Marvin Hamlisch sets Metro on "Fire:" The (mostly) forgotten story

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Big photos below.
Marvin Hamlisch, one of the most famous and decorated film and theater composers of the 1970s and beyond, died this week at age 68. But when he passed, few remembered his connection to Metropolitan State University of Denver, for which he wrote the now-anachronistic school song, "The Fire of M.S.C." -- and that includes many of the folks at Metro State. What's the story?

During his career, Hamlisch won three Oscars (two for The Way We Were, one for The Sting), plus a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize for the Broadway smash A Chorus Line and multiple Grammys, including recognition as the best new artist of 1974. But had we not received a tip from a Westword reader, we'd never have known that Hamlisch composed the school song for what was then known as Metropolitan State College, and performed it an April 1987 benefit concert with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.

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The cover of The Metropolitan newspaper when Hamlisch came to town in 1987.
After contacting Metro for details, I got the sense this information wasn't exactly common knowledge there, either. One person with whom I spoke kept pronouncing the composer's name is "Hamish," while another spelled his name "Mamlisch."

The song predates Metro spokeswoman Cathy Lucas, too; she's only been working with the school for about ten years. But while no one at Metro was able to track down an actual recording of the tune for us to share, she recalls actually hearing it performed at an event or two over the course of the past decade. And after some digging, she managed to unearth a treasure trove of historical info, including the sheet music to the song, which is among the goodies on view below. She also discovered details about how Hamlisch and Metro got together.

"He was asked by the faculty member in charge of commencement," Lucas reveals. "She had a connection with him, and asked him to come out and write a college song" -- something Metro, which was 22 years old in 1987, was lacking.

Apparently, Hamlisch didn't toil for weeks or months getting every detail of the ditty right. "Rumor has it that he wrote 'The Fire of M.S.C.' on the plane on the way here," Lucas notes.

Indeed, the lyrics to the song aren't among Hamlisch's most complex. They read:

There's a fire deep inside you That fire is simply called a dream You feel the dream The flame is burning You are warmed and surrounded by its glow

We all know that we are dreamers
Dreaming of a future bright
So feel the fire and keep it burning
Let it shine morning, noon and night

MSC can light the fire
Can make you ready for dreams to come
True MSC -- can make it happen
Let it happen to you

Feel the heat
Feel the heat
Feel the heat
Feel the heat
Ah----

Let the fire burn forever
And let the dreamer always be
All hand in hand we stand
We are the fire of MSC

Page down to learn more about how Marvin Hamlisch set Metro on "Fire."

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3 comments
kurtdrums
kurtdrums

I was a student percussionist and played in the MSC Chamber Orchestra mentioned in the program.  When we first saw the music and lyrics, we busted out laughing and knew he hadn't put much time into it.  If you play the melody line to the "feel the fire" line on a keyboard, you will instantly recognize it as the melody to "Frosty the Snowman."  The other funny thing is he was given an honorary doctorate.  From Metro.  No doctoral program!

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Urk!  Metro's new name would make up most of a stanza in itself, though not a particularly lyrical one.  The composer engaged to write Metro's next School Song must plan on extolling "em-sud".

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I wonder what cocktails he had on the flight here ???

Kudos to the reader for setting you on yet another

interesting path.

I went to Youtube and could not find a melodic version of the song.

And it got me thinking, Michael, to really complete this article,

would you please record yourself singing, " The Fire of MSC ",

and link it on the WW site.?

I just feel you could do more........

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