Marilyn Bergman, Oscar-Winning Lyricist of ‘The Way We Were,’ Dies at 93

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Marilyn Bergman, winner of Oscars, Emmys and Grammys for her well-known song lyrics, has died at her Los Angeles home. Bergman’s work includes collaborating with her husband Alan Bergman on the lyrics to “The Way We Were” and “Windmills of Your Mind.” She was 93.

The cause of death was respiratory failure not related to COVID-19.

Bergman served as the first woman president and chairman of the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), from 1994 to 2009. She and her husband (and writing partner) Alan Bergman wrote lyrics to many popular film and TV songs of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The Bergmans were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1980.

ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams paid tribute to Bergman in a 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.”

Together, the Bergmans were 16-time Oscar nominees and won three Academy Awards (“Way We Were,” “Windmills” and the song score for “Yentl”). The Bergmans also collaborated with composers Michel Legrand (their co-writer on “Windmills,” “Yentl” and such other songs as “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and Marvin Hamlisch (“The Way We Were”).

Barbra Streisand, who met the the Bergmans when she was an 18-year-old opening act for comedian Phyllis Diller, called them favorite songwriters and went on to perform more than 50 songs with lyrics penned by them, including “The Way We Were,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and the songs in Streisand’s film, “Yentl.”

Bergman’s work included “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” and “Yellow Bird,” as well theme songs for television and songs for revues, night clubs and movies. Other compositions include “Cheatin’ Billy,” “Don’t Know Where I’m Goin’,” “I’ve Never Left Your Arms,” “Never Be Afraid,” “Outta My Mind,” “The Right Approach,” “Marriage-Go-Round,” “Sentimental Baby,” “Sleep Warm,” “Sogni D’Oro,” “That Face,” “Baby, the Ball Is Over,” “Ol’ MacDonald,” “If I Were in Love” and “That’s Him Over There.”

The Bergmans also wrote the words to the hummable theme songs for the hit sitcoms “Maude,” “Alice” and “Good Times,” as well as the themes for the comedy series “Brooklyn Bridge” and the drama series “In the Heat of the Night.”

As reported in the New York Times, when asked in 2010 on the television program “CBS News Sunday Morning” about how she and Bergman managed to work together while staying married, she said: “The way porcupines make love. Carefully.”

Bergman is survived by her husband, who is 96, daughter Julie Bergman and a granddaughter.

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