Marilyn Bergman, Half of an Oscar-Winning Songwriting Duo, Dies at 93

Marilyn Bergman, who with her husband, Alan Bergman, gave memorable words about “Misty Watercolor Memories” and “The Windmills in Your Mind” and won three Academy Awards, died Saturday at her Los Angeles home. She was 93 years old.

The cause was respiratory failure, spokesman Ken Sunshine said.

Bergmans’ lyrics, set to the tunes of composers like Marvin Hamlich and Michel Legrand, weren’t all over the place, but they sometimes sounded that way. For many years, their words were also heard every week during the opening credits to hit TV shows like “Maude,” “Good Times,” and “Alice.”

The Bergmans and Mr. Hamlisch won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Song for “The Way We Were,” from Robert Redford’s Barbra Streisand romance of the same name. (This film’s score album also earned the Bergmans only Grammy.) Another best song winner, “The Windmills of Your Mind” (“Round, like a circle in a spiral / Like a wheel within a wheel”) was written with Mr. Legrand for the film “The Thomas Crown Affair” in 1968. The third Oscar was for Mrs. Streisand’s “Yentl” (1983), which was also written with Mr. Legrand.

Other than the Oscar winnersAnd Their other popular songs included the lead track on Frank Sinatra’s album “Nice ‘n’ Easy” which he wrote with songwriter Lou Spence. The touching song “What do you do the rest of your life” from the 1969 film “The Happy Ending” with music by Mr. Legrand; He wrote, “Where do you start?” With Johnny Mandel and covered by artists such as Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein and Mrs. Streisand.

Ms. Streisand released an album of Bergmans singles “What Matters Most” in 2011. The “Sinatra Sings Alan & Marilyn Bergman” collection was released in 2019.

Television was an important part of Bergman’s career as well. They won three Emmy Awards: for the 1976 movie “Sybil,” which he wrote with Leonard Rosenman; The song “Ordinary Miracles” written with Mr. Hamlich and performed by Mrs. Streisand at a private concert in 1995; and “A Ticket to a Dream,” another Hamlich collaboration, written for the 1998 American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Films.”

But the lyrics to their songs were probably heard a lot by viewers of the popular TV series of the late twentieth century. They have written the lyrics on the bouncy-themed songs of the hit sitcoms “Maude,” “Alice,” and “Good Times,” as well as the themes for the nostalgic sitcom “Brooklyn Bridge” and the drama series “In the Heat of the Night.” Their song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, made famous by the duet of Neil Diamond (who wrote the music) and Mrs. Streisand, was originally written for Norman Lear’s short series “All That Glitters”.

Early in her career, Ms. Bergman was one of the relatively few women in the songwriting field. In a 2007 interview with NPR, she recalled attending meetings of the performance rights organization ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) where the only women “I and many of the songwriters’ widows represent their husbands.” She was the first female president of ASCAP, a position which he held from 1994 to 2009.

Marilyn Katz was born on November 10, 1928, in the same Brooklyn hospital where Alan Bergman was born four years earlier. The daughter of Edith (Arkin) and Albert Katz, she attended High School of Music and Arts in Manhattan, which is now LaGuardia High School of Music, Arts and Performing Arts.

A school friend introduced her to his uncle, Bob Russell, who wrote the lyrics for Duke Ellington’s song “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and later wrote the lyrics for “He Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Brother.” Marilyn regularly went to his house after school to play his piano as he wrote.

By the time she received her BA in Psychology and English from New York University, she had given up thoughts of a musical career and planned to become a psychiatrist. But a fateful accident brought her back to the arts.

In 1956 she fell down a flight of stairs and broke her shoulder. Seeking help during her recovery, she traveled to Los Angeles to stay with her parents, who had moved there. So did Mr. Russell, and when I looked for him he suggested that she write the songs herself. She was unable to play the piano due to her injury, and after many years remembered, that she could not compose, so she decided to write songs instead.

She worked under the name Marilyn Keith, and worked with Mr. Spence, who also worked with Alan Bergman. Mr. Spence introduced the two, and their musical partnership began immediately. They married two years later.

When asked in 2010 on the CBS News Sunday Morning TV show how she and Mr. Bergman managed to work together during their marriage, she said, “The way a porcupine makes love. Carefully.”

Ms. Bergman’s husband is alive, as is their daughter Julie Bergman and granddaughter.

In a 2002 interview with American Songwriter Magazine, Ms. Bergman defined the difference between an amateur and professional songwriter as being “the ability to rewrite” and “not falling in love with what you’ve written that you can’t find the best path.”

The Bergman family was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980 and jointly received the Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2013.

Although the Bergmans were best known for their film and television work, they attempted to write for the Broadway stage, although they did not have much success. “Something More!” Starring Barbara Cook and Arthur Hale, for whom they wrote the lyrics and Sammy Fine wrote the music, it lasted less than two weeks in 1964. They performed better, though not by much, in 1978 with “Ballroom,” a quote from the 1975 TV movie “Queen of the Stardust.” Ballroom” with music by Billy Goldenberg. Although produced and directed by Michael Bennett, whose previous Broadway show was the brutal hit “A Chorus Line,” “Ballroom” closed three months later.

“Our experiences in theater and film have shown us that the two require very different kinds of writing,” Ms. Bergman told the New York Times in 1982. And movies have always been the first love of the couple.

She said, “We found we had to be more abstract when writing for the movie, because the movie really talks more about the pre-conscious part of the brain, the part of us that’s dreaming.”

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