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Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68

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POSTED August 8, 2012 1:04 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Marvin Hamlisch was blessed with perfect pitch and an infallible ear. “I heard sounds that other children didn’t hear,” he wrote in his autobiography.

He turned that skill into writing and arranging compulsively memorable songs that the world was unable to stop humming — from the mournful “The Way We Were” to the jaunty theme from “The Sting.”

Prolific and seeming without boundaries, Hamlisch, who died at 68 after a short illness, composed music for film heroes from James Bond and Woody Allen, for powerful singers such as Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin, and high-kicking dancers of the Tony-winning “A Chorus Line.” To borrow one of his song titles, nobody did it better.

“He was a true musical genius, but above all that, he was a beautiful human being. I will truly miss him,” said Barbra Streisand, who first met the composer in 1963 and sang his “The Way We Were” to a Grammy win in 1974. “It was his brilliantly quick mind, his generosity, and delicious sense of humor that made him a delight to be around.”

Hamlisch collapsed and died Monday in Los Angeles after a brief illness, his publicist Ken Sunshine said, citing the family. Other details were not released.

The New York-born Hamlisch composed more than 40 film scores, including “Sophie’s Choice,” ‘’Ordinary People,” ‘’The Way We Were” and “Take the Money and Run.” His latest work came for Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!”

Hamlisch became one of the most decorated artists in history, winning three Oscars, four Emmys, four Grammys, a Tony, a Pulitzer and three Golden Globes. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in his memory on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

He arranged many of Minnelli’s albums, including her first two as well as “Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli ‘Live’ at the London Palladium.”

“Marvin Hamlisch and I have been best friends since I was 13 years old,” Minnelli said on Tuesday, calling him “one of the funniest people I knew. I will miss his talent, our laughter and friendship, but mostly I will miss Marvin.”

“I have lost my first lifelong best friend, and sadly we have lost a splendid, splendid talent.”

Actress-singer Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz who performed with Hamlisch for years, said: “There is some kind of gorgeous music in the heavens tonight.”

Hamlisch was perhaps best known for adapting composer Scott Joplin on “The Sting.” In the mid-’70s, it seemed everybody with a piano had the sheet music to “The Entertainer,” the movie’s theme song. To this day, it’s blasted by ice cream trucks.

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