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Barry Manilow

In terms of record sales and career longevity, Barry Manilow is one of the most successful adult contemporary singers ever. That success hasn't necessarily translated to respect (or even ironic hipster appreciation) in most quarters; instead, Manilow's music has been much maligned by critics and listeners alike, particularly the romantic ballads that defined his career, which were derided as maudlin schlock even during his heyday. It's true that Manilow's taste for swelling choruses and lush arrangements often bordered on bombastic, but unlike many of his MOR peers, Manilow wasn't aiming to make smooth, restrained background music: he conceived of himself as a pop entertainer and all-around showman in the classic mold, and his performances and stage shows were accordingly theatrical.

Manilow dominated pop music during the latter half of the '70s like few other performers, spinning off a long series of hit singles (including 13 number one hits on the adult contemporary charts) and platinum albums that essentially made the Arista label. When the well began to run dry in the early '80s, he branched out into other genres. No longer a superstar expected to deliver blockbuster hits, Manilow was free to explore his long-held taste for swing, pop standards, and Broadway show tunes, which dominated his albums from the mid-'80s on. He continued to record steadily during the following decades, and his popularity never completely eroded, as evidenced by the number three chart debut of his 2002 greatest-hits package, Ultimate Manilow, and the number one peak of his 2006 covers album, Greatest Songs of the Fifties.

Barry Manilow was born Barry Alan Pincus on June 17, 1943, in Brooklyn, and grew up in its low-income Williamsburg section. His father left the family when Barry was two, and he eventually adopted his mother's maiden name of Manilow. He began playing piano and accordion at age seven, and following high school, he was accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, which he paid for by working in the CBS mail room. From there, he became musical director of the CBS show Callback, and supported himself for the next few years by writing, producing, and performing advertising jingles (including high-profile campaigns for State Farm, Dr. Pepper, McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and others).

In 1971, he met Bette Midler, who hired him as her pianist, arranger, and musical director; he served as her accompanist on her legendary pre-fame tour of New York City's gay bathhouses, masterminded her first two albums (1972's The Divine Miss M and its self-titled follow-up), and debuted some of his original material at her Carnegie Hall show in the summer of 1972. Thanks to his gig with Midler, Manilow was able to land a record deal of his own with the fledgling Bell label, and his debut album, Barry Manilow I, was released in 1973. It didn't sell very well, and when Bell became Arista, label head Clive Davis asked Manilow to record a pop tune called "Brandy," which had been a U.K. hit for its co-writer, Scott English. Manilow changed the song into a ballad and changed the title to "Mandy" (to avoid confusion with the Looking Glass hit "Brandy [You're a Fine Girl]"); released on 1974's Barry Manilow II, "Mandy" became a number one hit early the next year. The Broadway-esque follow-up, "It's a Miracle," hit the Top 20, and a re-release of the Chopin-adapted ballad "Could It Be Magic" (from the first album) hit the Top Ten.

With his career thus established, Manilow recorded an even stronger follow-up album in 1975's Tryin' to Get the Feeling. "I Write the Songs" (ironically, written by Beach Boys sideman Bruce Johnston) became his second number one pop hit in early 1976, and with the title track also hitting the Top Ten, the album went triple platinum. Manilow consolidated his emerging stardom with This One's for You, released toward the end of the year; it produced hits in the title track, the Top Ten "Weekend in New England," and the number one "Looks Like We Made It." In 1977, Manilow released the concert double-LP Live, which became his first and only number one album, as well as his biggest hit with sales of over four million copies. The same year, he won an Emmy for his first prime-time special on ABC (aptly titled The Barry Manilow Special); the network would air Manilow specials for the next several years. Even Now was another triple-platinum success in 1978; "Can't Smile Without You," the disco-tinged "Copacabana," and "Somewhere in the Night" all hit the Top Ten, with the first two marking a departure from Manilow's typical reliance on ballads for his hits.

The first signs that Manilow's run of success was in jeopardy came on 1979's One Voice, which -- although it sold well and produced a Top Ten hit in an unlikely cover of former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter's "Ships" -- didn't have the same consistency of craftsmanship as its predecessors. Released in 1980, Barry spawned Manilow's last Top Ten hit, "I Made It Through the Rain"; though he remained a massively popular international touring act, and continued to place hits on the adult contemporary charts for a few more years, the prime of his pop success was over. In 1984, Manilow officially changed direction, recording an album of swinging, jazzy originals called 2:00 A.M. Paradise Café; it featured jazz greats like Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan, Shelly Manne, and Gerry Mulligan. Subsequent ventures like 1987's Swing Street, 1991's Showstoppers, 1994's Singin' with the Big Bands, and 1998's Manilow Sings Sinatra all explored various facets of swing, vocal jazz, and traditional pop. In addition, Manilow's stage musical Barry Manilow's Copacabana: The Musical premiered in 1994, and continued to tour the U.S. and U.K.; another musical, Harmony, was premiered in 1999.

Manilow's long relationship with Arista ended when he signed to the jazz-oriented Concord label, for which he debuted in late 2001 with the concept album Here at the Mayflower, which continued his evolution into a pre-rock/pop stylist. Manilow began to reenter the wider public eye in 2002, performing "Let Freedom Ring" at the Super Bowl pre-game show; aided by television advertising, Ultimate Manilow entered the album charts at a stunning number three position that March. A DVD release of the collection followed, as well as a two-disc set of live music called 2 Nights Live that had been culled from a weekend in New Jersey. Manilow went back to the studio in 2005 to record a diverse collection of tracks from the '50s with producer and music mogul Clive Davis. The resulting Greatest Songs of the Fifties, a labor of love, became a surprise hit and topped the charts in early 2006. A sequel, The Greatest Songs of the Sixties, arrived at the end of that year and reached number two, which paved the inevitable way for The Greatest Songs of the Seventies in 2007, and The Greatest Songs of the Eighties in 2008. A holiday album, In the Swing of Christmas, appeared in 2007 and 2009, the latter release being an updated version featuring a pair of bonus tracks. Manilow next teamed with producer Michael Lloyd for 2010's The Greatest Love Songs of All Time, followed one year later by the concept album 15 Minutes, which told the story of a musician's quick rise to fame and subsequent fall from grace. A new studio album, Night Songs, which featured a set of pared-down standards performed on just piano and upright bass, followed in 2014. ~ Steve Huey & Steve Leggett, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I saw Barry in 1975, and have seen him eight times since. He is simply the best singer-perfo r m e r of all time! In Indianapolis three or so years ago, Barry got a standing ovation for Every Song He Sang that night, a testimony of his greatness. My wife of 30 years and I am looking forward to the next time we can see Barry live on stage!
His Las Vegas show was awesome! Loved him in my teens in the 70s, and still love his music.
Only want Barry on my Barry station. How do I rid all other artists?
Nobody likes Barry Manilow. He's too popular.
fariborz1500
Another legend .
love barry manilow but not this song
Most of us men are closet Manilow fans.
how could he not write weekend in new England?
To hell with all those critics. Manilow is the best
One of my fav b.manilow songs
Barry Manilow's music brings me back to wonderful memories every time I listen ! Pure emotion ! Thank you for that !
love love love you Barry...Look s like alfter being a mega star with your love songs critics are still giving you a hard timeeven Now...A shame but to his fans he is top dog all the way.....Love you
Barry Manilow is the total package: singer, composer and performer!
I have loved Barry Manilow's music since I was young. I think he is one of the greatest singers there has ever been. I still love his music and listen to it often. Thank you Barry for giving us so much of yourself, and for so much wonderful music.
jkeefer49
BRING MUSIC LIKE THIS BACK.
The bio was correct in one sense Barry is now free to enjoy his creative exploration of music. Saw Harmony and he has again proven his genious Go see it and you will laugh and cry and leave with a warm feeling in your heart
Barry is loved by all his fans because he is as kind and caring to us in person as he projects in his musical performances . I love him and his music with all my hart and saw him stand up and sing alone at the Continental Baths. My boyfriend then was told Barry would get up and sing. Took one look at him, his beautiful blue eyes and heard this wonderful voice. I have loved him since and met him several times barb wallner
Pandora needs old school music experts to write these reviews and not kids who have been poisoned by millennial noise. BM is the the Mozart of soft 70s pop. Music fans who can only hear minor key sounds are psychologica l l y depressed by nature. So critics unable to appreciate ear candy melody in music need to study the Music Genome Project and see a shrink to find out why they hate happy good old days music.
maryann_lesn i a k
This review is snarky. Barry Manilow is absolutely one of the all time greats in his genre. He sells out every show and is a legend with his romantic ballads. I buy tickets to his shows for my mom every mother's day and sure enough, the shows are always sold out! Even though I was a little girl when his music was popular, I know all of his songs and love him as an entertainer. He's 70 now and still going strong. Don't listen to the critics Barry!
How could someone not acknowledge Barry as one of the All Time Greats?
Bio is snarky in places! Hey, I just saw him in Jacksonville , FL last week (Jan 2014). He brought the house down and we were all singing every song with him. Don't know when I've ever been so moved at a concert. I saw him one other time, 32 years ago. He's not quite as limber and his voice isn't quite as flexible as then, but he's still absolutely thrilling! Remarkable.
mehelton
Manilow is still an excellent showman. It is always gratifying to hear him live.
love this station, fits my mood.
Love Barry Manilow...hi s music touches my soul!
tammydaniel0 9
Barry's music is the kind you can sing along with and remember all the words years later.
sawright33
Beautiful music! Thank you Barry.
Barry, I am proud that you are an American. You have given this world so much beautiful music and to me, you are still one of the best performers we have ever had. I am happy you have been a part of my love. All of my love and respect for you now and in the future.
A question. What was Mandy Written about?
radionet5
Barry,
You kept me sane while in the military, and my wife and I love you and what you have done.
After being around the world, the only wish left in my bucket list is for my wife and I to have dinner with you. How about it?
It would be an honor.
T - Somewhere Down The Road, Babe....
fariborz1500
Thank you for great music . My favorite Mandy .
We all Need to share Barry...he is Awesome:)
rhondabrenna n 1 2
I have loved this man and his music since I was a little girl! He is the most talented, hard working performer ever!
Truly an entertainer. . . he has brought us so many wonderful songs...so many wonderful memories! I can't wait to see Barry in Baton Rouge Jan. 29th 2013!!!! Thank you Barry...for making my love for music magical! Love you !!!!
tealecaliend o
I love Barry. His music touches so many. F$&k the critics. Only the people love you!
karotladee
I've loved Barry since '77 & still have my favorite songs memorized. He's timeless & I don't cringe when I hear his name in the news. Someone didn't want to write this bio? What's wrong with ballads & soaring choruses? It's what makes you sing along! Ever try warbling to Rap? Don't get why he doesn't have the same respect in the music world, didn't Journey sing ballads too?
wellsb2
I've been a fan of Barry since the beginning. As a career soldier sometimes it was painful to be a fan howeveer, you know how many push ups you can do to the Copacabana (Disco Vers)? 1,200...
Yes it's magic Barry and your music always will be. DMB
I seem to remember Barry originating that singing really isn't his thing and he's more of a writer. Pish-posh! He's a genius and I love him at both.
no other musician/sin g e r / s o n g w r i t e r holds a candle to Barry Manilow! Truly an entertainer. . . a n d has brought us so many wonderful songs. Thank you Barry--keep going strong! (I too would love to see you in concert...ar e you coming to Wichita KS anytime soon??)
my moms favorite, went to twelve of your concerts. she passed recently due to cancer. I am now 14, and miss her so much. I love all of your songs. they all have a meaning. I'm so thankful for everything you do. Thank you for making my mommy happy her last few days.Someday I wish I could tell you this in person. Just to look in your eyes and truly thank you. You do so much for me and you are such and inspiration to me. Thank you (:
timeless only the best
He's the best!
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading this don't stop. This is so scary. Post this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come up on the screen. This is so scary because it actually works. F6
love him!!
Simply the best! Timeless!
My wife loved his songs. During a bad spot in our marriage I would come home from work to find her doing housework, listening to Everyday Housewife and crying. Pam died recently and as her health was sinking I would often play an album of Barry's greatest hits and it always brought a smile and a sing along as best she could. Thank you, Barry for making my wife happy!
hiltonrm
Just started singing aloud to his songs because his music is truly a part of my heart and soul! I will always believe that he is one of the truest artists alive! The beauty of his soul comes out in his music. Love it!
His music heals the heart and soul.
edkomasara
When I was in the second grade, I really thought he wrote the songs that make the whole world sing.. . I'm still dealing with that.
I have been his biggest fan since early 70's in Brazil. I have been to 2 of his shows in S. FL in the past 20 years and he is still the BEST as far as I am concerned! Even my husband, who is a musician and had never been a big fan of Barry's got teary at the concert he went with me at the Bk Atlantic Stadium! Barry is an awesome song writer, singer and is undeniably an amazing showman!! And he has a new fan now!:) Love, love, love!!!!!!!!
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