Marvin Hamlisch

By Robert Simonson 07 Aug 2012

Marvin Hamlisch, who achieved theatre immortality as the composer of the iconic musical A Chorus Line, died Aug. 7 following a brief illness. He was 68.

Mr. Hamlisch’s other theatre works included the musicals They’re Playing Our Song, Jean Seberg, Smile, The Goodbye Girl and Sweet Smell of Success. He also wrote songs for Nora Ephron‘s playImaginary Friends. His latest show, The Nutty Professor, recently opened in Tennessee. But it was with the groundbreaking A Chorus Line—which told of the frustrations and worries of a group of anonymous dancers trying out for a Broadway musical—that he made his mark as a theatre figure.

He was already famous as an all-around wunderkind when he began work onA Chorus Line. A child prodigy, he was accepted into Juilliard at the age of six—the youngest child ever to be welcomed by the august Manhattan institution. His first Broadway job was as rehearsal pianist for Funny Girlstarring Barbra Streisand—a professional relationship that would last his entire life. Producer Sam Spiegel hired him to play piano at his parties, where he made connections, leading to his writing his first film score, for “The Swimmer” starring Burt Lancaster. Many more film scores followed.

It seemed his fate to brush up against show-business legends while on his way up the ladder. He wrote songs for Liza Minnelli, worked with Judy Garland and was accompanist and straight man for Groucho Marx during a 1974-75 tour.

“The Entertainer”

Professional acknowledgment came easy in his early years. Before he was 30, he had received three Oscars, for his score and song to “The Way We Were” and his adaptations of Scott Joplin ragtime tunes in “The Sting,” which helped usher in a Joplin revival. And that was all in 1973. He began to be a regular guest on talk shows and was called “the best-known movie composer since Henry Mancini.”

Mr. Hamlisch is one of only 11 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. On top of this, he also won the Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line.Aside from director-choreographer Michael Bennett, Mr. Hamlisch was by far the most accomplished and famous artist invited to participate in the creation of A Chorus Line. The unorthodox show—a prime example of what came to be known as the “concept musical”—derived from 30 hours of taped confessions of a group of theatre gypsies and chorines. From these recordings, Bennett shaped a show about the strivings, hopes, dreams and fears of the unsung and uncelebrated members of the theatre community. The show was trail-blazing in eschewing a linear plot, dealing with contemporary issues such as homosexuality and abortion in frank terms, and lacking a single headlining star.

“One” from “Chorus Line”

Hamlisch was drafted by Bennett and paired with the fussy, eccentric lyricist Ed Kleban, a former executive at Columbia Records with no previous theatre credits. It was an odd couple pairing if there ever was one, but it produced a timeless result. The score was episodic, with each song telling the life story of one or more characters. The show included two modern classics: the hopeful “What I Did for Love,” which Kleban and Mr. Hamlisch reportedly wrote under protest, as they considered it a commercial “sell-out” number; and “One,” the show’s finale. It’s throbbing, hop-step opening vamp is one of the best known theatre anthems in musical history, and is known to millions.

“The Way We Were”

Marvin Hamlisch was born June 2, 1944, into a musical family. His father Max Hamlisch was an accordionist and band leader. He began playing piano when he was five. “I started studying music at the age of five and a half,” he remembered later. “My older sister was taking piano lessons. When her teacher left our apartment, I would get up on the piano bench and start picking out the notes that were part of my sister’s lessons.” His song “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” written while he was a teenager, was a hit for Lesley Gore in 1963.

He followed up A Chorus Line with another hit, though one of a far smaller scale. They’re Playing Our Song had lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and a book by Neil Simon. The two-character musical was based on the real-life relationship between Hamlisch and Sager, and follows the two mismatched songwriters—he is focused and all business, she is flightily and distracted—as they go through a series of bumps in forging both a professional and romantic relationship. After a tryout in Los Angeles, it ran for two-and-a-half years on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical.


“Tits and Ass” Chorus Line

Mr. Hamlisch’s untrammeled string of successes during the 1970s were such that he had a hard time following them up. The next 30 years of his career were something of an anti-climax. That A Chorus Line proved one of the greatest popular successes of all time, and was accorded the title of “genius work” by critics, meant no other show he composed could quite measure up.Jean Seberg, a musical about the life of the actress, failed in London and never came to New York. The Broadway runs of Smile (1986) and The Goodbye Girl (1993) were both underwhelming. Sweet Smell of Success(2002), based on the classic 1950s film about Broadway’s seamy underbelly, ran only two months.

His many film scores included “Ordinary People,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “Three Men and a Baby,” “Ice Castles,” “Take the Money and Run” and “The Informant!” He co-wrote the song “Nobody Does It Better” for the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

In recent years, he composed some classical works, and frequently conducted major symphony orchestras.

Other Sources: YouTube,

So Long Margret Whiting

I first met Margaret Whiting in 1981 while I was performing at Ted Hook’s, Backstage Restaurant on West 45th Street and 8th Ave. in New York City. It was a rainy night and Margaret had been out front of the restaurant trying to hail a cab. After having no success she came back in to the club and asked Ted if he wouldn’t mind calling a taxi for her. She was soaking wet, her hair, without style from the weather,  slicked back. After Ted made the call, Margaret said she was going to wait for the taxi under the awning outside. As soon as she left, I turned to Ted and said, “Who was that?” Ted replied, “Who is that? That’s only one of the most famous singers in the world, Margaret Whiting!” Up until that point, the only thing I knew about Margaret was her version of the song, “Moonlight in Vermont.” Maggie was a regular at Backstage, and over the course of the next two years, I got to see her and spend a lot of time with both she and Jack Wrangler. As anyone performing around New York City could tell you, Margaret was most generous, and accessible to those of us first starting out. She was actively performing all over the city and all around the country yet she always found the time to attend friend’s performances, me included. Even years later, once I had relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, Margaret made of point of showing up to hear me at the Cirque Room in the Fairmont Hotel. I recall reading an article once from columnist, Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle. He said he was on a cable car one day and Margaret Whiting happened to get on a few stops later. At one point, the cable car operator rang the familiar cable car bell and spontaneously, Maggie got up and sang the “Trolley Song” from start to finish, delighting everyone who was along for the ride. Herb Caen said it was one of his most favorite moments. If I had been there, it surly would have been one of mine too.

Recently I was on a trip to New York to see my family and catch a few shows. As I was walking down West 57th Street, I mentioned to a friend that Margaret Whiting lives just up the block. I said I had been meaning to send her a note. He then told me that he was pretty sure he read that she had passed away just a couple of weeks before. Sure enough when I checked, I read the news. There will never be another Margaret Whiting. She had a unique, lovely style that only comes along once in a lifetime. There are a lot of terrific singers out there, but only one Margaret Whiting. I hope where ever she is, that along with Jack, there is a smooth sounding baby grand piano and microphone…..

Following is an obituary taken from I’ve also included a few photos and some vocal highlights of Margaret’s career.

Paul Roth

Sources: youtube, wikipedia,

With Johnny Mercer, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

Her signature song, “It Might As Well Be Spring” from the musical, State Fair

“Taking My Turn”


Margaret Whiting, the sweet-voiced singer who sold millions of records in the 1940s and ’50s with sentimental ballads such as “Moonlight in Vermont” and “It Might as Well Be Spring,” has died at age 86.

She died Monday at the Lillian Booth Actors’ Home in Englewood, N.J., home administrator Jordan Strohl said. She had lived in New York City for many years before moving to the home in March.

Whiting grew up with the music business. She was the daughter of Richard Whiting, a prolific composer of such hits as “My Ideal,” ”Sleepy Time Gal” and “Beyond the Blue Horizon.” Her family’s home in the posh Bel-Air community in Los Angeles was a gathering place for such songwriters as George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

It was Mercer, her father’s lyricist and close friend, who inspired the young Whiting to take years of vocal training when he told her following an early audition, “G row up and learn to sing.”

After Whiting’s father died in 1938, Mercer remained close to the family. When he became a founding partner in Capitol Records in 1942, the 18-year-old Whiting was the first singer he put under contract.

Fifty-five years later, Whiting and her fourth husband, Jack Wrangler, honored Mercer with a musical tribute called “Dream,” which ran for 133 performances on Broadway.

It was Mercer who had coached the teenage Whiting through her first recording, of her father’s “My Ideal,” and although Maurice Chevalier and Frank Sinatra had already recorded the tune, her version sold well.

She followed it with a remarkable procession of million sellers: “That Old Black Magic,” ”It Might as Well Be Spring,” ”Come Rain or Come Shine” and her biggest seller and signature song, “Moonlight in Vermont.”

She was asked in 2001 what separated a good singer from a great one.

“Being a great actress, being very dramatic,” she replied. “S ome people sing beautiful songs, but they don’t put all the meaning into them, and that’s the important thing. To read a lyric, to make the words come alive, that’s the secret.”

Like most recording stars of the 1940s and early ’50s, her career was eclipsed by the rock ‘n’ roll revolution, although she continued to find work in such Broadway productions as “Pal Joey,” ”Gypsy” and “Call Me Madam.”

She also toured regularly with the big bands of Freddy Martin, Frankie Carle and Bob Crosby and sang in cabarets, in auditoriums and with the St. Louis Symphony. With Rosemary Clooney, Helen O’Connell and Rose Marie, she crossed the country in a revue called “4 Girls 4.”

In all, she recorded more than 500 songs during her career and was one of the first mainstream artists to delve into Nashville, Tenn., combining with country star Jimmy Wakely on the hit “Slippin’ Around.” She also recorded rock, novelty and sacred songs.

Whiting, born in Detroit on July 22, 1 924, moved with her family to Los Angeles after musicals became the rage and her father headed west to write for them. He turned out songs for Chevalier and Bing Crosby while at Paramount and composed “Hooray for Hollywood” and “Too Marvelous for Words” for Warner Bros.

Whiting recalled in 2000 how she came home from school with an all-day lollipop while her father was trying to write a song for a Shirley Temple movie. At first he was annoyed by the sticky kisses, but then inspiration struck.

He called lyricist Sidney Clare and said, “How about ‘The Good Ship Lollipop’ for Shirley?”

Whiting’s romance with Wrangler turned heads in the 1970s: He was an openly gay porn actor 22 years her junior. But he told the Chicago Tribune they “see things the same way, comically, professionally and romantically.” He turned his attention to theater and cabaret, crafting Whiting’s cabaret acts and several shows. Their marriage lasted until his death in 2009.

“One For My Baby…..”

Marni Nixon

Marni Nixon (born February 22, 1930) is an American soprano renowned for being a playback singer for featured actresses in well known movie musicals. This has earned her the sobriquet “The Ghostess with the Mostess”, and also “The Voice of Hollywood”.[1] She has also spent much of her career performing in concerts with major symphony orchestras around the world and in operas and musicals throughout the United States.

Marni Nixon behind the voice of Natalie Wood in “West Side Story.”

From “Mary Poppins”

Born Margaret McEathron in Altadena, California, Nixon began singing at an early age in choruses. At the age of 14, she became part of the newly formed Los Angeles Concert Youth Chorus – whose other members included a 13-year-old Marilyn Horne and a 19-year-old Paul Salamunovich, among many others – under famed conductor Roger Wagner; this choir evolved into the Roger Wagner Chorale in 1948, and later into the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 1964.

She went on to study singing and opera with Carl Ebert, Jan Popper, Boris Goldovsky and Sarah Caldwell. She embarked on a varied career, involving film and musical comedy as well as opera and concerts. She appeared extensively on American television, dubbed the singing voices of film actresses in The King and I, West Side Story and My Fair Lady, and acted in several commercial stage ventures. Her light, flexible, wide-ranging soprano and uncanny accuracy and musicianship have made her valuable in more classical ventures, and have contributed to her success in works by Anton Webern, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, Paul Hindemith and Alexander Goehr, many of which she has recorded.

Marni Nixon Interview

Singing for Margaret O’Brien in 1949

Nixon’s opera repertory includes Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro,

both Blonde and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Violetta in La traviata, the title role in La Périchole and Philine in Mignon. Her opera credits include performances at Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Tanglewood Festival among others. In addition to giving recitals, she appeared with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra among others. She taught at the California Institute of Arts from 1969–1971 and joined the faculty of the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, in 1980 where she taught for many years.[2]

On “To Tell The Truth”

“Hello Young Lovers” from “The King and I”

“Show Me” from “My Fair Lady”

Career highlights

Nixon’s dubbing career includes:[3]

Except for Dementia, in which she received on-screen credit as “Featured Voice”, the credits for her many dubbing roles did not appear on the titles of any of the films, and Nixon did not begin to be fully credited or widely acknowledged until the movies’ subsequent release on VHS decades later.

The Sound of Music

Nixon appeared on screen singing for herself as Sister Sophia in the film The Sound of Music, cast in the role by director Robert Wise. In the DVD commentary to the film, he comments that audiences were finally able to see the woman whose voice they knew so well.

When Hollywood musicals gave her less work, she started to perform on stage, as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she hosted a children’s television show in Seattle on KOMO-TV channel 4 called Boomerang. In 2001, she replaced Joan Roberts as Heidi Schiller in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies. In 2003, she returned to Broadway as a replacement in role of Guido’s mother in the revival of Nine.

In the 1998 Disney film Mulan, Nixon sang the role of Grandmother Fa.

In March 2007 she was involved in a concert version of My Fair Lady, in which she performed the non-singing role of Mrs. Higgins, Professor Higgins’s mother.

On June 18, 2007, Marni joined a group of volunteers who were inspired by the documentary film “Tocar y Luchar.”[1] They are trying to bring more music education to all children.[2]

Nixon performed on the U.S. National Tour of Cameron Mackintosh‘s U.K. revival of My Fair Lady through July 2008, replacing Sally Ann Howes in the role of Mrs. Higgins.

Under her own name, she has also recorded songs by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Arnold Schönberg, Charles Ives, and Anton Webern.

One of her three husbands, Ernest Gold, composed the theme song to the movie Exodus. They had three children together, one of whom is the singer and songwriter Andrew Gold (“Lonely Boy” and “Thank You For Being a Friend”).

On October 27, 2008, Marni Nixon was presented with the Singer Symposium’s Distinguished Artist Award in New York City.

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube,,

Quick Bio Facts:

Marni Nixon

Marni NixonAKA Margaret Nixon McEathron

Born: 22-Feb1930
Birthplace: Altadena, CA

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Voice of Hollywood

Husband: Ernest Gold (film composer, m. 1950, div. 1969, one son, two daughters)
Son: Andrew Gold (singer/songwriter, b. 2-Aug-1951)
Daughter: Martha Carr (b. 1954)
Daughter: Melanie Gold (b. 1962)
Husband: Lajos Frederick Fenster (m. 23-Jul-1971, div. 31-Jul-1975)
Husband: Albert Block (m. 1983)

Mulan (5-Jun-1998)
I Think I Do (20-Jun-1997)
The Sound of Music (2-Mar-1965)
Mary Poppins (27-Aug-1964)

Martha Tilton

Martha Tilton (November 14, 1915, Corpus Christi, Texas -December 8, 2006, Brentwood, California) was an American popular singer, best-known for her 1939 recording of “And the Angels Sing” with Benny Goodman. She was sometimes introduced as The Liltin’ Miss Tilton.

“I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart”

“Bob White”

Tilton and her family lived in Texas and Kansas, relocating to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. While attending Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, she was singing on a small radio station when she was heard by an agent who signed her and began booking her with larger stations. She then dropped out of school in the 11th grade to join Hal Grayson’s band.

After singing with the quartet, Three Hits and a Miss, she joined the Myer Alexander chorus on Benny Goodman’s radio show, Camel Caravan. Goodman hired Tilton as a vocalist with his band in August 1937. She was with Goodman in January 1938, when the band performed the first jazz performance at Carnegie Hall. She continued to appear as Goodman’s star vocalist through the end of 1939.

1939 “And The Angels Sing”

“Paper Moon”

Tilton had a major success from 1942 to 1949 as one of the first artists to record for Capitol Records. Her first recording for Capitol was “Moon Dreams”, Capitol 138, with Orchestra and The Mellowaires, composed by Johnny Mercer and Glenn Miller pianist Chummy MacGregor in 1942. “Moon Dreams” would be recorded by Glenn Miller in 1944 and by Miles Davis in 1950. Among her biggest hits as a solo artist were “I’ll Walk Alone,” a wartime ballad which rose to #4 on the charts in 1944; “I Should Care” and “A Stranger in Town,” which both peaked at #10 in 1945; and three in 1947: “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” from Finian’s Rainbow, which climbed to #8; “That’s My Desire“, which hit #10; and “I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder”, which reached #9.

1941 Lock Lomond”

“If I Had You”

After she left Capitol, Tilton recorded for other labels, including Coral and Tops. Among her later albums was We Sing the Old Songs (1957, Tops), a mix of older songs and recent standards with baritone Curt Massey, who later became well-known as the composer (with Paul Henning) and singer of the theme song for the CBS-TV series Petticoat Junction.

Massey and Tilton starred in Alka-Seltzer Time, a 15-minute radio series broadcast weekdays on both CBS and Mutual. Sponsored by Alka-Seltzer, this show began in 1949 as Curt Massey Time (sometimes advertised as Curt Massey Time with Martha Tilton) with a title change to highlight the sponsor’s product by 1952.

By 1953, the series was heard simultaneously on Mutual (at noon) and later that same day on CBS (at 5:45pm). Ads described the show as “informal song sessions” by vocalists Massey and Tilton, who was often billed as “The liltin’ Martha Tilton.” The two Texas-born singers performed with Country Washburne and His Orchestra, featuring Charles LaVere on piano. The series ended November 6, 1953.

“A Little Jive Is Good For You” 1941

“These Foolish Things”

However, Massey and Tilton continued to appear together during the late 1950s on such shows as Guest Star and Stars for Defense. They also teamed to record an album, We Sing the Old Songs (1957). Tilton and Massey also co-hosted a daily half-hour TV show in Los Angeles for approximately seven years.

Her movies include Sunny (1941), Swing Hostess (1944), Crime, Inc. (1945), and The Benny Goodman Story (1956). Her last film appearance was as the band vocalist in the TV movie Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975). Tilton’s singing voice was used for other actresses including Barbara Stanwyck, Martha O’Driscoll, and Anne Gwynne. [2] She also appeared in several Soundies musical films of the 1940s.

Her sister, Liz Tilton, also seen in Soundies, sang with Ken Baker (mid-1930s), Buddy Rogers, Bob Crosby (1941), and Jan Garber (1942).

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube,