In the news, it was reported that forty years ago today, in July 1973, Barry Manilow’s debut album came out. I know I’m not the only one who has had to step back and say, “My God, that was 40 years ago?” I haven’t really listened to his songs much recently, but in the late 70s and early 80s, I listened to him constantly. His sad songs touched my heart, and I knew that he had experienced heartache by the way he sang. There was a lot of raw emotion in his songs, especially the ones about love gone wrong or love lost. My favorite album of his is 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe. Strangely enough, I never really had a crush on Manilow himself. I just loved his songs.
Manilow just turned 70 years old last month, and he looks awfully good for his age, despite a number of health challenges. He was born Barry Pincus, but his father left his mom when he was 2 years old, and he took his mother’s maiden name, Manilow, at his bar mitzvah. He graduated from high school in 1961 and married the same year. The marriage lasted only a year. He studied music at the Juilliard School in New York.
He worked with the likes of Bette Midler and Dionne Warwick before becoming a star in his own right. Many people are unaware that he has also written a lot of commercial jingles. For Band-Aid, he wrote, “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” For McDonald’s he wrote, “You deserve a break today…” For State Farm Insurance, he wrote, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” You sang those, didn’t you?
Since I wasn’t here in the U.S. during the early 80s, I had no idea that there was a TV movie called Copacabana, based on his hit song of the same name. That was in 1985, the year before I came back to the States. The song told a good story, if a sad one, even though the rhythm and tune of the song was upbeat. He won a Grammy Award for his 1977 TV special, “The Barry Manilow Special.” I missed that, too, since I left for Japan in early January of that year.
The hit single, “Mandy,” was not one of the songs Manilow wrote himself. In fact, the title was “Brandy” until they changed the name during the recording of the song. It was explained later that the change was made due to the fact that another artist had a long out called “Brandy.” I have always disliked the name “Brandy” for girls, and for some reason I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked the song as well with that title. Besides, “Brandy” is harder to sing than “Mandy.” The change was a very good call.
I was also surprised to know that Manilow used to smoke, as much as 3 packs a day. It’s amazing that his voice remained as powerful as it has. He uses those fake electronic cigarettes now, since he has a heart condition.
Although he was married once, early in life, and he had a long-term partnership with a woman named Linda that ended in the 80s, he has been single all this time. He has no kids, but two dogs at home in Palm Springs. He says it’s only a 25-minute commute to his work – he headlines at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. Of course, that’s 25 minutes by private plane. In a recent interview, Manilow stressed that he is a private man, and that it would bug him if people knew everything about him. He is aware that there are a lot of lies told about him because he won’t give details, but apparently he is OK with that. He is a consummate professional, and dresses the part, even “off duty,” so you are unlikely to see him hanging around dressed in sweatpants. His most recent appearance on TV was just the other day at the U.S. Capitol building, on PBS’ annual Fourth of July special, “A Capitol Fourth.”
Looking back at pictures of young Barry, I have to say that, although he has always had a handsome face, his hair and clothing were a product of the times, which easily dates those pictures. But then, everybody who lived during the 60s and 70s looks better now than they did. The hair and clothing back then were just… unfortunate. 🙂