Marvin Hamlisch and Barbra Streisand on New Year's Eve 1993. (Firooz Zahedi )
Barbra Streisand had written herself a note to call her good friend Marvin Hamlisch Monday evening.
The composer-conductor was always difficult to reach, she recalled in an interview Friday afternoon. So after Streisand had stopped working around 11 p.m. Monday she called her friends, the lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman, to find out where Hamlisch was at the moment.
The Bergmans told her they hadn’t been able to reach Hamlisch for a few days, so she put the call on hold.
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The next morning Streisand was devastated to hear that Hamlisch had died at 68 after a short illness. Realizing he had died around the same time she was trying to reach him, she said she thought "Oh, God.”
Streisand had much she wanted to tell Hamlisch, whom she met when he was a rehearsal pianist on her 1964 Broadway breakout hit “Funny Girl,” and who had won two Oscars for composing the score and writing the title tune, with the Bergmans, to Streisand’s 1973 film, “The Way We Were.”
“I wanted to tell him that I decided to sing ‘The Way We Were’ for a concert in Brooklyn [in October] for my new tour. And I was going back to his arrangement from the movie. I had never done that. I am always looking for new ways to do songs to make them fresh for me.”
She also wanted to tell him how thrilled she was with “Any Moment Now,” a song Hamlisch had written with Carolyn Leigh for an early version of the 1986 musical, “Smile.” A friend of Streisand’s had recently sent her the tune.
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“I was going to tell him that I am doing it on my next album -- a duets album that won’t be released for a while. I heard it and said this is going to be a great duet with somebody from the theater -- it’s brilliant.”
Streisand is dedicating her latest CD, "Release Me," to Hamlisch. The CD is set for a September release and will feature a photo of the two that was shot New Year’s Eve 1993.
Streisand said that she and Hamlisch were like two peas in a pod from the moment they met nearly 50 years ago.
“When I was with Marvin it felt like I was home,” she said. “We just hit it off and we became friends. We were so alike -- a passion for work and music.”
He was a man who loved food, laughter and the New York Yankees, she recalled. On their concert tours, she said, “Marvin had this little gizmo that he showed me that gave him the most recent baseball scores.”
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Hamlisch also eased Streisand's nerves about returning to the concert stage in 1993 after 27 years. “I had sung for fundraisers,” she said. “When I decided to go back, it had to be with Marvin. Marvin got me through all of that fear.”
Streisand, the producer-writer-director, hired Hamlisch to score her 1996 film, “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” And he performed at her wedding to actor James Brolin in her Malibu home in 1998.
“The wedding was put together in 2 1/2 weeks,” she said. “He was rehearsing at a nearby school and we were talking on the phone because I was doing preparations for the wedding.”
She last saw Hamlisch in November at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Gala.
“I hadn’t seen him in a while,” she said. “I was worried about him because he didn’t look well. He seemed very tired. I sat him down next to me.”
Streisand, who opens a concert tour in October at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, is planning a tribute to Hamlisch for the concert.
“He was the kindest, most thoughtful, generous human being,” she said.
And like any good friend, she said, “he never forgot my birthday.”
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