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DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Barbra Streisand has just released a new album, a double-CD set of songs with lyrics by today's guests, Alan and Marilyn Bergman. One disc collects Bergman songs Streisand has released in the past, including "The Way We Were," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," and songs from "Yentl." The other disc is of new recordings of their compositions, including this one, "Nice and Easy."

(Soundbite of song, "Nice and Easy")

Ms. BARBRA STREISAND (Singer): (Singing) Let's take it nice and easy. It's gonna be so easy for us to fall in love. Hey baby, what's your hurry? Relax, don't you worry. We're gonna fall in love. We're on the road to romance, that's safe to say, but let's make all the stops along the way. The problem now, of course, is to simply hold your horses. To rush would be a crime 'cuz nice and easy does it every time.

BIANCULLI: The Bergmans are married and have collaborated on songs for over 50 years. Terry spoke with them in 2007. The songs of Alan and Marilyn Bergman have won Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys and have been covered not only by Barbra Streisand but by Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra recorded his version of "Nice and Easy" in 1960 and liked it enough to feature it as the title track of his album.

(Soundbite of song, "Nice and Easy")

Mr. FRANK SINATRA (Singer): (Singing) The problem now, of course, is to simply hold your horses. To rush would be a crime 'cuz nice and easy does it, nice and easy does it, nice and easy does it every time. Like the man says, one more time: Nice and easy does it, nice and easy does it, nice and easy does it every time.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Marilyn and Alan Bergman, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. ALAN BERGMAN (Songwriter): Thank you so much.

GROSS: How did you come up with the phrase nice and easy, which became the title of the song and Sinatra's album?

Mr. BERGMAN: Well, when you write for somebody like Frank Sinatra, who has a definite personality, you try to write - it's easy to write a custom-made suit for him. You know, he's very theatrical. He has a definite character, and we felt because they wanted something that was easy, swinging, that nice and easy, the phrase, nice and easy does it every time, would be good for him.

Ms. MARILYN BERGMAN (Songwriter): It also had a kind of subtext of to be a little sexy, which certainly also was part of Sinatra.

GROSS: Is this one of those many songs about sex that isn't literally about sex but is absolutely about sex, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

GROSS: So when Sinatra says on his version of the record, toward the end, like the man said, which isn't in the lyric, did it bother you? Did you think, hey...

Ms. BERGMAN: Not at all. Not at all.

Mr. BERGMAN: And in fact he had - we were lucky enough to be there at Capital Records when he did record this, and he had several different endings.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. BERGMAN: He would ad-lib something each time he got to the tag line, and this is the one that they decided to use.

GROSS: Did he ever ask - did Sinatra ever ask you to write for him after having such success with the song?

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes, yes, he did, several times. There was one time when we received a call from him. He said I want you to write me a 10-minute number. And we said, about what? He said, well, you know, boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy lose(ph) girl. And we said to him, well, that's really been written, he said, you'll figure it out.

He used to call us the kids, and he said you kids, you'll figure it out. And he said, he said get the frog, which means get Michel Legrand to be the composer. And Michel's father was very sick at the time, and Michel couldn't do it. So we called him and said, is John Williams okay?

It was Johnny Williams. He was not the, you know, well-known conductor-composer then. And we said, John, would you like to do this? And he said, yeah, let's do it.

Ms. BERGMAN: So we wrote a 10-minute piece, which incidentally he wanted for his nightclub act. So we wrote a piece that talked about the fact that the protagonist of the piece, in this case the singer, fell in love with the same woman over and over and over. I don't mean literally the same woman, but, you know, the same woman.

And each love affair ended badly, and I think I remember the phrase the same hello, the same goodbye. And when we finished it, we called him and told him that we had finished it, and he asked us if we would come down to Palm Springs, where he had a home, and play it for him.

So the three of us drove down to Palm Springs, and we got to his - I started to say house but sort of more like a compound, actually. And he opened the door himself when we finally made our way to the house. And Alan sang the song for him. Alan, what was that experience? You tell it.

Mr. BERGMAN: Well, he was sitting on an ottoman in front of me, and I sang for 10 minutes, you know, that's a long time.

Ms. BERGMAN: You were not sitting on an ottoman at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn.

Mr. BERGMAN: No.

Ms. BERGMAN: (Unintelligible) kid.

Mr. BERGMAN: That's right. When I was finished, he was crying, and he said to Marilyn: How do you know so much about me? As if his life was such...

Ms. BERGMAN: Such a closed book.

Mr. BERGMAN: Such a closed book, you know. But it must have hit some nerve. And he said, I have to learn this. This is terrific. I love it. And - but he never learned it.

Ms. BERGMAN: Every time we would see him, he would say, I'm going to do that.

Mr. BERGMAN: Kids, I'm going to do that, you know.

Ms. BERGMAN: But he never did. But it was a very nice experience, I must say.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: Well, Alan Bergman, you've released this new album, "Lyrically," of songs that you wrote with your wife Marilyn. Why did you want to make an album of you singing your songs? Is this - I think it's the first time you've done that.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes, this is the first time. Well, it's not exactly that I wanted - you know, we did a concert that is a series in New York in the 92nd Street Y called "Lyrics and Lyricists," and we did that, there was a 25th anniversary, and they asked us to do it again for them, and we did.

And a man came up to me after the concert and - from Germany, and he said: I have a record company in Germany, and I think you're a great singer. I want to make an album with you. And I said I'm not so sure.

And he kept after me for two or three years, and finally I said, okay, I'll do it. And he flew Marilyn and I to Berlin, and he organized a big orchestra and a young arranger who did a wonderful job, Jorg Keller(ph), his name is. And I sang live with this orchestra, which was a wonderful experience. I had a wonderful time. I love to sing, so...

Ms. BERGMAN: Alan has always sung, actually. When we write, we sing as we write because lyrics, unlike poetry, are meant to be sung. So he's always sung, and most of the time it's Alan who would demonstrate the song for the artist or the producer, director, whoever it was, you know, on the receiving end of the song.

GROSS: Can you diagnose problems in the lyric by singing it?

Mr. BERGMAN: Oh yes, oh yes. You know, sometimes the choice of a word, you try that word, and it may be the perfect word, but it doesn't sing on those notes.

GROSS: Can you give me an example of a lyric you changed because singing it, you knew it didn't work?

Ms. BERGMAN: I can't give you a lyrics of ours. It's an interesting question. But Oscar Hammerstein, probably one of the greatest lyric writers, always felt that a song that he and Richard Rodgers wrote for "Oklahoma," a wonderful song called "What's the Use of Wondering," never found its way into the repertoire of singers as much as some of the other songs in that show did because the last line is: And all the rest is talk.

And ending a song on the word talk, which you can hear, cuts off on that hard K sound, didn't allow a singer to really, what...

Mr. BERGMAN: Sing it beautifully at the end. You know, there's no...

(Singing) And all the rest is talk.

(Speaking) I mean, it's so difficult. And that's why it's not part of the repertoire.

BIANCULLI: Alan and Marilyn Berman, talking to Terry Gross in 2007. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2007 conversation with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Barbra Streisand has just released a two-CD set of her versions of their songs called "What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand sings the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman." Terry spoke with them after the release of Alan Bergman's album of their songs, called "Lyrically."

Let's listen to Alan Bergman sing from his album "Lyrically." This is "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?," which was written for the 1969 film "The Happy Ending." The composer was Michel Legrand. Why don't you tell us the story behind the song before we hear it.

Ms. BERGMAN: Richard Brooks(ph), who was a wonderful writer and director, directed and wrote this film, called "The Happy Ending," which I think was well ahead of its time and occasionally will appear on very, very late-night television but really didn't find an audience.

Anyway, he came to us one day and said: I want you to write me a song that is to appear twice in the film. Early in the film I want it to be -I want it to function as perhaps a proposal of marriage between these two young lovers.

But I want to hear the song again at the end of the film, at which time the wife, they were since married, 16 years later the wife has become alcoholic and has left her husband and is in a bar and goes to a jukebox and selects a song and then sits down with a lineup of martinis in front of her. And he shot this beautiful montage of Jean Simmons, who played the wife, during which time she drifts into kind of a reverie while listening to the same song.

And he said: I don't want you to change a note or a word, but I want the song to mean something very different when you hear it the second time. So that was a very interesting, challenging assignment.

And Michel Legrand, who wrote perhaps, I don't know, six or eight tunes, as is his wont, for this spot, and they were all beautiful, but none really struck the three of us as being right. And we said to him -because while he was writing music, we were sitting trying to solve the dramatic question of what the song should be about.

We said to him: What happens if the first line of the song is - what are you doing for the rest of your life? And he said: Oh, I like that. And he put his hands on the keys, and as long as it takes to play that song, that's what he played from beginning to end.

And he said: You mean something like that? And we said: No, we mean exactly like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: And Alan said to him, Alan said to him: Play it again. And he said: Oh, I don't remember quite what I played. Luckily, we had the tape machine going, so we had the music. And then we...

GROSS: So the first line of the song inspired the melody.

Ms. BERGMAN: Exactly.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

Ms. BERGMAN: Exactly.

Mr. BERGMAN: That happens sometimes. With Michel, we can't write lyrics first. We prefer not to write lyrics first. We prefer to have the melody. We feel that when we have the melody that there are words on the tips of those notes, and we have to find them.

GROSS: Well, let's hear Alan Bergman singing "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" from his new album "Lyrically," featuring songs with lyrics that he and Marilyn Bergman co-wrote.

(Soundbite of song, "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?")

Mr. BERGMAN: (Singing) What are you doing the rest of your life, north and south and east and west of your life? I have only one request of your life, that you spend it all with me. All the seasons and the times of your days, all the nickels and the dimes of your days, let the reasons and the rhymes of your days all begin and end with me.

I want to see your face in every kind of light, in fields of dawn and forests of the night, and when you stand before the candles on a cake, oh, let me be the one to hear the silent wish you make.

Those tomorrows waiting deep in your eyes...

GROSS: That's Alan Bergman, from his album "Lyrically," which features him singing songs that he co-wrote with Marilyn Bergman. They're married and long-time lyricist collaborators.

Now, that song was recently used on a commercial for diamonds. So did you have to give your permission for that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: This is odd. You know, when you when you write for hire, as we did - "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?," we were hired by the studio to write it - they own the copyright, and they can, they can ask you. They don't have to ask you for permission.

Most of the time, when they're not changing a word of the lyric, they really don't bother. When there's a change in the lyric, then they do. Then they notify you and ask you if...

Ms. BERGMAN: This was using the Dusty Springfield record of this song. So nothing was changed, and it was a record that had been - you know, is out, and so I guess they felt there was no need to ask us.

GROSS: So when you say that the studio owns the copyright, you still get composer credits, right, composer royalties?

Mr. BERGMAN: Oh yes, we get credit, and we get royalties.

Ms. BERGMAN: Credits and royalties, but they in fact - they meaning the publishing company arm of the studio - owns the rights to the song.

GROSS: Now, you've written a lot of songs, or a fair number of songs, for movies. Some of your best-known songs are songs you wrote for movies. You haven't written that much for theater. How did you gravitate to writing songs for movies?

Ms. BERGMAN: I think maybe movies made a deeper impression growing up. And we always knew that we wanted to write in a dramatic context. We were more interested in that than we were in just writing songs in limbo.

Writing for - in a narrative or dramatic context when we were honing craft, you can't write for a picture unless somebody hires you, you know? So it's like an actor not being able to act unless he gets a job, or she gets a job. So we would do exercises.

We would find either short stories or scenes from plays or articles in the newspaper and pretend that they were assignments. And we wrote many, many, many songs that never saw the light of day, but were exercises that we gave ourselves. So I like to think that when the first job came, we were ready.

BIANCULLI: Marilyn and Alan Bergman, speaking to Terry Gross in 2007. We'll continue their conversation in the second half of the show. Here's Abbey Lincoln singing one of their songs, "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams." I'm David Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of song, "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams")

Ms. ABBEY LINCOLN (Singer): (Singing) Summer wishes, winter dreams, drifting down forgotten streams, sunken faces, smiles and whispers, come from far away to visit me this day, yesterday has come (unintelligible) sitting here across...

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross, back with back with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. They visited FRESH AIR in 2007 when Alan Bergman's album "Lyrically" had come out. A new Barbra Streisand collection of their songs has just been released. It's called "What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman."

GROSS: You were both writing lyrics for the composer Lew Spence...

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

GROSS: ...who wrote the melody for "Nice & Easy"...

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...which was one of your first hits. And Marilyn, the way you described it, one of you was his morning lyricist and the other was his afternoon lyricist.

Ms. BERGMAN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: How did he end up having two different lyricists?

Ms. BERGMAN: Because I like to sleep late.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: It was early in our careers and, you know, we were feeling, trying to find out who we are and what we're saying that he was writing and...

Ms. BERGMAN: And he was talented.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

Ms. BERGMAN: I tell you too...

GROSS: But did you know each he introduced you. Did you know each other yet when you were both writing lyrics separately for him?

Ms. BERGMAN: No.

Mr. BERGMAN: No.

Ms. BERGMAN: No.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BERGMAN: No.

Ms. BERGMAN: No. I was introduced to him by Bob Russell, a wonderful lyric writer who was a mentor of mine, who, when I started to write, introduced me to this composer. And Alan must have met him around the music business in LA.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

Ms. BERGMAN: But there were not teams of writers so much then. You know, we were all just writing songs and we worked with him for quite a while.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

Ms. BERGMAN: And that was the most successful of the songs that we wrote together.

Mr. BERGMAN: That's for sure.

GROSS: Okay. So you are writing, you were both independently writing lyrics for Lew Spence. You met through him.

Ms. BERGMAN: With Lew Spence.

Mr. BERGMAN: With, yes.

GROSS: Oh, with Lew Spence.

Ms. BERGMAN: With Lew Spence.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

GROSS: Okay. You met through him and then you decided that you should be writing lyrics with each other.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: So...

Mr. BERGMAN: And we wrote a song that day.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. BERGMAN: That we just, the first day we were introduced to each other we wrote a song. It was a terrible song but we love the process. We enjoy the process. And we, from that day on we've been writing together.

GROSS: Can you share a few bars of the awful song?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: Oh my God, it was great...

Mr. BERGMAN: I only know the title.

GROSS: Which was?

Mr. BERGMAN: "I Never Knew What Hit Me."

Ms. BERGMAN: Ouch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Something like that. Ouch is right.

GROSS: Alan Bergman, one of the songs you sing on your new album "Lyrically," is a song that you say was an engagement gift to Marilyn Bergman.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

GROSS: And the song is "That Face," which was first recorded by Fred Astaire.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: So before we hear you sing it, what's the story behind this song?

Mr. BERGMAN: Well, Lew Spence, who wrote the music, he was going out with a girl, and Marilyn and I were going out together. And I wanted to ask her to marry me and have some kind of engagement, but I didn't have any money. So we wrote this song and we, to get it - we got an appointment with Fred Astaire. Fred Astaire was Marilyn's favorite singer. She loved the way he sang. And...

Ms. BERGMAN: Still do.

GROSS: Me too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Oh yes. Well, you know, just to digress for a second. You know the literature of the popular music in this country would be much poorer without a Fred Astaire, because all those great writers, Berlin, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and so they all wrote for him, and Johnny Mercer.

And so we wrangled an appointment with Fred Astaire and sang him the song. He said, before I listen, he said, I - he owned the record company, he said, I only record what I sing in movies, but I'll listen. And he was very sweet. And so we played and sang him the song, and he said, I'm going to record this next week. And he did. And I handed Marilyn this record and I said...

Ms. BERGMAN: And I married him.

Mr. BERGMAN: And she married me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: Let's hear you sing it from the new Alan Bergman CD "Lyrically."

(Soundbite of song, "That Face")

Mr. BERGMAN: (Singing) That face, that face, that wonderful face. It shines. It glows all over the place. And how I love to watch it change expressions. Each look becomes the prize of my possessions.

I love that face, that face, it just isn't fair. You must forgive the way that I stare. But never will these eyes behold a sight that could replace that face, that face, that face, that face. I see that face, that face...

GROSS: Alan Bergman from his album "Lyrically," in which he sings lyrics that were co-written by with his wife Marilyn Bergman, with the exception of the song we just heard. That's the only one in which he wrote the lyric himself.

Mr. BERGMAN: Right.

GROSS: So Alan Bergman, Johnny Mercer was your mentor.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

GROSS: How were you lucky enough to get to know him?

Mr. BERGMAN: Well, I met him when I was in graduate school at UCLA, and he heard some things I had written and he took a liking to me. And we spent, you know, over a period of two or three years and he would call me and say I know all you're doing is working - and this is before the Marilyn. And we would go down with his family to Newport, where he had a place, where he had a house and we would spend the weekend. He would sit at the piano and listen to me play and sing. He liked the way I sang and he was just terrific. I mean I wouldn't be talking to you without him. He was just marvelous to me. Yeah.

GROSS: So what was some of the best advice that Johnny Mercer ever gave you about songwriting?

Mr. BERGMAN: Well, you know, he just outlined the craft about singing and you're writing for an instrument and you have to respect that and about a lot about imagery. More it would be more you could do better than that. He wouldn't be specific really...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BERGMAN: ...which was great because that helped. The more specific he would - I think teaches you the less you feel free to express yourself. And some of the early songs of mine you can hear Johnny Mercer in them - trying to emulate him until I found and we found our own voice.

Ms. BERGMAN: Also I think which is what we each learned from mentors that we had was that songs, probably like anything else that one writes is not, are not written, they're rewritten.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

Ms. BERGMAN: And you can't really get too passionate about any one word or one phrase and you just have to be free enough and ruthless enough with your work to really keep writing until somebody wrests it away from you.

BIANCULLI: Lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman speaking to Terry gross 2007. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2007 interview with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Barbra Streisand has just released a two CD set of her versions of their songs called "What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman."

GROSS: Marilyn, when you decided that you really wanted to become a lyricist, did you think, well, this is going to be really hard to do? Because there are so - first of all, it's hard to be a lyricist under the best of circumstances, but second of all there were so few women who were lyricists at the time that you started writing. Did you think this is going to be impossible?

Ms. BERGMAN: As a woman you mean?

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BERGMAN: Well, I didn't think it was going to be impossible. I knew that I would be, you know, the odd woman out. I would go to ASCAP meetings, membership meetings, and it would be me and a lot of the widows of songwriters who were there representing their husband's estates, you know. So in New York there was Betty Comden and Dorothy Fields and there were, you know, a couple of famous women writers.

GROSS: Carolyn Leigh.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah, Carolyn.

Ms. BERGMAN: Carolyn Leigh for sure. But she was about the same time. By the time I met Carolyn I was already a professional writer and she was certainly.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. BERGMAN: She was wonderful.

Mr. BERGMAN: Oh absolutely. Terrific writer.

Ms. BERGMAN: Yup.

Mr. BERGMAN: Mm. Yeah.

GROSS: Marilyn, did you have a mentor in the way that Alan had a mentor in Johnny Mercer?

Ms. BERGMAN: Yes I did. When I was in high school in New York, I went to the High School of Music and Art - I was a music major and I was lucky enough to become friendly with a girl named Marilyn Jackson, very good singer who unfortunately is no longer with us. But she introduced me to her aunt and uncle and her uncle was a very successful songwriter -lyric writer - named Bob Russell. He wrote a lot of the Duke Ellington songs, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me."

He wrote lyrics to "Brazil" and "Ballerina." A lot of songs. Very, very gifted. And I used to play the piano for him in the afternoon after school. This was the olden days before tape recorders and stuff like that. So a lyric writer who didn't play the piano used to have somebody sit and play tunes for them. And I became very interested in what he was doing, though I never dreamed that someday that's what I would do. This was just an afternoon exercise for me.

And then - well, if you want the story I'll give it to you quickly. I fell down a flight of steps...

GROSS: Oh.

Ms. BERGMAN: ...and I broke my shoulder and I dislocated the other.

GROSS: Oy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: And so I could no longer live in New York and I had to come out to California where my parents had moved while I was in high school, college - I don't remember. And the only person I knew here was Bob Russell, who with his family had moved here in the years since my high school days. I was in college when this happened. And I came out here in practically a body cast and looked him up and we were visiting. And I said what am I going to do out here for all these months? I don't know anybody and I can't do anything. And he said well, why don't you write songs? And I said I can't play the piano. I can't even turn the pages in a book. He said so write lyrics. You can dictate them into the now invented cassette player or reel-to-reel, whatever it was. So I said oh. And I wrote a lyric and he introduced me to a young composer named Lew Spence. Now we've come a little circle here, right? And that's how I became Lew Spence's morning lyric writer.

Mr. BERGMAN: No afternoon.

Ms. BERGMAN: Afternoon lyric writer. Forgive me. And Bob...

Mr. BERGMAN: p.m.

Ms. BERGMAN: ...functioned very much the same way that Johnny did with Alan. Bob used to critique what I'd written and he was a taskmaster, I'm delighted to say. And so I was - I don't think - there's no question that - I was studying political psychology at NYU. Why would I write songs if I hadn't fallen down a flight of steps?

GROSS: Well, I love stories about catastrophes that have happy endings, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: That's right.

GROSS: I'm glad to hear how it worked out. Now, you know, we've been talking about songs you've written, songs you've written for movies. Now one of your famous songs that hasn't been recorded either by Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand is the theme from "Maude."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Yes.

Ms. BERGMAN: Oh, yes.

GROSS: And I just have to ask you about that. You know, the lyrics are Lady Godiva was a freedom writer. She didn't care if the whole world looked. Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her, she was a sister who really cooked.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Do you look back at that and think oh, was that dated?

Ms. BERGMAN: No, I don't know, it fit Bea Arthur's...

Mr. BERGMAN: Character.

Ms. BERGMAN: ...character.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

Ms. BERGMAN: Norman Lear asked us to write a piece for her. Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, who were Tandem Productions then, asked us to write a theme song for the show. And...

Mr. BERGMAN: With a wonderful composer, Dave Grusin.

Ms. BERGMAN: Yeah. And so this is what we wrote and it was because she was this ardent feminist creature.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: So that was fun.

Mr. BERGMAN: And that's fun because, you know, you have 45 seconds to write something that will capture the audience and tell them a little bit about what they're going to see.

Ms. BERGMAN: And don't touch that dial.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Right.

Mr. BERGMAN: So that's how we approach it, you know. Like "Good Times," same thing, you know.

GROSS: What's the lyric you would wish you had written? Like...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...the lyric that to you is the lyric that all songs should be measured against.

Ms. BERGMAN: Oh, god.

Mr. BERGMAN: Oh boy, we have a lot of those.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: "Skylark" is one.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."

Ms. BERGMAN: That's another one.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BERGMAN: Another one.

Ms. BERGMAN: "All the Things You Were" is another one.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah. "They Can't Take That Away From Me."

Ms. BERGMAN: Yes.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. BERGMAN: "Too Late Now."

GROSS: Oh yeah.

Mr. BERGMAN: I mean there's...

Ms. BERGMAN: "Send in the Clowns."

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

Ms. BERGMAN: Almost anything that's Steve...

Mr. BERGMAN: Anything that Sondheim writes. Yes. He's...

Ms. BERGMAN: He's the measure right now.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: Well, a pleasure to talk with you both. Let's close with another song. I thought we'd close with "Where Do You Start," which was not written for a movie.

Mr. BERGMAN: No.

Ms. BERGMAN: It's a good way to close. It closes the relationship.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah. The - well, and "Where Do You Start" - we have, you know, in our process, we have a lot of wonderful composer friends. Yeah, Dave Grusin is one, you know, besides Michel. And Johnny Mandel is a wonderful composer. Sometimes Dave or Johnny will come over to the house and say, what you think of this melody? And they play it and if we - and usually love it, we say leave it here, you know. And we take it off the shelf and listen to them play and hopefully get an idea. There were two songs like that in the album, one is "Where Do You Start" and the other is "Love Like Ours," which just - they're wonderful melodies which we feel we have to write.

Ms. BERGMAN: And they'll be in a drawer on a cassette or in the shelf and from time to time when we're not working on something in particular will take it out and play it and see if the muse is in the room. And "Where Do You Start" is a melody of Johnny Mandel's we really liked and it took us a long time before we found an idea for it that we liked. And people have told us...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: ...that they were married to "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life," broke up to "Where Do You Start," and were divorced to "The Way We Were."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BERGMAN: So - so much...

GROSS: That's really funny.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: So how does it make you feel knowing that like you're the soundtrack in some way to the ups and downs...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...of so many romantic relationships?

Ms. BERGMAN: Very humbling. It's very humbling.

GROSS: It's kind of amazing, you know, that you've stay together as a couple and as partners for so long. It sometimes - for so many people it's so hard to work with a spouse, and to work as closely as you have to as lyricists and to have kept a marriage up for so many years. It's pretty incredible.

Mr. BERGMAN: Yeah, we've been writing together for 51 years.

GROSS: Well, congratulations on not had having to sing "The Way We Were" in your own lives.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BERGMAN: Hardly.

Ms. BERGMAN: I can't imagine it any other way.

GROSS: Thank you both so much.

Ms. BERGMAN: Pleasure.

Mr. BERGMAN: Thank you, Terry.

Ms. BERGMAN: Big pleasure, Terry.

BIANCULLI: Lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman speaking to Terry Gross in 2007.

A new Barbra Streisand collection of their songs has just been released. It's called "What Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman."

We'll end this segment with Alan Bergman singing their song "Where Do You Start."

(Soundbite of song, "Where Do You Start")

Mr. BERGMAN: (Singing) Where do you start? How do you separate the present from the past? How do you deal with all the things you thought would last, that didn't last? With bits of memories scattered here and there, I look around and don't know where to start.

Which books are yours? Which tapes and dreams belong to you and which are mine? Our lives are tangled like the branches of a vine that intertwine. So many habits that we'll have to break and yesterdays we'll have to take apart. One day there'll be a song or something in the air again...

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