Lisa at Paley Center’s Bergman Tribute

Born in the same hospital in Brooklyn, little did Alan and Marilyn Bergman imagine when they first met that they would become one of the most successful composing teams of all time.

Marilyn did not seem too impressed when she saw Alan for the first time at a little café in Los Angeles called Nickodell’s; he was wearing a black overcoat and carrying a briefcase and Marilyn thought that he looked like an accountant.

For Alan, a second meeting on the walk up to Marilyn’s house convinced him that “there was something special about that woman.”  (Both happily recalled their past at a special evening in Los Angeles at the Paley Center for Media.)

Still, the two took awhile to connect romantically; after they teamed up to write music, for a year they decided to just do writing exercises, working on songs about scenes from plays or articles in newspapers.   Another thing they decided on was that they wanted to work in film or theater.

Noticed by Frank Loesser, the two passed up an offer to work with him (“we hadn’t found our own voices yet,” explained Marilyn) and managed to get an appointment to meet with Fred Astaire so that he could listen to the song “That Face.”  Not only did Astaire listen, he sang it on a television show the next week.

Alan later proposed to Marilyn with a pressed recording of the song – who could say no?

They later went on to write “Yellow Bird” for a calypso album, and while traveling they heard a man singing part of the song while playing the drums.

“I told him ‘you know, there’s another part to this,’ and he said ‘how do you know?’ and I said ‘I wrote it!’ and sang it for him,” chuckled Alan.

The duo also wrote “Nice ‘n’ Easy” for Frank Sinatra, which became a big hit for them as well.

“He always called us ‘the kids,’ he was very nice and sweet to us,” added Alan.

They then went on to write songs for films, including “In the Heat of the Night,” and ” The Thomas Crown Affair,” as well as songs for television like the shows “Maude,” “Good Times,” and “Brooklyn Bridge.”

And they helped to discover a young Barbra Streisand while assisting in casting a show for Broadway.   After working on a show all day auditioning girl singers, they went downtown to The Bon Soir in Greenwich Village to hear yet another girl singer.

“I remember what she was wearing (Streisand).  She opened her mouth and I started to cry,” said Marilyn.

“Then we went backstage and I said to her, ‘Do you have any idea how wonderful you are?’ and then I said, ‘Yes, you do!.’  It was clear she knew,” laughed Marilyn.

Alan and Marilyn went on to work on many songs for Streisand, including songs for the film “Yentl,” as well as writing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and “The Way We Were.”

The audience had more than one treat in store as Alan sang songs including “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” and “The Windmills of Your Mind,” and together the duo sang “What Matters Most.”

The evening, part of a series of talks called “Paley After Dark,” was entitled “Nice ‘n’ Easy”:  The Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman

by Lisa Carroll