The terms “musician” or “composer” tend to summon images of a slightly rumpled creative type — the kind of man or woman who stays up late and leads a distracted, impulsive life and lives on egg salad sandwiches and doesn’t dress all that carefully. But Marvin Hamlisch, the famed tunesmith who suddenly died yesterday at age 68, always looked and dressed like an owner of a midtown Manhattan jewelry shop or the head of a savings and loan.
The late Marvin Hamlisch — 1944 to 2012.
Hamlisch was a fast talker and a witty, amusing guy, but he couldn’t have looked more stodgy and straight-laced. He didn’t just wear three-piece suits all the time — he looked like he might have been born in one. He also seemed to have the body of a banker, like a guy who didn’t work out much and who liked his evening meals and apertifs. I’m not judging — just sharing what I saw and perceived.
There’s nothing wrong in and of itself with being a square or looking like one, but what impulse led a genuinely gifted guy like Hamlisch, who lived for music and melody and the radiant joy of that, to want to appear to the world like the director of the mortgage department for a Midwestern bank or a well-heeled New York accountant or an executive in the pharmaceutical industry?
Hamlisch was part of that Tin Pan Alley-influenced clique of motion picture composer-musicians like Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager (whom Hamlisch was hooked up with romantically for a time) and Marilyn and Alan Bergman.
Hamlisch was best known for his scores for A Chorus Line and The Way We Were and The Sting, of course. And for the “Nobody Does It Better” song from The Spy Who Loved Me. (I always loved the chord changes that play when Carly Simon sings “is keepin’ all my secrets safe tonight.”) Hamlisch also did the scores for Ordinary People (although that film is known for Pachelbel’s “Canon in Plain D“), Sophie’s Choice, The Swimmer, Three Men And A Baby, Take The Money And Run, Bananas, Save The Tiger and Steven Soderbergh‘s The Informant!. Halmisch had also done work on Soderbergh’s currently-lensing Behind The Candelabra but I don’t how you score a film before you see it.