“Genius is rare enough, but a good-hearted genius is rarer still”
“A good-hearted, humble and hilarious genius? Almost unheard-of.”
“We are Marvin’s concerto” – former President Bill Clinton
It was an especially apt observation coming, as it did, in eulogy remarks Mr. Clinton delivered at the funeral of Marvin Hamlisch, the prolific composer of songs like “The Way We Were” and musicals like “A Chorus Line.”
Mr. Hamlisch “gave us all the gift of our memories,” Mr. Clinton said.
Statements of condolence were also read from President Obama and Michelle Obama, and from Nancy Reagan, who said that she sometimes liked to sing along with Mr. Hamlisch when he would perform for her and President Reagan. “Luckily,” Mrs. Reagan wrote, “his piano music drowned out my voice.”
Before the service, held at the same synagogue as the funeral of George Gershwin (in 1937), touches of Mr. Hamlisch’s music and his playful sensibility could be seen and heard.
A hearse outside the temple carried bright yellow flowers decorated with lollipops, suggesting Lesley Gore’s hit single “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” which Mr. Hamlisch composed. An organist played Mr. Hamlisch’s theme from the movie “Ice Castles,” and the service featured a choir’s performance of “The Way We Were.”
Howard Stringer, chairman of the Sony Corporation, described Mr. Hamlisch as a “merry minstrel” with a “mischievous smile.”
Mr. Stringer recounted his and Mr. Hamlisch’s longtime tradition of holding secular, star-studded Christmas parties (he estimated that half the attendees were Jewish), where Mr. Hamlisch would rewrite holiday songs to include the names of their guests. Among the compositions featured at these gatherings, Mr. Stringer said, was a reworking of “The 12 Days of Christmas” in which the phrase “five golden rings” was replaced with “Mort Zuckerman,” and a version of “White Christmas” sung by Nora Ephron that began with the neglected lyrics:
The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway,
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
More traditional readings at the funeral included verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes and a poem by Hayyim Nahman Bialik, who wrote: “Oh, he had one more melody, and now that melody is lost forever, lost forever.”
LISTEN: Eulogy by President Bill Clinton:
Statement from President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama:
Statement from former First Lady Nancy Reagan:
During the celebration, there were renditions for “The Way We Were,” “What I did for Love” from A Chorus Line” which attendees were invited to join. Idina Menzel sung “At The Ballet” from A Chorus Line.
WATCH: Choir sings: The Way We Were
(600 voice volunteer choir singing “The Way We Were” at Marvin Hamlisch’s funeral)
The funeral’s guest list offered a collision of talents from various decades and disciplines — sometimes almost literally, as when a swarm of paparazzi descended upon Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, allowing Bernadette Peters, who arrived at the same time, to slip in unnoticed. Other attendees included Liza Minnelli, Alan Alda, Brian d’Arcy James, Leslie Uggams, Tony Roberts and Richard Gere.
LISTEN: Funeral Services for Maestro Marvin Hamlisch
(Celebration of Life. Words from the Rabbi, chants, Letters from President Obama and First Lady, Nancy Reagan, Eulogy by Former President Bill Clinton, words from Terre Blair ) – Duration: 60 min
Terre Blair Hamlisch, spoke of the small domestic joy her husband took when he could get her to admit he’d been right about something.
She recalled remarks that Mr. Hamlisch had recently made about the music he had composed for a coming HBO movie about Liberace, saying that he did not think that he was irreplaceable on the project, but felt that he could bring experience and a unique voice to it.
“Well, Marvin, you were wrong,” Mrs. Hamlisch said.
“You are not replaceable,” she said, “and the world is saying it loudly now.”
His funeral was held at Congregation Emanu-El, a prominent synagogue where George Gershwin’s funeral was held in 1937
New York, August 14th, 2012.