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Marvin Hamlisch

posted Aug 26, 2012, 7:53 AM by Steven Vaughan
Last week, I had the great honor of being selected to sing for the funeral of Marvin Hamlisch.  And while the media has covered the wide swath of performers, celebrities and civic leaders who attended and spoke, I wanted to share some other information we learned.

It was the largest service to take place at Congregation Emanu-El since George Gershwin’s in 1937, even larger than Irving Berlin’s or Richard Rodgers’, who were also buried from this Manhattan synagogue. 

Realizing he was dying, Marvin planned his own service, and requested only three songs be sung, The Way We Were, What I Did for Love, and At the Ballet, which he wanted last.  Of everything he wrote it’s the song he was most proud of, though the song he most identified with was If He Really Knew Me from They’re Playing Our Song, which contains the line “Does the man make the music, or does the music make the man?”

When asked how big a choir he wanted for his funeral, he jokingly responded “six hundred”.  So when the music director was overwhelmed with people offering to sing, it was decided to actually have a chorus of six hundred voices. 

In addition to receiving a Pulitzer Prize for A Chorus Line, he was one of only eleven EGOTs – those who have been awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.  Yet rather than speaking of his genius, it was his generosity that everyone recalled, as well as his humility and sense of humor.  His widow, Terre, shared the philosophy he took toward his talent, a quote by H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama, which hung opposite Marvin’s desk so he could read it everyday:

“We are visitors on this planet.  We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most.
During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives.
If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”

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