NEW YORK (AP) – Marilyn Bergman, the Oscar-winning lyricist who teamed up with her husband Alan Bergman on “The Way We Were,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and hundreds of other songs, died at her Los Angeles home Saturday. She was 93.
She died of respiratory failure unrelated to COVID-19, according to a representative, Jason Lee. Her husband was at her bedside when she died.
READ MORE: ‘Expect Laughter, Family Fun and Basketball’: Actor Cedric Joe On Space Jam: A New Legacy, in theaters July 16
The Bergman family, who married in 1958, were among the most enduring, successful and productive songwriting partnerships, specializing in introspective ballads for film, television and the stage that combined the romance of Tin Pan Alley with contemporary pop polishing.
They worked on some of the world’s best tunes, including Marvin Hamlisch, Cy Coleman and Michel Legrand, and were covered by some of the world’s greatest singers, from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson.
“If you’re really serious about wanting to write songs that are original, that really speak to people, you’ll feel like you’ve created something that was not there before – which is the ultimate achievement, right?” Marilyn Bergman told The Huffington Post in 2013. “And to make something that was not there before, you have to know what came before you.”
Their songs included the sentimental Streisand-Neil Diamond duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, Sinatra’s snapped “Nice ‘n’ Easy” and Dean Martin’s dreamy “Sleep Warm”. They helped write the uptempo themes for the 1970s sitcoms “Maude” and “Good Times” and collaborated on words and music for the 1978 Broadway show “Ballroom.”
But they were best known for their contributions to film, and it turned out that themes could sometimes be remembered more than the films themselves. Highlights include: Stephen Bishop’s “It Might Be You,” from “Tootsie”; Noel Harrison’s “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from “The Thomas Crown Affair”; and for the “Best Friends” James Ingram-Patti Austin duet “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”
Their highlight was “The Way We Were”, from Streisand-Robert Redford’s romantic drama of the same name.
Set to Hamlisch’s humorous, thoughtful melody with Streisand’s voice, it was the best-selling song of 1974 and an instant standard, proof that well into rock age, the public still embraced an old-fashioned ballad.
Fans would have struggled to identify a picture of Bergmans or even recognize their names, but they had no trouble calling the words “The Way We Were”:
“Memories, can be beautiful and yet / What is too painful to remember / We simply choose to forget / So it is laughter / We will remember / When we remember / That is how we were.”
The Bergman family won three Oscars – for “The Way We Were”, “Windmills of Your Mind” and the soundtrack to Streisand’s “Yentl” – and received 16 nominations, three of them alone in 1983. They also won two Grammys and four Emmys and became inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
READ MORE: Director Malcolm D. Lee On LeBron James In Space Jam: A New Legacy ‘He Wanted To Be Great, Wanted Movie To Be Great’
Composer Quincy Jones called the news of her death devastating. “You, along with your beloved Alan, were the epitome of Nadia Boulanger’s belief that ‘an artist can never be more or less than he is as a human being,'” he tweeted.
“To those of us who loved Bergmans’ lyrics, Marilyn takes a little of our hearts and souls with her today,” tweeted Norman Lear, creator of “Maude” and “Good Times.”
Marilyn Bergman was the first woman elected to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and later served as president and president. She was also the first chair of the National Recorded Sound Preservation Board in the Library of Congress.
Streisand worked with them throughout his career, recording more than 60 of their songs and dedicating an entire album, “What Matters Most”, to their material. The Bergman family met her when she was 18, a nightclub singer, and quickly became close friends.
“I just love their words, I love the feeling, I love their exploration of love and relationships,” Streisand told The Associated Press in 2011.
On Saturday, she posted a picture of herself with Bergmans on Twitter, saying they were like family, as well as ingenious copywriters.
“We met over 60 years ago backstage at a small nightclub and never stopped loving each other and working together,” Streisand wrote. “Their songs are timeless, and so is our love. May she rest in peace.”
Like Streisand, the Bergmans were Jews from lower middle-class families in Brooklyn. They were born in the same hospital, Alan four years earlier than Marilyn, whose unmarried name was Katz, and they grew up in the same neighborhood and have been fans of music and movies since childhood.
They both moved to Los Angeles in 1950 – Marilyn had studied English and psychology at New York University – but only met a few years later when they worked for the same composer.
Bergmans seemed to be free from the boundaries and tensions of many songwriting teams. They compared their chemistry to housework (a washer, a dryer) or to baseball (pitching and catching), and were so in tune with each other that they struggled to remember who wrote a given text.
“Our partnership as writers or as husband and wife?” Marilyn told The Huffington Post when asked about their relationship. “I think the aspects of both are the same: Respect, trust, all that is needed in a written partnership or a business partnership or in a marriage.”
In addition to her husband, Bergman leaves behind their daughter, Julie Bergman.
MORE NEWS: Who is Ariana Grande’s new husband, Dalton Gomez?
(© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)