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Oscar-Winning Lyricist Marilyn Bergman in Memoriam

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Bergman and her husband Alan wrote music for Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, and others for over 60 years. Marlo died Jan. Originally aired 2007.

Writer who co-wrote award-winning songs with her husband, including The Way We Were and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.

Marilyn Bergman
Image Credit: Legacy

Marilyn Bergman, 93, and her husband Alan Bergman wrote songs that were recorded by the finest musicians of their day. Barbra Streisand’s rendition of The Way We Were captures their tight working connection. The Bergmans and Marvin Hamlisch collaborated on the excruciatingly heartbreaking ballad of reminiscence and sorrow, which received the Academy Award for best original song in 1974.

They were “like family, and amazing lyricists,” Streisand said. After 60 years of working together and loving one other, we met backstage at a little club.
Marilyn Bergman, 93, died.

The Bergmans made their Hollywood debut in 1967’s In the Heat of the Night, collaborating with composer Quincy Jones. “I’m a-feelin’ motherless somehow / Stars with wicked eyes glare from the sky,” Ray Charles sung in the title tune. Later, when the Bergmans and Jones worked on the music for a TV series based on their book, they reunited.

The Bergmans also collaborated with composer Lew Spence on a number of hit songs, including Fred Astaire’s That Face (1957), Dean Martin’s Sleep Warm (1958), and Frank Sinatra’s Nice ‘n’ Easy (1960). They wrote tunes for series like Good Times, Alice and Maude.

They earned Emmys for their work on Sybil (1976), Ordinary Miracles (1995) and Ticket to Dream (1998, American Film Institute).

Marilyn was born in the same Brooklyn hospital as Alan, three years earlier. Daughter of Albert and Edith Katz, a Jewish textile maker (nee Arkin). She studied piano at Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art and then psychology and English at New York University.

She started composing songs with Spence, who introduced her to Alan Bergman, another lyric writer. They married in 1958, and unlike other songwriting duos, the Bergmans had an outstanding harmony.

The same goes for a literary, business, or marriage connection, Marilyn remarked. She also emphasized that a professional songwriter must keep a critical distance from their work, noting that “falling in love with what you have written is not a good way”.

For new projects, they understood the worth of hard effort and investigation. To depict the tension McQueen’s character felt as he prepared to carry out a massive theft, director Norman Jewison asked them to create The Windmills of Your Mind for The Thomas Crown Affair, starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.

While Legrand produced eight distinct tunes, Marilyn created the libretto, which features repeated imagery of loops and circles. A spiral slide into a sleep condition came to her when she recalled getting her tonsils removed at the age of seven.

The Bergmans realized they were unfamiliar with Orthodox Judaism’s rituals and practices when they wrote the soundtrack for Yentl. They found rabbis and spent a year studying Orthodox culture.

Bergman, together with Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand, co-founded the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee. The Bergmans composed stuff for Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993. Marilyn was the first woman elected to ASCAP’s board of directors in 1985, and she served as president from 1994 until 2009.

Alan, Julie, and Emily, her granddaughter, survive her.

Marilyn Ruth Bergman, songwriter, 10/11/1928-8/1/2022

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