web analytics
May 27, 2015 / 9 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

My Interview with Marvin Hamlisch

Marvin Hamlisch, composer of "A Chorus Line," "The Way We Were" and "The Sting," passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 68, August 6. 2012.

Marvin Hamlisch, composer of "A Chorus Line," "The Way We Were" and "The Sting," passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 68, August 6. 2012.
Photo Credit: Julius Umali

As the lights dimmed on Broadway for 60 seconds last night in memory of Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, who died on Monday, I took a moment to reflect on the moment in 1976 when I interviewed Hamlisch – only 31 years old, but already famous – for The Jewish Press. At the time I was an 18-year-old Brooklyn College student unused to celebrity; Hamlisch, just 13 years my senior, had by then tucked away Oscars for his scores for The Sting and The Way We Were, not to mention a Golden Globe and a Tony for composing the songs in the Broadway musical A Chorus Line.

Our interview, though, was less about music than about the Jewishness which was, he said, the cornerstone of his life. To my surprise, he spoke a good deal about his Jewish identity. And other things, too: his religious faith; his feelings about marriage (he was still single at the time); his juggling of a very busy schedule to be home for Passover; and his deep feelings about Jewish music.

“I can empathize with the sadness in Jewish music…the listlessness that is familiar to every European Jew,” he told me. “I’m a little more sentimental than Americans because I’ve grown up on the melancholy of European music.”

While not a shomer Shabbos, Hamlisch had an unflagging belief in G-d. “When I win my awards, my first response is thank G-d…I know that He is responsible for leading me down the path of success.” He added, “There is a higher being who controls the world and I try to express my beliefs by going to shul on Shabbos whenever possible.”

His open religious sensibility was matched by a proud Jewishness. “I have never hid it from anyone,” he said. “In fact, I’ve candidly announced it on nation-wide television. People…never discouraged me from proclaiming my Jewish identity to them.”

Committed to Zionism as well, Hamlisch once raised $120,000 for Israeli bonds in a single evening.

When he described his inspiration to compose, I sensed a connection – if perhaps an indirect one – to the dynamics of ancient Jewish tradition.

“A composer is a mirror of the society,” Hamlisch said, “because he tries to get a feeling of the times and relate [to] it musically….I prefer…to write when I’m with the masses and a part of them,” he said – for instance, on New York buses or subways during rush hours. “This is the only way to compose, for it enables me to relate to what’s in everyone else’s mind.” In response, I suggested that music emanating from a connection “with the masses” dated back to Moshe: after all, the words “az yashir Moshe u’bnai yisroel” imply that Moshe could sing only when he was one with his people. Hamlisch didn’t disagree.

At one point, I asked him what he wanted from a wife. He laughed. “If I were ever to get married under the wildest conditions, with a Towering Inferno,” he said, referring to a film popular at the time, “I would marry a girl in my mother’s image.” His mother, Lilly, had in fact come by during the interview, to – what else? – cook some food for her son. She heard his answer and chuckled.

Later, Hamlisch sat down at the piano and played some original variations on “Hava Nagilah,” which he described as “a little rock, a little Jewish.” It was a playful performance I don’t think he ever repeated publicly; that he tossed off these impromptu variations just for me, a teenaged interviewer, a fellow Jew, is something I’ll never forget.

Hamlisch was a virtuoso performer and a prize-winning composer. But at his death he left behind another gift: a proud Jew, he was a source of pride to all Jews, just as he was the pride of the music, theater and movie worlds for nearly five decades. I’m very glad I met him.

About the Author: Amy Neustein is co-author of From Madness to Mutiny: Why Mothers Are Running from the Family Courts – And What Can Be Done about It (Northeastern University Press, 2005/2006); editor, Tempest in the Temple: Jewish Communities & Child Sex Scandals (Brandeis University Press, 2009); editor, Advances in Speech Recognition: Mobile Environments, Call Centers and Clinics (Springer, 2010); editor, Forensic Speaker Recognition: Law Enforcement and Counter-Terrorism (Springer, 2011)


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “My Interview with Marvin Hamlisch”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization President Mohammad Sarafraz.
US Claims ‘No More Extensions’ on Nuclear Talks with Iran
Latest Indepth Stories
Rabbi Lichtenstein (z"l).

On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor

Abbas and Obama

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process

Ronal Shoval Voting

Mr. Obama, Israeli voters have democratically chosen to apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea&Samaria

Ayelet Shaked

Netanyahu so disdains Shaked’s appointment he completely ignored her after the swearing-in ceremony

Ronen Shamir’s just the latest tenured Leftist convicted of sexual misconduct with his own student

NY Times precious front page ink is only reserved for portrayals of Israel as the aggressor.

Although I loved law school, I doubted myself: Who would come to me, a chassidish woman lawyer?

American Jews who go gaga for Obama are first and foremost “Liberals of the Mosaic Persuasion”

“Illinois is the first state to take concrete, legally binding action against the BDS campaign”

Many books have supported the preferability- not to be confused with desirability- of the status quo

Consider the Pope’s desperation, reading daily reports of the slaughter of Christians by Muslims

The contrast between a Dem pretending to love Israel & a Dem who truly loves Israel is CRYSTAL CLEAR

Pentecost, derived from the Greek word for 50, is celebrated 50 days after Easter.

U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.

We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.

During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai

More Articles from Amy Neustein
Marvin Hamlisch, composer of "A Chorus Line," "The Way We Were" and "The Sting," passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 68, August 6. 2012.

As the lights dimmed on Broadway for 60 seconds last night in memory of Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, who died on Monday, I took a moment to reflect on the moment in 1976 when I interviewed Hamlisch.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/my-interview-with-marvin-hamlisch/2012/08/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: