A couple of weeks ago, the day after I arrived in China, I saw in the New York Times that Marvin Hamlisch died at 68. I got to know him very well over the course of a few months nearly a decade ago. We first met at Saratoga about a project that my teacher at the time Richard Danielpour was doing with him to set “Zin Zin Zin, a Violin” to music for the Pittsburgh Symphony. I was to help with the copy work and a little arrangement, and he called me every day with a million revisions and questions. I owe Richard a lot of thanks for introducing me to Marvin; not so much because of the work–which was a lot of fun–but because I got to know this incredible person.
Like a lot of kids my age, I grew up seeing Marvin on TV on “The Great Space Coaster.” He was fun and warm and hilarious on the show, as he was in real life. I also grew up with his show tunes and movie soundtracks all around, which you always heard then and always hear now. He was an incredible song-writer, and had great ears, and he knew how to work with people. Marvin was a super-committed Yankees fan (no one is perfect) but despite being Mr. New York (or maybe because of) he had the class and good sense to stay away from the Mets.
I saw him do this kind of musical game once on stage, and it knocked me out. He solicited the audience for words he could use in a song title. He’d put some title together out of these random words and make up a song on the spot: music, lyrics, and all the rest. I know that he did this every time, and always brilliantly. Someone with that kind of talent you’re lucky to meet once in your life; I feel lucky to have met Marvin.
He’s 34 in this video.