The lights dim in a glittering ballroom. Everything is perfect; the
tables, the flowers, the chandeliers, the sparkling crystal flutes of fine Champagne,
and the people. Dressed to the nines, these people
have fabulous tans, fabulous hair; well, they're just fabulous. Each
couple has paid nearly five figures for the privilege of attending this
gala (to benefit the Democratic National Committee). There are about three hundred
A spotlight focuses on stage in front of the tuxedo-clad cadre of
musicians. Tony Bennett walks into the spotlight and breaks into song.
It's a splashy, dated ballad but very familiar; "The Windmills of Your
Mind," lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and music by Michel Legrand. The
tune made the pop charts when "adult contemporary" pop
was on its deathbead. Rock 'n Roll in many subgenres and urban R&B had
taken over. Back when this song was written, the folks in tonight's audience
were, with their finely manicured fingernails, scratching and clawing their
way up the gritty slopes toward Hollywood fame and fortune.
Bennett finishes with a flourish, on a high note, to raucous applause.
Liza Minnelli struts on next, in a fabulous Bob Mackie gown covered with
sequins. Her tune is "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?" penned by
the same lyricists and again composer Legrand. The lyrics feature such memorable
What are you doing the rest of your life;
North and south and east and west of your life...
I want to see your face in every kind of light;
In fields of green and forests of the night;
More musicians come and present their own treatments of Bergman-worded
tunes. They partnered with Legrand for many of these compositions, but the
famous lyricists have worked with many others of note including Burt
Bacharach, Quincy Jones, Marvin Hamlisch, Lew Spence, John Williams
and Sergio Mendes.
Apparently not a single soul has left the banquet early. They're here,
they're waiting. But who could possibly upstage the talent that's performed
the last eight songs? There's a pregnant pause. The spotlight goes off, and
very, very slowly fades up to bright as the final performer begins to sing
her contribution to the evening's show:
Memories, like the corners of my mind;
Misty water-colored memories,
Of the way we were.
Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind;
Smiles we gave to one another,
Of the way we were.
Oy, forgive me a moment. I'm all verklempt. It's a Barbra Streisand
moment. (Dabs tear from eye - breathes deeply). I'm okay. I'll be okay.
In Hollywood, where who you know is just about as important as what you do,
there are few more popular, powerful people than Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Married in 1958, the Bergmans spent years (writing childrens' music to pay the
bills) before scoring a major motion picture, The Right Approach. Their
major milestone was "In the Heat of the Night," sung by Ray Charles for the
movie of the same name, with music penned by Quincy Jones. Their stars were
rising fast and they churned out hit after catchy pop hit (mostly for movie
scores), including those mentioned above as well as "Always You," "America: The
Dream Goes On" (written for William Jefferson Clinton's first
inaugural ceremony), TV theme song "And Then There's Maude," "Brian's Song,"
"Call Me A Fool," "Cinnamon and Clove," "Dance With Me," "How Do You Keep The
Music Playing," "The Look of Love," "Nice 'N Easy" (Which is featured on the
Frank Sinatra Album of the same name), "Ode to Billy Joe," "Papa Can You Hear
Me?," "So Many Stars," "Summer Me Winter Me," "(Theme From) The Thomas Crown
Affair," "Tootsie," "Where Do You Start?" "You Must Believe In Spring," and
myriad more; over 500 complete tunes in all, and another hundred bits of music
for movies and special presentations, including Barbra Streisand's
record-breaking "One Voice" concert in 1986, and the tour and concert Streisand
sponsored by HBO that Streisand gave in 1994.
It Sells. So What Could Be So Bad?
Critics call some of the Bergmans' work kitsch. And certainly more than one
hotel lounge singer has leaned heavily on some of their more familiar, catchy, Muzak-esque
tunes. Singer Shirley Bassey has certainly gone over the top with some of the
earlier hits, as has Ms. Streisand. But whatever the timbre of their tune, the
Bergmans consistently produce material that is popular and works for its
purpose, whether film, television, or merely by itself.
However, the jazzier numbers in their collection are considered Standards and have been performed by literally hundreds of
stars and up-and-coming young performers. Perhaps it's the versatility of the
lyricists to work with their collaborating composers that makes them so special.
They certainly don't pigeon-hole themselves into one particular category of
music. "Nice 'N Easy" was a big hit for Sinatra and is now performed by swinging
jazz vocalists and instrumentalists with great frequency. Shirley Horn, the
last person one would think would record a Bergman tune, chose "Where Do You
Start?" and "Dance With Me" for her smash album with Johnny Mandel's Orchestra
Here's To Life, considered by many to be one of the finest jazz recordings
The Bergmans also seem to be quite popular with Barbra Streisand, who has
recorded nearly all of their songs. Particularly successful for all concerned
have been Streisand performances of the Bergmans' collaborations with composer
Michel Legrand. "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?" with its soaring, lovely
composition and emotional metaphor for love is indeed a show-stopper which is
very difficult to sing. The song has been performed on two very important,
successful albums, Tony Bennett's The Art Of Excellence and Barbra
Streisand's The Movie Album, among many others.
Powerful Forces To Reckon With
In 1985, Marilyn became the first woman to be elected to the board of ASCAP and was elected its President and Chairman of the Board in
1994. Marilyn won France's Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters Medal in
1996. Alan and Marilyn both serve on the Executive Committee of the Music Brach
of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Alan is President of the
They've earned three Oscars and been nominated for sixteen more, won two
Grammys, one ASCAP ACE award, honorary Doctorates from the Berklee College of
Music, and were inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1980 and were
given the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award from that group.
An interesting aside, they were born in the same hospital in Brooklyn, New
York, and grew up in the same neighborhood. It wasn't until years later that
they met in Los Angeles while collaborating with a composer individually. The
couple married after a three year courtship. They have a daughter, who is a
producer of independent films. In 2006 the 50th Anniversary of their
collaboration was celebrated by a star-studded cast featuring Tony Bennett, at
New York's Lincoln Center.
- Official Website: http://www.alanandmarilynbergman.com/ (Accessed July 31, 2007)
- ASCAP Website "Alan and Marilyn Bergman on Songwriting" (No Author Credited)
http://www.ascap.com/musicbiz/bergman-part1.html (Accessed July 31, 2007)
- Songwriters' Hall of Fame Website:
July 31, 2007)
- The Oscar Site: http://theoscarsite.com/whoswho5/bergman_a.htm (Accessed July 31, 2007)
- All Music Guide:
Biography by Jason Ankeny:
July 31, 2007)
- MarketWire: Press Release "Alan and Marilyn Bergman Celebrate their
50-Year Collaboration at a Sold-Out Lincoln Center Evening"
July 31, 2007)