Bergman, Marilyn and Alan
Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Two of the most celebrated songwriters of the twentieth century are Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Both were born in the same hospital in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. Alan was born on September 11, 1925, and Marilyn on November 10, 1929. Alan was the oldest of two sons born to Samuel and Ruth Margulies Bergman. His father was a children’s wear salesman and his mother a homemaker who frequently volunteered her time to various charitable groups and was a “Gray Lady” during World War II. At six, Alan began taking piano lessons. His family stressed the importance of education, and he was enrolled in the Ethical Culture School in New York.
The family moved to the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, where Alan graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island. He was only 16 years old when he began his studies in music at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel School. At UNC he began to write music and was recognized by two university groups, the Playmakers and the Sound and the Fury, who included student songwriters’ contributions if they were deemed worthy. Two years later in 1943, Alan was drafted into the United States Army and assigned to an infantry division. He was wounded and reassigned to a Special Services Unit at Camp Butner,
Alan Bergman (born September 11, 1925, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Samuel and Ruth Bergman. Education: Graduated from the University of North Carolina, 1948; master’s degree, University of California, Los Angeles, 1949); Marilyn Bergman (born Marilyn Keith on November 10, 1929, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Albert and Edith Arkin Keith. Education: Attended the University of Vermont and New York University, studying psychiatry; received bachelor of arts degree). The Bergmans married on February 9, 1958; children: Julie.
Earned first major film credit for The Right Approach, 1961; breakthrough success came with score for In the Heat of Night, with Quincy Jones, 1967; received first Academy Award for “The Windmills of Your Mind” from the film The Thomas Crown Affair; have written scores for more than 40 films; chief collaborators include Marvin Hamlisch, Michel Legrand, Norman Luboff, John Williams, Mark Isham, Dave Grusin, and Quincy Jones.
Awards: Three Academy Awards, three Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and one Cable Ace Award; have received 16 Academy Award nominations. Other awards include: Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1980; ACLU Torch of Liberty Award, 1980; Clooney Foundation Singers Salute to the Songwriter Award, 1986; Songwriter’s Guild Aggie Award, 1987; (Marilyn) honorary doctorate degree, Berklee College of Music, Boston, 1995; National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award, 1995; (Marilyn) Fiorello Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996; Songwriters Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award, 1997; (Marilyn) honorary doctorate degree, Trinity College Hartford, CT.
Addresses: Home —Alan and Marilyn Bergman, 714 N. Maple Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
North Carolina, as a staff arranger for a large orchestra. It was there he met Jack Marshall, an accomplished guitarist, who became a mentor to Alan and was a tremendous help teaching Alan the art of arranging and orchestrations. Marshall later became the Music Director for Capitol Records and held a prominent position in MGM’s music department. In 1947, Alan returned to UNC under the G. I. Bill and completed his degree. He later enrolled in UCLA in Los Angeles, obtaining a master’s degree in music, where he was befriended by songwriter Johnny Mercer.
After graduation, Alan returned to the East Coast and became a television director for the largest CBS station, WCAU in Philadelphia, where he directed music shows and sporting events as well as continuing to write songs. For three years he kept in contact with Mercer who continued to encourage him and suggested he return to Los Angeles. Alan returned in 1954 but was mostly unsuccessful, yet continued his relationship with Mercer, who Alan characterized as a surrogate father figure and consummate mentor.
In 1956, Marilyn Keith was living in New York when she fell and broke her shoulder. She left New York and went to Los Angeles to join her parents to help with her rehabilitation. While recuperating, she began to write songs. Through songwriter Lew Spence, she met her husband-to-be and they collaborated, writing mostly children’s songs and music for television variety shows. They were married on February 9, 1958.
In the late 1950s, calypso music had become very popular and the couple received a call from choral leader and composer Norman Luboff asking them to help write music in that style since Columbia Records wanted to release a new album and selections had to be written in a week. The result was their first international hit, “Yellow Bird,” made famous by Arthur Lyman, the Brothers Four, and the Mills Brothers. The Bergmans wrote many hit songs for Frank Sinatra including the Grammy-nominated songs “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” “LA Is My Lady,” “Love Looks So Well on You,” “Sentimental Baby,” “Summer Me-Winter Me,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” and “Sleep Warm,” written especially for Sinatra. In 1967, the duo collaborated with Quincy Jones and wrote the film score for the Academy Award-winning film In the Heat of the Night Actor-dancer Gene Kelly introduced the Bergmans to famed composer Michel Legrand with whom they collaborated in writing “Windmills of Your Mind,” which was introduced in the film The Thomas Crown Affair. In 1968, the Bergmans received their first Academy Award for “The Windmills of Your Mind”, which established them as top songwriters both in film scores and songs. The song also earned them a Grammy Award. This was followed in 1973 with an Academy Award and Grammy Award for “The Way We Were,” working with composer Marvin Hamlisch from the film of the same name which starred Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford.
In 1978, a disc jockey in Kentucky who was going through the remnants of a fragile marriage took the Neil Diamond-Bergman song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” sung by Neil Diamond, and began playing both the Diamond and Barbra Streisand versions of the song. It was received so favorably by the listening audience, the song was subsequently re-recorded combining Diamond and Streisand. The song provided the Bergmans with three major awards—the Academy, Golden Globe, and Grammy awards.
The Bergmans’ songwriting ability can best be exemplified by their recognition by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Grammy Awards, and television’s Emmy Awards. In 1983, five songs were nominated for Academy Awards, three being the Bergmans’ “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” from Best Friends, “It Might Be You” from Tootsie, and “If We Were in Love” from Yes, Georgio. The following year the duo again received three Academy Award nominations for the score from the film Yentl, which received an Oscar and for the songs “The Way He Makes Me Feel” and “Papa, Can You Hear Me.” The Bergmans received an Oscar for the film score from Yentl. They also received a nomination in 1971 for “The Summer of 42” with Legrand, and teamed with Kenny Loggins and wrote “I Believe in Love” for the Academy Awardnominated film A Star Is Born.
The Bergmans’ television credits include theme songs for Maude, Good Times, The World Goes On, The Sandy Duncan Show, Alice, and Brooklyn Bridge. Their first Emmy Award was for Sybil, followed by the first made-for-television dramatic musical Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, Ordinary Miracles for Barbra Streisand, and A Ticket to Dream in 1999, another collaboration with Hamlisch.
Their principal collaborators include Hamlisch, Legrand, Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini, Lew Spence, Billy Goldenberg, Sammy Fain, Alex North, John Williams, Dave Grusin, Mark Isham, Maurice Jarre, Norman Luboff, Loggins, James Newton Howard and Jones. Their songs have been recorded by hundreds of artists including such notable vocalists as Sinatra, Sergio Mendes, Dean Martin, Carmen Macrae, Vic Damone, Streisand, Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Charlie Pride, Peggy Lee, Fred Astaire, Jack Jones, and many others.
From 1994 to 1998, Marilyn served two terms as president of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), the International Federation of Performing Rights Societies, and in 1996, France awarded her the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters medal, France’s highest cultural honor. Two years later she was awarded the cultural Medal of Honor from SGAE, the Spanish performing and mechanical rights organization. She is currently the President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and was the first woman ever elected to its board of directors.
She also received the Crystal Award from Women in Film in 1986. Currently Alan serves as first vice president on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Boards of Directors of the National Academy of Songwriters, the Johnny Mercer Foundation, and the Artists’ Rights Foundation. Both Alan and Marilyn serve on the Executive Committee of the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Over the course of their careers, the Bergmans have won three Academy Awards, three Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and one Cable Ace Award. They were first nominated for an Academy Award in 1968, and since that time have received 16 nominations.
As songwriters; film
In the Heat of the Night, 1967.
Thomas Crown Affair, 1967.
A Man Called Gannon, 1969.
John and Mary, 1969.
Doctors’ Wives, 1971.
The Way We Were, 1973.
Ode to Billy Joe, 1976.
Harry and Walter Go to New York, 1976.
The One and Only, 1978.
A Change of Seasons, 1980.
Yes, Giorgio, 1982.
Never Say Never Again, 1983.
For the Boys, 1991.
As songwriters; television theme songs
Bracken’s World, 1969.
Good Times, 1974.
All That Glitters, 1977.
Co-ed Fever, 1979.
Songs appear on
Sometimes a Great Nation, Henry Mancini, 1971.
The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand, 1974.
Celebrate Me Home, Kenny Loggins, 1977.
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Neil Diamond (co-songwriter), 1978.
Yentl, Barbra Streisand, 1983.
Love is Jose Carreras, José Carreras, 1984.
Best of Debby Boone, Debby Boone, 1986.
One Voice, Barbra Streisand, 1991.
The Concert, Barbra Streisand, 1991.
The Magic of the Mantovani Orchestra, 1991.
Trilogy, Frank Sinatra, 1991.
How Do You Keep the Music Playing?, Johnny Mathis, 1993.
Favorite Love Songs, Michael Crawford, 1994.
Michel Plays Legrand, Michel Legrand, 1994.
Eightieth, All the Best, Frank Sinatra, 1995.
Falling in Love Again, Nana Mouskouri, 1995.
Bronson, Fred, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications Inc., 1992.
Hirshorn, Clive, The Hollywood Musical, Crown Publishers, 1981.
Kaplan, Mike, Variety Who’s Who in Show Business, Garland Publishing Inc., 1983.
Lax, Roger, and Frederick Smith, The Great Song Thesaurus, Oxford Univ. Press 1989.
Maltin, Leonard, Movie and Video Guide 1995, Penguin Books Ltd., 1994.
All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com(August 2000).
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers website, http://www.ascap.com(August 2000).
Internet Movie Database, http://www.us.imdb.com (August 2000).
Additional information was obtained through an interview with Alan Bergman on June 4, 2000.
—Francis D. McKinley
"Bergman, Marilyn and Alan." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 5, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bergman-marilyn-and-alan
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