The Way We Were: The Song

Lyrics, Hamlisch, and Bergmans

(Above: Original handwritten lyrics by the Bergmans to the song “The Way We Were.”)

The song “The Way We Were”—with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman—is almost as famous as the movie itself.

Marilyn Bergman said, “Well, first of all it's a wonderful title. The main title of the movie had to function as a passage way back in time. We were underscoring the flashback, in a way.”

“You are tailor-making a song for an artist,” Hamlisch explained. “And if it's Barbra Streisand it has to fit her until she's comfortable.”

“[Barbra] made two suggestions,” Marilyn Bergman recalled. “One was the change of a note in the first phrase of the tune. And the other was a change of a word, a very important suggestion. We had the lyric beginning with ‘daydreams light the corners of your mind,’ and she suggested that the first word of the song be ‘mem'ries.’

Hamlisch and the Bergmans also wrote a second song with a different melody for the film, but Pollack liked the first version of the song better. “The Way We Weren't” (as the second song is nicknamed) appears on Streisand's retrospective CD box set, Just For the Record.

Appearing at number eight on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest movie songs, “The Way We Were” was nominated for (and won!) an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Hamlisch, too, was awarded an Oscar for the film's Best Original Dramatic Score. At the 46th Annual Academy Awards, Peggy Lee sang “The Way We Were” on the live telecast.

Hamlisch holding his Oscar

“Way We Were” Audio Versions

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Barbra Archives presents 6 versions of “The Way We Were.” Explanations are below; an audio jukebox is at the bottom of this page so you can listen!

Version 1

Marvin Hamlisch plays the original melody of "The Way We Were".

Version 2

Hear a rare, early demo with a melody that hadn't quite become the final song we know and love.

Even the lyrics are a bit different:

Rain falls on a distant afternoon.

Misty water-colored mem'ries of the way we were ...

...Every day was like a gift of flowers

Ribbon-wrapped and waiting to be seen

Eagerly we opened all the hours

Then what happened, happened...

Version 3

Hear Barbra Streisand sing an early demo of "The Way We Were" — this version begins with the word "daydreams".

Hamlisch plays piano.

Japan single

Version 4

Barbra Streisand sings another demo. This version was unused and had an alternate melody. This song is also fondly referred to as "The Way We Weren't." Hamlisch plays piano.

Version 5

Way We Were promo record

Listen to a rare 7-inch promotional single of “The Way We Were” that Columbia Pictures sent to movie theaters. The 7-inch has the orchestrated version of the song, but different vocals than those on the movie soundtrack album.

Quad album

Version 6

Here's a special treat! Click the jukebox below to hear the end of the Quadraphonic version of “The Way We Were”. It is identical to the regular, album version—except that there is a short, alternate vocal at the end of the song.

“Way We Were” Jukebox

Recorded Versions of “The Way We Were” song, by Barbra Streisand:

Live versions:

More “The Way We Were” Pages

“The Way We Were” DVD, CD, etc.:

Way We Were DVD Soundtrack CD Studio Album CD

Order the DVD, Soundtrack CD or Pop CD by clicking the thumbnails above.


Here's some trivia about The Way We Were: Composer Marvin Hamlisch appears briefly in the film in a cameo role at the Hollywood screening party (pictured below, in the blue shirt).

Hamlisch cameo

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