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Marvin Hamlisch PBS docu shows his immense talent and humanity

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When Marvin Hamlisch died unexpectedly last year at 68, he left unanswered how he amassed such an extraordinary body of work.

“The big question is, ‘How did Marvin become Marvin?’” wondered Maury Yeston, himself a Tony Award-winning composer for Nine and Titanic, as he stood on the red carpet for a VIP screening/reception for the new American Masters documentary Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love at New York’s Paley Center for Media.

“This was a polymath,” said Yeston of Hamlisch, attempting to answer his own question. “Broadway theater, pop music, Top 40, film, classical, doo-wop, Elvis, The Beatles. He had a command of all of it—like someone who can speak 30 languages. He won the Grammy, Tony, Emmy, Oscar, Golden Globe and Pulitzer, and on top of that he was an unbelievable live performer.”

Indeed, Hamlisch was “the quintessential and first truly post-World War II composer,” said Yeston. For Melissa Manchester, he was also “the most joyful person, and so supportive in whatever you were doing.”

He even supported Manchester’s mom with a $500 check “on the spot” after sampling her barbecue chicken at a party.

“At that same party, he came up with five different versions of a song I wrote, ‘Come In From The Rain,’” related Manchester. “It was just unbelievable.”

Of the documentary, she enthused: “So beautiful! So beautiful! It’s really Marvin telling his story, and we’re lucky it has so many great anecdotes.”

Manchester shared another one.

“He gave me a gift—to record ‘Through The Eyes Of Love,’ which he wrote with Carol Bayer Sager. It was nominated for an Oscar [it was in Ice Castles] and lost to ‘Theme From Shaft’—which he never failed to remind me!”

It was just another illustration of Hamlisch’s “warmth, humanity and generosity,” as Yeston observed. “Marvin the man, the heart,” he said. “He’s gone, but he’ll live forever because of his music.”

Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love premieres nationally Dec. 27, on PBS, and will be available on DVD on Jan. 14, 2014 via PBS Distribution.

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