will ever forget 'The Way We

Hamlisch's interest in music started early.
At the age of 7 he entered the Juilliard School of Music, stunning the
admissions committee with his renditions of “Goodnight Irene” in any key
they desired.

In his autobiography, “The Way I Was,”
Hamlisch admitted that he lived in fear of not meeting his father's
expectations. “By the time Gershwin was your age, he was dead,” the
Viennese-born musician would tell his son. “And he'd written a concerto.
Where's your concerto, Marvin?”

In his teens, he switched from piano recitals
to songwriting. Show music held a special fascination for him.
Hamlisch's first important job in the theater was as rehearsal pianist
for the Broadway production of “Funny Girl” with Streisand in 1964. He
graduated to other shows like “Fade Out-Fade In,” ''Golden Rainbow” and
“Henry, Sweet Henry,” and other jobs like arranging dance and vocal

“Maybe I'm old-fashioned,” he told The
Associated Press in 1986. “But I remember the beauty and thrill of being
moved by Broadway musicals – particularly the endings of shows. The end
of 'West Side Story,' where audiences cried their eyes out. The last
few chords of 'My Fair Lady.' Just great.”

Although he was one of the youngest students
ever at Juilliard, he never studied conducting. “I remember somebody
told me, 'Earn while you learn,'” he told The AP in 1996.

“The Way We Were” exemplified Hamlisch's
old-fashioned appeal – it was a big, sentimental movie ballad that
brought huge success in the rock era. He was extremely versatile, able
to write for stage and screen, for soundtracks ranging from Woody Allen
comedies to a somber drama like “Ordinary People.”

He was perhaps even better known for his work
adapting Joplin on “The Sting.” In the mid-'70s, it seemed everybody
with a piano had the sheet music to “The Entertainer,” the movie's theme
song. To this day, it's blasted by ice cream trucks.

Hamlisch's place in popular culture reached
beyond his music. Known for his nerdy look, complete with thick
eyeglasses, that image was sealed on NBC's “Saturday Night Live” during
Gilda Radner's “Nerd” sketches. Radner, playing Lisa Loopner, would
swoon over Hamlisch.

Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for
symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle
and San Diego at the time of his death. He was due to lead the New York
Philharmonic during its upcoming New Year's Eve concert.

He was working on a new musical, “Gotta
Dance,” at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score
for a new film on Liberace, “Behind the Candelabra.”

He leaves behind a legacy in film and music
that transcended notes on the page. As illustrative as the scenes
playing out in front of the music, his scores helped define some of
Hollywood's most iconic works.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.

Copyright 2012 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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