NEW YORK — Marilyn Bergman, Oscar-winning songwriter who co-wrote “The Way We Were,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” with husband Alan Bergman And hundreds of other songs died Saturday at his Los Angeles home. She was 93 years old.
He died of respiratory failure related to COVID-19, according to Jason Lee, a representative. 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, combining Tin Pan Alley’s romance with the polish of contemporary pop. Used to connect
He worked with some of the world’s top melodists, including Marvin Hamlish, Cy Coleman and Michelle Legrand, and was covered by some of the world’s greatest singers, from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson.
“If someone really wants to write songs that are original, that really speak to people, you have to feel like you’ve created something that wasn’t there before — that’s the ultimate achievement, right?” Marilyn Bergman told The Huffington Post in 2013. “And to create something that wasn’t there before, you have to know what came before you.”
His songs included the passionate Streisand-Neil Diamond duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, Sinatra’s snappy “Nice ‘n’ Easy” and Dean Martin’s dreamy “Sleep Warm”. He helped write the uptempo themes for the 1970s sitcoms “Maude” and “Good Times” and collaborated on the words and music for the 1978 Broadway show “Ballroom.”
But he was best known for his contributions to films, sometimes the subjects remembered more than the films. Among the highlights: “It Might Be You,” from “Tootsie” by Stephen Bishop; Noel Harrison’s “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from “The Thomas Crown Affair”; and, for “Best Friends,” the James Ingram-Patti Austin duet “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”
His pinnacle was “The Way We Were”, from the Streisand-Robert Redford romantic drama of the same name.
With Streisand’s voice set to Hamlisch’s moody, intense melody, it was the best-selling song of 1974 and an instant standard, proof that in the rock era, the public still embraced an old-fashioned ballad.
Fans may have struggled to identify a photo of Bergman, or even recognize their names, but they had no trouble calling out the words “The Way We Were”:
“Memories can be beautiful and still be / Too painful to remember / We just choose to forget / So it’s laughs / We’ll remember / Whenever we remember / The way we were.”
The Bergmans won three Oscars—for the soundtrack to “The Way We Were,” “Windmills of Your Mind” and Streisand’s “Yentle”—and received 16 nominations, three of them in 1983 alone. He also won two Grammys and four Emmys and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Fellow musician Quincy Jones called the news of her death crushing. “You, along with your dear Alan, were the epitome of Nadia Boulanger’s belief that ‘an artist can never be more or less than a human being,’ he tweeted.
“Maude” and “Good Times” producer Norman Lear tweeted, “For those of us who loved Bergman’s songs, Marilyn takes our heart and soul with her today.”
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 of the Library of Congress.
Streisand worked with him throughout his career, recording over 60 of his songs and devoting an entire album, “What Matters Most”, to his material. Bergman met her at the age of 18, a nightclub singer, and soon became close friends.
“I just love his words, I love the feeling, I love his exploration of love and relationships,” Streisand told the Associated Press in 2011.
Like Streisand, Bergman was Jewish from lower-middle-class families in Brooklyn. He was born in the same hospital, Alan, four years before Marilyn, whose single name was Katz, and grew up in the same neighborhood and was a fan 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 did not meet until a few years later, when they were working for the same musician.
Bergman appeared free from the limitations and tensions of many songwriting teams. They compared their chemistry to housework (a wash, a dry) or baseball (pitching and catching), and were so in tune with each other that they struggled to remember which song to play. Who has written
“Our partnership as writers or as husband and wife?” When asked about their relationship, Marilyn told The Huffington Post. “I think both have aspects in common: respect, trust, all that is needed in a writing partnership or a business partnership or marriage.”
Apart from her husband, Bergman is survived by their daughter, Julie Bergman.