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 theaters in New York will be dimmed in his memory today at 2 p.m. Hawaii time.