Marilyn Bergman, who co-wrote Barbra Streisand’s classic 1973 song, “The Way We Were,” and won three Academy Awards in a career spanning more than five decades, has died at her home in Los Angeles at age 93.
The cause of death was respiratory failure but was not related to the coronavirus, according to multiple media reports. She died Saturday with her husband of 63 years and songwriting partner Alan Bergman and their daughter Julie Bergman Sender at her side, her agent Jason Lee told reporters.
In addition to their Oscars, the Bergmans won four Emmys and a Grammy over their long career, which included writing songs for such luminaries as Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire.
“Marilyn and Alan Bergman were like family, as well as brilliant lyricists,” Streisand tweeted Saturday. “We met over 60 years ago backstage at a little night club, and never stopped loving each other and working together. Their songs are timeless, and so is our love. May she rest in peace. With love, Barbra.”
Their three Academy Awards were for “The Way We Were” — which anchored the film of the same name starring Streisand and Robert Redford — “The Windmills of Your Mind” from the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair” and the score for 1983’s “Yentl,” another Streisand project.
She and her husband were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980.
In 1984, Marilyn was one of 11 women who founded the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, which raised millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.
In 1985, she became the first woman elected president and chairman of the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
“There was only one Marilyn Bergman,” legendary TV producer Norman Lear tweeted. “No one knew that more than her husband and partner in music, Alan. To those of us who loved the Bergman’s lyrics, Marilyn takes a bit of our hearts and souls with her today.”
Bergman co-wrote the theme’s for Lear’s TV shows “Maude” and “Good Times.”
Another industry giant, record producer Quincy Jones, also paid tribute.
“My dear, dear, beautiful Marilyn Bergman, to lose you this morning, so close to our brother Sidney, is just crushing me,” Jones tweeted. “You, along with your beloved Alan, were the epitome of Nadia Boulanger’s belief that `an artist can never be more or less than they are as a human being. The secret weapon to your songwriting — the unconditional love in your heart for your family, friends, and community. Your lyrics an extension of your being.
“… RIP my sweet `Owl. Your songs will sing in our hearts forever. xoxo Q.”
Bergman co-wrote the theme to the 1967 film “In the Heat of the Night,” which starred Sidney Poitier, who died Thursday, and was sung by Ray Charles.
Another great songwriter, ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams, issued the following statement:
“It is with deep sadness that I personally, and all of ASCAP, mourn the passing of Marilyn Bergman — one of the greatest lyricists who ever lived and truly ASCAP royalty. She was a brilliant songwriter who together with her husband, Alan Bergman, gave us some of the most beautiful and enduring lyrics of all time. She was a tireless and fierce advocate for music creators not only during her term as president and chairman of ASCAP but throughout her life. Our community will miss her intelligence, her wit and her wisdom. Alan — we mourn with you.”
The Bergmans married in 1958 and launched one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in popular music. Their wide-ranging work included the Streisand-Neil Diamond duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” Sinatra’s “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” “How Do You Keep the Music Playing? from the 1982 film “Best Friends and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” from the 1969 film “The Happy Ending.”