August 7, 2012, - 3:12 pm

Marvin Hamlisch, Great American Composer, Musician, Conductor, Z”L

By Debbie Schlussel

In Judaism, when someone Jewish dies, we do not say, “Rest In Peace” or RIP. We say, “Zichrono LiVrachah” [Hebrew for “Blessed Be His Memory”] or “Z”L.” And with the news of Marvin Hamlisch’s death, yesterday, at age 68, I say Zichrono LiVrachah about one of the great American musical composers of contemporary times. An extreme talent, it’s notable that he was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants because he was one of many Jewish contributors to the great soundtracks of Broadway and film, especially in the 1970s and ’80s. Hamlisch began Juilliard at the incredibly young age of seven and his extensive body of work and tremendous talent were unmatched. He was a composer, conductor, pianist, lyricist, and writer. He was principal pops conductor with several major American cities’ orchestras. And he was one of only two people to win Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, and Pulitzer Prize awards. He also won two Golden Globes. I don’t know what Hamlisch’s politics were (which is how it should be)–I assume he was liberal like many of his showbiz friends, including Barbra Streisand. But there is no denying the great lyrics and musical arrangements he contributed to soundtracks, the theme song from “The Way We Were” and “The Spy Who Loved Me’s” “Nobody Does It Better” (as sung by Steven Tyler’s twin, Carly Simon) to Broadway’s “A Chorus Line’s” “One” (which became a film).

When I note that Hamlisch was Jewish, I also note that you never see (nor will you) Muslims contributing such a body of work, such a tremendous amount of musical talent to the former greatness of the America’s performing arts. Never has been nor will there ever be a Mohammed Hamlisch. Not even close (unless you count the “orchestra” of cellphone tones that set off IEDs.) When people attack “the Jews” in the entertainment industry, they also forget that many Jews of yesteryear and recent decades also brought us great things, as Hamlisch did with his enjoyable musical compositions. He was a great Jewish American talent.

Today, movies use established hits and background music, and it’s rare that original scores are written for movies, something that Hamlisch made a career of doing successfully. His songs regularly hit the top of the Billboard charts, and he scored over 40 motion pictures. Here are some of my favorite Marvin Hamlisch tunes. (I also like “The Entertainer” from “The Sting,” but that was really written by Scott Joplin.) What are yours? . . .

Great Marvin Hamlisch Interview About His Life in Music & How He Got His Start at Age 6 . . .

Marvin Hamlisch, Zichrono LiVrachah [Blessed Be His Memory]

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40 Responses

You’re forgetting about Cat Stevens, aka Yusef Islam.

Tea for the Killerman, I mean Tea for the Tillerman.

trewsdetroit on August 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Trewsdetroit: You mean Cat Stevens, f.k.a. Steven Katz, the Jew who pretends to be a Muslim? Name one song he has written since embracing the religion of (cutting Jews to) pieces.

    Phil on August 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

      RE: Phil.

      Cat Stevens was a goof, that was the point.

      Also, Marv isn’t even the best Jewish composer. That title is left to the one, AND ONLY, Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan.

      trewsdetroit on August 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

While he was a remarkable talent, and a child prodigy, he wasn’t admitted to Julliard as a seven year-old undergraduate, but as a student in their elementary-high school age Preparatory Development program (now the Pre-College Division). He was a musical Doogie surrounded by fellow musical Doogies.

Also of note is that Hamlisch is one of two people to win an EGOPT- Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Pulitzer, and Tony. The other is fellow Ashkenazi Richard Rodgers.

R: I noted the EGOPT in the first paragraph of this entry. DS

Robert on August 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm

He indeed was a talent. I was aware of him as a child of the 70s and my favourites are all mentioned above…The Way We Were, The Spy Who Loved Me and One.

When I heard this am I felt sad because I loved his work as a child.

Z’L indeed! (Rest in peace!)

Skunky on August 7, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Couldn’t agree more with your views on Hamlisch. Can you write an article without at snide comment about the goy? Simon/Tyler

M: Huh? Carly Simon is a JEW. DS

Malibu on August 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Marvin Hamlisch. He was truly an Ambassador of Music, and was so generous with his time and energy in helping others in their careers. His accomplishments in music are legendary. I have had the pleasure of seeing him conduct many times with the San Diego Orchestra, and we will miss him terribly.

His joy for music and his enthusiasm and sense of humor were infectious. Marvin, in fact, had such an extraordinary sense of humor that I believe that even if he had never composed or played music at all, he would have made a sensational comedian. He was that funny. How could I ever forget him amusing his audience with his rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the style of Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. Or when he was conducting the Orchestra for the Temptations, and then joined the group, announcing that he was the long, lost 6th member of the Temptations, and performed perfectly, right along with them. Marvin, quite simply, was marvelous. He was a genius.

Ralph Adamo on August 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm

“Never has been nor will there ever be a Mohammed Hamlisch. Not even close (unless you count the “orchestra” of cellphone tones that set off IEDs.)”


Debbie tells it like it is!

DS_ROCKS! on August 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Its incredibly difficult and exhausting work to write an original score for a movie or a play… you have to watch the performance to get inspired and track it perfectly!

Marvin Hamlisch was a true American treasure. He will be sadly missed!

Zichrono Livracha! May his memory be for an eternal blessing.

NormanF on August 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

It’s worth listening to the Dells’ version of The Way We Were — it’s available on YouTube.

Little Al on August 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Carly Simon’s mother wasn’t Jewish, so I would assume you probably don’t consider her Jewish. Not that she doesn’t deserve snide comments.

D: I was not aware of that. I always thought she was Jewish. Thanks for the correction. However, I made fun of her and Steven Tyler looking alike only because they do, regardless of the religion of either of them, contrary to the commenter who claimed otherwise. DS

dee on August 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

In ISRAEL we also say “alav hashalom”, which means roughly rest in peace.

FK: “Alav HaShalom” means, “Peace Be Upon Him,” and it is NOT used in place of RIP as Z”L is. DS

FrenchKiss on August 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm


As Goes... on August 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Carly Simon is NOT JEWISH HALACHICALLY. She was raised Catholic.

FrenchKiss on August 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Although the song from “A Chorus Line” entitled “T & A” did sting my pre-pubescent eardrums, the amazing show inspired me to write music. Thank you to Marvin, and my parents for taking me out on the town in NYC.

Donald Meissner on August 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

FK: “Alav HaShalom” means, “Peace Be Upon Him,” and it is NOT used in place of RIP as Z”L is. DS

So I guess all those grave stones I see in the Haifa War Cemetary really don’t have A”H (ayin/chay) on them. Must be someone made a mistake carving them.

FrenchKiss on August 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    FK, don’t forget to mention that Hebrew is a CONCEPTUAL language not a literal one so there is no difference in sentiment between “Peace be upon him” and “RIP.” I love when people from OTHER cultures, and AMERICAN JUDAISM is a different culture, try to tell us what we’re saying is wrong. Maybe ?”? is too Middle Eastern for some people.

    Italkit, slightly to the South of you

    Italkit on August 8, 2012 at 1:18 am

      That’s supposed to read: ayin”chai. The Hebrew letters didn’t post.

      Italkit on August 8, 2012 at 1:20 am


        Italkit on August 8, 2012 at 1:20 am

The first date for my wife and myself was a Marvin Hamlisch festive night of music several decades ago. Hamlisch seemed to have a lot of fun doing his thing and was brilliant.

NormCBS on August 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm

The Sting – one of my favorite movies of all time.

bob on August 7, 2012 at 9:56 pm

As usual, I will be the one who actually posts a link to one of his best songs. For obvious reasons, this was a much bigger hit out here in my neck of the woods than the rest of the country, even though it was sung by a Jersey Girl. That’s probably the reason nobody seems to be mentioning it in any of his obituaries. It’s from 1967:

Irving on August 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I saw him in concert once. It was a great show. He will be missed.

Marvin Hamlisch–Zichrono LiVrachah (Blessed Be His Memory).

JeffE on August 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm

As far as “The Way We Were” is concerned, I have long been preferential towards the original 45 RPM release of Ms. Streisand’s recording (Columbia 4-45944), which had a different vocal take in certain areas than what has been played on the radio for many years. Irrespective of Ms. Streisand’s increasingly obnoxious leftist politics as the years have gone by, even others besides myself have preferred this 45 vocal take to the one on all issues from the same-titled LP (KC 32801) on:

And besides “The Entertainer” 45 (not to be confused with a same-titled song by Billy Joel from later in the year), I also have “The Sting” soundtrack LP.

In addition, Mr. Hamlisch, on the piano, accompanied Groucho Marx on the latter’s 1972 Carnegie Hall concert that yielded the A&M Records album “An Evening With Groucho.”

ConcernedPatriot on August 7, 2012 at 11:44 pm

This is a great sadness for our country. Note that NObama, nor any other President, saw fit to recognize Marvin Hamlisch the way Orca Winfrey and numerous second rate performers have been recognized.

Jonathan E. Grant on August 8, 2012 at 12:06 am

    It isn’t just with Hamlisch. Obama has seen fit not to say anything about the recent NASA accomplishment with the Mars Rover. Or Gabby Douglas’ Olympic wins.

    ConcernedPatriot on August 8, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I think it’s pretty clear that Obama isn’t very educated–in the broad sense of that word (which includes the arts, science, and history–areas we can safely assume Obama knows little to nothing about). (Please note that propaganda is not history, although the two are often confused, particularly by Leftists.) And, most importantly, the same applies to his advisers. So don’t look for Obama to recognize major figures of cultural importance. He and his team are too ignorant to know or care.

    Ralph Adamo on August 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

Excellent point JEG.

Mr. Hamlisch has been a ‘name’ for so much
of my life, I expected him to be much older.
Such an amazing history for a man so young.

theShadow on August 8, 2012 at 1:13 am

z”l Marvin Hamlisch. Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Lieber and Stoller have company.

Say hi to my dad when you get to the Other Side.

And, as a result, modern American popular music is sucking worse today.

The Reverend Jacques on August 8, 2012 at 3:38 am

I love Gilbert&Sullivan, Louis Armstrong’s rendition of Brecht’s “Mack the Knife,” George Gershwin, some of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Cats and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,) Mame, The Pajama Game, the score from BEN-HUR, “The Windmills of Your Mind.”

Miranda Rose Smith on August 8, 2012 at 5:14 am

Great post Debbie. Mr Hamilisch was a great talent and he will be missed. “The Spy Who Loved Me” is still one of my favorite James Bond movies partly due to his soundtrack contribution. Like you said Debbie Mr Hamilisch was also a member of the EGOT club along with entertainers like Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks and Rita Moreno. I forgot that he had a small role in the movie “How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days”. May he rest in peace and go harmonize with guys like Berlin and Gershwin.

Ken b on August 8, 2012 at 9:03 am

Marvin Hamlisch was a brilliant composer
he will be sadly missed
Zichrono LiVrachah (Blessed Be His Memory).

first of all,Music is Forbidden in Islam,
plus Quran Teaches Hate not social Justice and love
how can you expect to have muslim composers as great as Jewish Composers?

The sound of the shofar arouses our souls to repentance.
and Jewish composers who’ve been inspired by the sound of the shofar.

Consider that even the most important film scores
have been written by Jews such as Elmer Bernstein, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Korngold,
Max Steiner, Howard Shore and more

It is impossible to list even a fraction of the music Jewish composers gave the film industry.

jean vercors on August 8, 2012 at 9:06 am

Mohammed Hamlisch–that’s a good one. And as we mourn the loss of the real Hamlisch, the question arises: Has there been a single instance in history of a Muslim symphony, opera or record album? I cannot think of any.

Seek on August 8, 2012 at 11:32 am

I loved his Chorus Line work.
btw…Check out the current crop of Israeli jazz artists, many of whom are turning the jazz world on its ear:
Avishai Cohen – bassist
Avishai Cohen – trumpet
Daniel Zamir- soprano sax (and a Chabad to boot)
Omri Mor- Jerusalem based monster pianist
Omer Avital- a modern day Mingus on bass who heads the New Jerusalem Orchestra, featuring classical strings, Sfro-American sax players, Moroccan rabbi doing chants, and mid-east percussion….mind blowing
Gilad Hekselman- guitar
Ari Hoening, Amir Bressler- drums

\That’s for starters….
…that’s just for

Not Ovenready on August 8, 2012 at 11:54 am

Marvin Hamlische wrote his first published song, “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” when he was only 16 years old. The also legendary and visionary megatalent Quincy Jones–known to his friends as “Q”–recognized Marvin’s extraordinary talents even then and produced the recording of this song, sung by Lesley Gore.

Q owned the rights to Marvin’s song. Many years later, after Marvin had great success with “A Chorus Line,” Marvin–whom became a close friend of Q’s–asked to get the rights to the song back. Because this song was Marvin’s first recorded work, and became a hit soon after it was first spun, the song clearly was important to Marvin. Q, being the kind of guy that he was and is, agreed to give the song back to Marvin, as he had with several other artists he had worked with over the years.

Ralph Adamo on August 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Even tho this is a tribute piece, mostly justified, how come it’s not noted that Marvin was an ASHKENAZI Jew? I would think it is a great opportunity to brag on one’s specific people.

I guess distinction only matters when it’s an opportunity to DENIGRATE someone because they are Sephardic, or as Debbie might say in her private moments, “a svartze.”

Italkit on August 9, 2012 at 3:33 am

I guess distinction only matters when it’s an opportunity to DENIGRATE someone because they are Sephardic, or as Debbie might say in her private moments, “a svartze.”

Italkit on August 9, 2012 at 3:33 am


Not-So-Dear Italkit: Just when did Debbie denigrate Sephardim?

Miranda Rose Smith on August 9, 2012 at 6:23 am

MIranda remember the article on Alex Gilady?

Italkit on August 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Baruch Dayan Emet.

LadinoTurk on August 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I went to one of Marvin’s piano solo performances when I was newly married. I didn’t know who the heck he was!

Then he played his music and suddenly, I realized I had known him for a long time.

FYI, Marvin Hamlisch made no secret at that concert that he was Jewish.

I think I agree with you Debbie. They don’t make guys like Marvin Hamlisch anymore.

Three is NO Santa Claus on August 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm

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