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Marvin Hamlisch

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Hamlisch was born in New York City to Viennese Jewish parents. His was a musical family with his father being an accordionist and bandleader. Marvin Hamlisch was something of a child prodigy and by age five he began mimicking music he heard on the radio on the piano. A few months before he turned seven, in 1951, he became the youngest person ever accepted to the Juilliard School. However anxiety issues kept him from pursuing a career as a concert pianist leading him to instead focus on composition, specifically for film and theater.

Although Liza Minnelli’s debut album included a song he did in his teens, his first hit did not come until he was 21 years old. This song was done by Lesley Gore, in the form of Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows. (The song, in Lesley Gore’s version, later figured prominently in the “Marge on the Lam” episode of The Simpsons) His first film score was for The Swimmer although he had done some music for films as early as 1965. Later he did music for some of Woody Allen’s early films like Take the Money and Run.

The 1970s would be his peak period as a composer. This is most true of the first half of the decade. The best known work he did in this period might be adaptations of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music for the motion picture The Sting, including its theme song, “The Entertainer”. In award terms he had his greatest success with The Way We Were in 1974. For that he won two of his three 1974 Academy Awards. He also won 4 Grammy Awards in 1974, two of them for “The Way We Were.” He continued having hits in the late 1970s after this.

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