Marilyn Bergman, Award-Winning Songwriter, Dies At 93

The Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy-winning lyricist wrote hits for Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and Ray Charles.

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Marilyn Bergman - Photo: Bettmann / Contributor
Alan and Marilyn Bergman at their home in 1983. Photo: Getty/Bettmann / Contributor

Marilyn Bergman, the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning lyricist, who wrote songs for some of the most popular films of the 20th century, has died at the age of 93. Working in partnership with her husband, Alan Bergman, the duo wrote the lyrics to such hits as “In the Heat of the Night,” “The Way We Were,” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”

The Bergmans, who were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980, met in Los Angeles in the mid-50s, where they began working together, scoring one of their earliest hits with Frank Sinatra (the title track to the singer’s 1960 LP, Nice ‘n’ Easy.) Less than a decade later, the couple, who married in 1958, launched a wildly successful career in Hollywood with “In the Heat of the Night,” co-written with Quincy Jones and performed by Ray Charles. The song appeared in the celebrated 1967 film of the same name.

Nice 'n' Easy (Remastered 1999)

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In the late 60s, the Bergmans formed a successful partnership with the French composer Michel Legrand, earning their first Academy Award for “The Windmills of Your Mind,” written for 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair. The following year, they were nominated for “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” which appeared in the 1969 film, The Happy Ending. Together, they also wrote songs for Pieces of Dreams (1970), Best Friends (1982), and Yentil (1983), among others.

The couple also frequently collaborated with Marvin Hamlisch – perhaps most famously penning the title track to the 1973 film, The Way We Were. The song, performed by Barbra Streisand, became the most successful song of 1974 in the US, while it went on to earn an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe, and a 1975 Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

Legrand: What are you doing the rest of your life? (The Happy Ending)

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Bergman also co-wrote the Barbra Streisand-Neil Diamond hit, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” (1978), while she remained friends with Streisand throughout her life, working with her on several concert tours and TV specials.

“One of the few women in her field when she first began writing, Bergman became the first woman to hold the role of President at ASCAP, serving from 1994 to 2009. In a statement, current ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams called Bergman, “one of the greatest lyricists who ever lived and truly ASCAP royalty. She was a brilliant songwriter who together with her husband, Alan Bergman, gave us some of the most beautiful and enduring lyrics of all time.” He continued, “She was a tireless and fierce advocate for music creators not only during her term as President and Chairman of ASCAP but throughout her life. Our community will miss her intelligence, her wit, and her wisdom. Alan — we mourn with you.”

Streisand also shared a statement about the loss of her friend and collaborator. Marilyn and Alan Bergman were like family, as well as brilliant lyricists. We met over 60 years ago backstage at a little night club, and never stopped loving each other and working together.
Their songs are timeless, and so is our love. May she rest in peace.

With her husband, Bergman was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Songwriters in 1995 and received both a Governor’s Award and Trustees’ Award from the Recording Academy in 2002 and 2013, respectively.

Bergman leaves behind her husband, Alan, their daughter, Julie, and a granddaughter. 

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