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Melody has lost a friend with the passing of Marvin Hamlisch, gone suddenly at 68 following a short illness. In his memory, The Hollywood Reporter revists three of his most recognizable songs, and tells the stories behind them.
1. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” – 1964
Hamlisch’s first hit came in 1964, when he was just 21. Produced by the great Quincy Jones for pop darling Lesley Gore — whose taste for novelty tunes like “It’s My Party” made her the Katy Perry of her day — the sticky-sweet song reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks in 1965, and has been a go-to standard ever since, its Pollyanna-in-Candyland chorus never failing to suggest a touch of madness in whoever sings it.
2. “Nobody Does it Better ” – 1977
Hamlisch collaborated with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager on “Nobody Does it Better,” the first James Bond theme not to share its name with the movie’s title — though “the spy who loved me” does appear in the first verse. That’s because Hamlisch and Sager hadn’t written it for the film. The song’s producer Richard Perry loved it so much he convinced Bond film producer Cubby Broccoli to use it, and it was later reworked to incorporate the 007-appropriate lyrics. Carly Simon‘s vocal — messy, powerful and equisitely vulnerable — produced an instant classic. Thom Yorke of Radiohead, who has covered it many times, has declared it “the sexiest song ever written.”
3. “The Way We Were” – 1973
Hamlisch’s bittersweet masterpiece — the title song to Sydney Pollack‘s great screen love story — was also Barbra Streisand‘s first #1 hit in February of 1974, and would later win the Oscar for Best Song in 1974 and a Song of the Year Grammy in 1975. With lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the composition has become Streisand’s signature song, and one most artists wouldn’t dare touch. But that didn’t stop Beyonce, who performed the song for Streisand herself when the singer’s career was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008.
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