Marilyn Bergman, the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy-winning lyricist whose words adorned hits like ‘The Way We Were,’ ‘The Windmills of Your Mind,’ ‘In the Heat of the Night,’ and ‘Yentl,’ has died at the age of 93.
Bergman was the first woman president and chairman of the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), according to Variety, a position she held from 1994 to 2009.
She and her husband and long-time writing partner Alan Bergman wrote the lyrics to some of the most popular film and television songs of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and they continued to compose together far into the 2000s.
They were nominated for 16 Academy Awards, winning three (for ‘Way We Were,’ ‘Windmills,’ and the whole song score for ‘Yentl’).
Marilyn Bergman worked frequently with composers Michel Legrand (‘Windmills,’ ‘Yentl,’ and other songs such as ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?’ and ‘How Do You Keep the Music Playing?’) and Marvin Hamlisch (‘The Way We Were’).
In a statement, ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams paid tribute to Bergman, stating, “It is with great regret that I, and all of ASCAP, mourn the death of Marilyn Bergman, one of the finest lyricists of all time and true ASCAP royalty. She was a talented lyricist who, along with her husband, Alan Bergman, gave us some of the most beautiful and timeless lyrics of all time.”
He continued, “Not only during her tenure as President and Chairman of ASCAP, but throughout her life, she was a relentless and tenacious fighter for music composers. Her brilliance, wit, and wisdom will be missed by our community. Alan, we are with you in your grief.”
Marilyn Keith was born in Brooklyn, majored in music at New York’s High School of Music and Art, and subsequently attended NYU. She frequently played piano for lyricist Bob Russell while still in high school. He pushed her to pursue songwriting as a career.
When she went to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s, she began writing lyrics for composer Lew Spence and soon met Spence’s other lyricist, Alan Bergman. Marilyn and Alan tied the knot in February 1958.
Among their early hits were ‘Nice ‘n’ Easy,’ the title track for Frank Sinatra’s 1960 album, written with Spence, and ‘Yellow Bird,’ a calypso ballad for Norman Luboff’s 1959 record.
‘In the Heat of the Night,’ sung by Ray Charles, was their huge breakthrough film in 1967, when they collaborated with composer Quincy Jones.
Several films starring Legrand followed, including ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ ‘The Happy Ending,’ ‘Pieces of Dreams,’ ‘Summer of ’42,’ ‘Best Friends,’ and ‘Yentl,’ several of which produced hit songs.
They co-wrote songs for ‘The Way We Were,’ ‘Same Time, Next Year,’ and ‘Shirley Valentine,’ all of which received Oscar nominations.
‘The Way We Were’ also earned them Grammy Awards for song of the year and best original score album in 1974.
They also worked with composers Dave Grusin on ‘Tootsie,’ ‘And Justice for All,’ and ‘For the Boys’; John Williams on ‘Fitzwilly,’ ‘Pete ‘n’ Tillie,’ and ‘Sabrina’; David Shire on ‘The Promise,’ and the theme for TV’s ‘Alice’; Henry Mancini on ‘Sometimes a Great Notion,’ and ‘
The Bergmans collaborated with Grusin on the TV themes for ‘Maude’ and ‘Good Times.’
They received Emmy nominations for the score of the 1975 TV musical ‘Queen of the Stardust Ballroom’ (co-written with composer Billy Goldenberg), a song for ‘Sybil’ (co-written with Leonard Rosenman), and two songs for Barbra Streisand for 1990s TV specials (with Hamlisch).
Marilyn was the first woman elected to ASCAP’s board of directors in 1985, and she remained on the board after stepping down as president.
Marilyn Bergman co-wrote and co-produced Streisand’s HBO special ‘One Voice’ in 1986 and co-wrote her concert tour (later shown on HBO as ‘Barbra Streisand: The Concert’) in 1994.
Marilyn Bergman is survived by her husband Alan, a daughter, Julie, and a granddaughter, according to Variety.