Bergman, Marilyn (1929—)

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Bergman, Marilyn (1929—)

American lyricist and songwriter whose collaboration with husband Alan produced lyrics for such films as The Way We Were, Tootsie, and Yentl. Born Marilyn Keith on November 10, 1929, in New York, New York; daughter of Albert A. Katz (in the clothing business); graduated from High School of Music and Art in New York, 1945, and New York University; married Alan Bergman, on February 9, 1958; children: one daughter, Julie (b. 1960).

Films include:

Any Wednesday (lyr., 1966); Stop the World—I Want to Get Off (add. material, 1966); The Thomas Crown Affair (lyr., 1968); Gaily, Gaily (song, 1969); The Happy Ending (song, 1969); John and Mary (song, 1969); Doctors' Wives (lyr., 1970); Pieces of Dreams (lyr., 1970); The African Elephant (lyr., 1970); Le Mans (lyr., 1970); Sometimes a Great Notion (lyr., 1970); The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (song, 1972); Molly and Lawless John (lyr., 1972); Forty Carats (lyr., 1973); Breezy (lyr., 1973); The Way We Were (lyr., 1973); 99 and 44/100% Dead (lyr., 1974); Ode to Billy Joe (lyr., 1975); From Noon to Three (lyr., 1976); Harry and Walter Go to New York (lyr., 1976); A Star Is Born (lyr., 1976); The One and Only (lyr., 1978); Same Time Next Year (lyr., 1978); And Justice for All (lyr., 1979); The Promise (lyr., 1979); Starting Over (lyr., 1979); A Change of Seasons (lyr., 1980); Back Roads (lyr., 1981); Author! Author! (lyr., 1982); Best Friends (score, 1982); Tootsie (lyr., 1982); Yes, Giorgio (lyr., 1982); The Man Who Loved Women (lyr., 1983); Never Say Never Again (lyr., 1983); Yentl (lyr., 1983); Micki & Maude (song, 1984); Shy People (song, 1987); Big (song, 1988); The January Man (lyr., 1988); Major League(lyr., 1989); Shirley Valentine (lyr., 1989); Welcome Home (song, 1989).

In musical circles, Marilyn Bergman and her husband Alan are an anomaly. Whereas most song-writing partnerships produce words and music, the Bergmans collaborate primarily on lyrics. One of the most important wife-husband lyric-writing teams in the history of American popular music, the couple have been awarded Oscars, Emmys, and several Golden Globe Awards.

Born Marilyn Keith on November 10, 1929, Marilyn Bergman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, with dreams of becoming a concert pianist; she studied with private teachers and graduated from New York's High School of Music and Art, a school for gifted teens. For a brief period, she was a pre-med student at New York University before switching to English (creative writing) and psychology. A broken shoulder changed everything. While recuperating in California in the early 1950s at her parents' home, she was encouraged by a friend, lyricist Bob Russell, to fill the downtime writing songs. Her first effort was recorded by Peggy Lee .

In 1953, Marilyn was introduced to Alan Bergman, who was writing special material for "Shower of Stars" and other primetime television shows. Soon, they were writing lyrics together. Their romance blossomed on a business trip to New York to consult with composer-publisher Frank Loesser. "It was the best thing Loesser ever did," Marilyn once commented, "maybe even better than Guys and Dolls." Success came in 1957 when they wrote the lyrics to a West Indian folk tune. Released by Norman Luboff as "Yellow Bird," it was later recorded by Arthur Lyman and Roger Williams, and has become a standard in the U.S. and abroad. One year later, the collaborators married.

By 1960, the year of their daughter Julie's birth, the Bergmans were working with various composers and tailoring their songs for individual performers and movies. Their first collaboration with composer Lew Spence produced "Nice and Easy" for Frank Sinatra and the title song to the film The Marriage-Go-Round, sung by Tony Bennett on the soundtrack. Again with Spence, they wrote "I Never Left Your Arms," "Sleep Warm," and "That Face" for a Fred Astaire television special.

The Bergmans made their Broadway debut with lyrics for the Sammy Fain short-lived musical Something More. Work in Hollywood was magical in comparison. The theme song "The Windmills of Your Mind," for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), initiated a productive collaboration with Michel Legrand, who would become one of Hollywood's leading composers. "Windmills" went on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Later collaborations with Legrand would yield the songs for the movie Yentl (1983), with the soundtrack under the direction of Barbra Streisand going platinum in 1985. The Bergmans and Legrand also won Oscars in 1984 for the overall score of Yentl, as well as its two lead songs, "The Way He Makes Me Feel" and "Papa Can You Hear Me?" "Incredible things happen," Legrand once said. "Their words say exactly what my music says—always."

Known for blending their poetry with the varying styles of their collaborators, the Bergmans display a rare versatility. Their long list of collaborating composers includes Henry Mancini and Maurice Jarre. With John Williams, they wrote "If We Were in Love" for Luciano Pavarotti's screen debut in Yes, Giorgio (1982). With composer Marvin Hamlisch, the Bergmans captured another Oscar, two Grammys, and a Golden Globe for the title song of The Way We Were (1973), which became Streisand's first gold single. They also worked with Hamlisch on "The Last Time I Felt Like This," for the movie Same Time, Next Year (1978), a song that became a hit duet for Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor .

The Bergmans wrote theme songs for several hit television shows, including "Maude," "Good Times," and "The Sandy Duncan Show," all three in collaboration with Dave Grusin. In 1974, they won two Emmys for the score of Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, written with Billy Goldenburg. The score was later rewritten into a Broadway musical starring Dorothy Loudon . In 1976, they received Emmys for their songs for Sybil, with music by Leonard Rosenman.

The Bergmans write lyrics only after the music has been composed, explaining, "The composer needs the freedom to write the strongest possible melody to be a leitmotif for the spine of the score." If they are writing for a movie, they view the film in its entirety first, then work on isolated sequences. They describe themselves as "two potters passing the clay back and forth. At the end of the song, we rarely know who wrote what." The lyricists make their home in Los Angeles and are politically active in a number of liberal causes. In 1980, "A Tribute to Alan and Marilyn Bergman" was held at the Los Angeles Music Center and raised $150,000 for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Marilyn Bergman served on the board of directors of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) starting in 1985; she was elected president in 1994 and reelected for another two-year term in 1996.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Bergman, Marilyn (1929—)

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