Tribute: Marvin Hamlisch, 1944-2012

We remember beloved composer and PSO Pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch.




 

Marvin Hamlisch’s fanfare into pop-music culture was “Sunshine, Lollypops and Rainbows” in 1963, and at the time of his death this past August, he had just finished a film project, Liberace, as well as work on the musical production of The Nutty Professor.

In the interim, during a distinguished career spanning almost 50 years, Hamlisch made musical history, scoring more than 40 movies (among other musical feats) and earning Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys and a Tony. One singular sensation, Hamlisch even received a Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line. Who can forget this entertainer’s resurrecting Scott Joplin for The Sting or for enriching the pop-music canon with “The Way We Were.”

That legacy includes his 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops Orchestra. When Hamlisch took over as principal conductor of the Pops in 1995, he brought the sizzle of celebrity glamour to the orchestra, similar to Andre Previn’s arrival at the Pittsburgh Symphony many years before.

During his tenure, Hamlisch helped to raise the stature of the Pops, locally and nationally, not to mention its ticket revenues and attendance figures. His success didn’t go unnoticed elsewhere: He went on to replicate his Pops role in orchestras from Dallas to Seattle.

In a 1999 interview he did with me for PM, he declared his affection for Pittsburgh audiences over lunch at a downtown restaurant, noting, “New York and Chicago audiences give me the jitters.”

Hamlisch exuded what might be described as a Type A personality. And this was before iPhones. He was quick yet personable, confident without being cocky, polite while answering questions he had probably been asked countless times — and even inquisitive, also asking questions. He never revealed, though, any of the inner depth or melancholy sweetness that must have inspired music as hauntingly beautiful as his score for Sophie’s Choice.

Not only did Hamlisch connect to the audiences he loved here, but also to Pittsburghers themselves: During our interview, two young women were abuzz that a superstar was nearby. When he detected them on his radar, he motioned them over, greeted them and insisted they have a picture snapped with him.

Marvin Hamlisch died at the age of 68 on Aug. 6, which was, coincidentally, the birthday of pop-art legend Andy Warhol. There’s also some irony in that because, at our interview, he said he was color-blind (reds and browns) — but not yellow. His favorite flower was yellow freesia.

Yellow flowers, with their touch of sunshine, symbolize joy and friendship. He gave both to Pittsburgh.

To learn more about the legacy of Marvin Hamlisch, visit marvinhamlisch.com.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

You'll have to work hard to make it through the 'Burgh Bucket List — but every entry is more than worth the effort.
Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu came to Pittsburgh craving the California sun. Nearly a dozen years later, he shares a rare glimpse of the relationships he developed here — with his God, the Steelers Nation and the city he and his family now call home. One thing is certain: he never wants to leave.
Granting the Perfect Wish

Granting the Perfect Wish

By fulfilling the wish of a 12-year-old boy, PittGirl learns that you don't always need a lot of money to grant the perfect wish.
Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Try an updated take on traditional trends with these winter must-haves for men.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

#TBT: Watch the ‘King’s’ Final Pittsburgh Concert

#TBT: Watch the ‘King’s’ Final Pittsburgh Concert

Elvis Presley rang in 1977 with a New Year’s Eve concert at the Civic Arena.
Pittsburgh-Area’s Chris Jamison Finishes Third in ‘The Voice'

Pittsburgh-Area’s Chris Jamison Finishes Third in ‘The Voice'

He may not have finished first, but the North Hills High School grad won legions of new fans.
The Right Stuff: CMU’s Lunar Robot Wins Google Prize

The Right Stuff: CMU’s Lunar Robot Wins Google Prize

The four-wheeled “Andy” is part of a Pittsburgh-led Moon mission.
Penguin Cam Online, Not a Hockey Player in Sight

Penguin Cam Online, Not a Hockey Player in Sight

The National Aviary on the North Side is giving Pittsburghers a rare glimpse of two baby penguins as they hatch.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

You'll have to work hard to make it through the 'Burgh Bucket List — but every entry is more than worth the effort.
Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu came to Pittsburgh craving the California sun. Nearly a dozen years later, he shares a rare glimpse of the relationships he developed here — with his God, the Steelers Nation and the city he and his family now call home. One thing is certain: he never wants to leave.
Granting the Perfect Wish

Granting the Perfect Wish

By fulfilling the wish of a 12-year-old boy, PittGirl learns that you don't always need a lot of money to grant the perfect wish.
Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Try an updated take on traditional trends with these winter must-haves for men.
Review: Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar

Review: Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar

Farm-to-table restaurant Eighty Acres brings food prepared with finesse to Plum.
Pittsburgh's Top 10: December 2014

Pittsburgh's Top 10: December 2014

Here’s the rundown of this month’s can’t-miss events.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags