Marilyn Bergman, Oscar-winning co-lyricist of ‘The Way We Were,’ dead at 93

Marilyn Bergman, an award-winning songwriter who teamed with her husband to write lyrics to hits like “The Way We Were,” “The Windmills of Your Mind” and “In the Heat of the Night,” died Saturday. She was 93.

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Bergman died at her Los Angeles home, family representative Ken Sunshine told The Hollywood Reporter. The cause of death was respiratory failure and was non-COVID-19 related, Sunshine said.

Bergman and her husband, Alan Bergman, 96, won three Academy Awards, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The couple was nominated for an Oscar 16 times and won their first statuette in 1968 for “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which was in the film, “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

In 1973, the Bergmans took their second Oscar for “The Way We Were.” In 1985, they won their third and final Academy Award for the entire song score for “Yentl.”

The Bergmans collaborated with composers Michel Legrand (their co-writer on “Windmills,” “Yentl” and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”) and Marvin Hamlisch (“The Way We Were”), Variety reported.

“The Way We Were” album of the movie’s score won the Bergmans their only Grammy Award, The New York Times reported.

They also collaborated with Neil Diamond (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”), Quincy Jones (“The World Goes On”) and Sergio Mendes (”Look Around”), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“We’ve had enough experience to know that a compromise is going to be worked out,” Marilyn Bergman said in a 1980 interview with People. “If one of us feels strongly about something, we’ll let it go for the moment, come back to it the next day and look for a third way to do it.”

In a statement, ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams wrote that, “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.”

Marilyn Keith was born in Brooklyn, New York, and majored in music at New York’s High School of Music & Art, then studied at New York University, Variety reported.

She moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s and began writing lyrics for composer Lew Spence. She met Alan Bergman, who was another lyric-writing partner for Spence, and the couple married in February 1958, Variety reported.

Among their early hits were “Nice ‘n’ Easy,” the title track for the 1960 Frank Sinatra album, written with Spence; and “Yellow Bird” in 1959, according to the website.

“In the Heat of the Night,” sung by Ray Charles, was their big breakthrough film, as the Bergmans worked with composer Quincy Jones in 1967.

The Bergmans won three Emmy Awards, two shared with Hamlisch for “Barbra: The Concert” and AFI’s “100 Years … 100 Movies,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. They also shared an Emmy with composer Leonard Roseman for “Sybil.”

The couple also wrote the lyrics for the theme songs for such television shows as “Bracken’s World,” “Good Times,” “Maude, “Alice” and “Brooklyn Bridge,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Barbra Streisand released an album of the Bergmans’ songs, “What Matters Most,” in 2011, the Times reported. The compilation “Sinatra Sings Alan & Marilyn Bergman” was released in 2019, according to the newspaper.

In 1985, Marilyn Bergman became the first woman elected to the board of directors of ASCAP and served as president and chairman of the performance-rights organization until 2009, the website reported.

The Bergmans were elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1980.