Marvin Hamlisch, composer of The Sting and A Chorus Line, dies aged 68

Marvin Hamlisch performs and talks to Michael Parkinson

The composer Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote the scores for films and shows including The Sting and A Chorus Line, has died in Los Angeles, aged 68.

Family spokesman Jason Lee said the musician died on Monday after a brief illness.

Hamlisch wrote more than 40 film scores including his Oscar-winning score and title song for The Way We Were.

In total he won three Academy Awards, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes.

HAMLISCH IN LONDON

One of Mr Hamlisch's last UK appearances came at the Royal Albert Hall in London last October, at a concert by Broadway star Idina Menzel.

I was lucky enough to attend that night, which began with Marvin performing "solo" with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.

He began with a suite from A Chorus Line and signed off with an overture from My Fair Lady that he dedicated to Menzel.

Between these pieces, he effortlessly displayed his virtuoso piano skills by performing Happy Birthday in the styles of three classical musicians.

"The truth is I know the song," he deadpanned. "The reason I know the song is I went to the Juilliard School."

To prove it, he went on to imagine the standard as it might have been performed by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

It was a rare privilege to see such a legend in action.

His publicist said he had been scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tennessee, this week to see a production of his latest hit musical, The Nutty Professor.

Directed by Jerry Lewis, the show is based on the 1963 comedy film of the same name. It is due to transfer to Broadway.

He was working on a new musical, Gotta Dance, at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score for a new film about Liberace, Behind the Candelabra.

Starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, and directed by Steven Soderbergh, the HBO biopic is currently in production and is due out in 2013.

'International language'

Hamlisch's scores for Broadway included A Chorus Line, which received the Pulitzer Prize, as well as They're Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success.

The organisers of the Tony awards paid tribute to Hamlisch and writer Mark O'Donnell - who has also died aged 58: "We've lost two greats: Tony-winners Marvin Hamlisch (composer of A Chorus Line) & Mark O'Donnell (Hairspray co-librettist). Rest in peace."‏

His prolific output for films included original compositions and musical adaptations for Sophie's Choice, Ordinary People, The Swimmer and Three Men and a Baby.

He also scored early Woody Allen films Take the Money and Run and Bananas.

Most recently, he worked on 2009's The Informant!, starring Matt Damon and directed by Steven Soderbergh.

"Music can make a difference," Hamlisch is quoted as saying on his official website.

"There is a global nature to music, which has the potential to bring all people together. Music is truly an international language, and I hope to contribute by widening communication as much as I can."

Romantic drama The Way We Were (1973), which starred Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, won Hamlisch Oscars for best original dramatic score and best original song. His adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for The Sting won him a third Oscar.

Marvin Hamlisch, left, with Barbra Streisand at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills in 2011 Marvin Hamlisch with Barbra Streisand at a gala in Beverly Hills in 2011

He also co-wrote the hit song Nobody Does it Better, sung by Carly Simon, for the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, as well as Aretha Franklin's R&B hit Break It to Me Gently.

"He was classic and one of a kind," Franklin told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "Who will ever forget 'The Way We Were'?"

Hamlisch was a graduate of New York's Juilliard School of Music and Queens College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

His interest in music started early. He entered Juilliard at the age of seven. In his autobiography, The Way I Was, Hamlisch said he lived in fear of not meeting his father's expectations.

"By the time Gershwin was your age, he was dead," the Viennese-born musician told his son. "And he'd written a concerto. Where's your concerto, Marvin?"

In his teenage years, Hamlisch turned from recitals to songwriting. An early job in the theatre was as a rehearsal pianist for the Broadway production of Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand in 1964.

"Maybe I'm old-fashioned," he told the AP in 1986. "But I remember the beauty and thrill of being moved by Broadway musicals - particularly the endings of shows. The end of West Side Story, where audiences cried their eyes out. The last few chords of My Fair Lady. Just great."

Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra said on Twitter: "We are shocked and saddened at the passing of our Principal Pops conductor, Marvin Hamlisch. We send our deepest condolences to his family.

"Hamlisch was a great musician and composer who in many ways revolutionized film, theater and popular song. He was a wonderful colleague."

He was to be announced to the same position with the Philadelphia Orchestra and was due to lead the New York Philharmonic at its New Year's Eve concert.

Hamlisch is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.

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