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Marilyn Bergman: Oscar-winning lyricist dies at 93

Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Image source, Getty Images

Marilyn Bergman, the Oscar winning lyricist who collaborated with her husband Alan on The Way We Were and hundreds more songs, has died aged 93.

The song-writing duo worked together on numerous shows for stage and screen and were known as ballad specialists.

They wrote hits for Hollywood stars including Barbra Streisand, Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra.


She died on Saturday at her Los Angeles home with Alan and her daughter by her side, her agent said.

Bergman’s cause of death has been reported as respiratory failure, and is not Covid related. She is survived by her husband, 96.

The Bergmans were nominated for 16 Academy Award nominations, winning three times – for The Way We Were from the 1973 Barbra Streisand film of that name, Windmills of Your Mind from The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968 and for their score for Streisand’s Yentl in 1983.

They also won several Grammy and Emmy awards, and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980.

Bergman was a trailblazer for women in the industry and in 1985 was the first woman to be elected president and chairman of the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Among those paying tribute was US producer Quincy Jones, who called her death “crushing”.

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Born in Brooklyn, New York City on 10 November 1928 in the same hospital as her husband, Bergman studied music from a young age.

While at New York’s High School of Music & Art, she often played piano for lyricist Bob Russell, who encouraged her to consider becoming a professional songwriter.

But her entry into writing lyrics was also a painful one – while in college, Bergman fell down a flight of stairs and broke both of her shoulders. Unable to write or play piano, she started speaking song lyrics into a tape recorder.

Even though she and Alan grew up living close to each other, they did not meet until they both moved to Los Angeles. For Bergman, that was in the mid-1950s, and she started writing lyrics for composer Lew Spence, with whom Alan was also working with.

Marilyn and Alan wed two years later in 1958. They had one daughter together, Julie Bergman Sender, who is a film producer.


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