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

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Peers, players, and regular observers know him to be one of the best coaches — and people — in college basketball.
15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

From east to west — and north and south — these are the region’s salons and services that make our cut. Having a good hair day doesn’t have to be so difficult after all.
Home of the Year: 2015

Home of the Year: 2015

This year’s selections include a Richland Township house built to appreciate its 160-acre lot and Shadyside garage that was renovated into a stunning, modern dream home.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

14 Life-Changing Home Products for 2015

14 Life-Changing Home Products for 2015

Home expert Boyce Thompson previews this year's Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show and speculates on which products will become fully integrated into our homes soon.
How Big a Salary Do You Need to Own a Home In Pittsburgh?

How Big a Salary Do You Need to Own a Home In Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh tops nationwide list for home affordability.
Why the Browns Could Take a Few Social Media Tips from the Penguins

Why the Browns Could Take a Few Social Media Tips from the Penguins

It seems the 'Burgh's boys of winter are popping up everywhere on the Internet.
Table for 36, Please: Penguins Invade D.C. Restaurant

Table for 36, Please: Penguins Invade D.C. Restaurant

One item on the menu got a lot of attention.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Peers, players, and regular observers know him to be one of the best coaches — and people — in college basketball.
15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

From east to west — and north and south — these are the region’s salons and services that make our cut. Having a good hair day doesn’t have to be so difficult after all.
Home of the Year: 2015

Home of the Year: 2015

This year’s selections include a Richland Township house built to appreciate its 160-acre lot and Shadyside garage that was renovated into a stunning, modern dream home.
Preserving August Wilson's Voice

Preserving August Wilson's Voice

Todd Kreidler, who helped to conceive the Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright’s final written work, returns to Pittsburgh to direct that play, continuing his mission to keep the master’s words alive.
Review: Tender Bar + Kitchen

Review: Tender Bar + Kitchen

Lawrenceville hot spot Tender, once favored primarily for its libations, now is known as well for its culinary offerings.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module