Barry Manilow (born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn, New York on June 17,
1943) is an American singer and songwriter best known for his hit recordings "I
Write The Songs", " Mandy" and "Copacabana (At The Copa)".
Manilow dominated the soft rock scene in the 1970s with a string of top ten hits and multi-platinum albums. His music is considered by some to be kitsch or camp, even when it was released, owing to its difference in style to the pop or rock mainstream. Despite the frequent barbs from critics and lampooning by comedians, he continues to maintain a large fan base, especially among baby-boomer women in his native United States, as evidenced by the No. 3 debut of his 2002 greatest hits album Ultimate Manilow. A quote from 20 years ago that is still used today in his publicity: "most probably he's the showman of our generation" by Rolling Stone.
Born to humble origins in Brooklyn, New York, June 17, 1943. Shortly after his birth, his father Harold Pincus (born to a Russian-Jewish father and Irish mother) and his mother Edna Manilow divorced.
Barry Manilow was then brought up by his mother and grandparents, Russian-Jewish
immigrants who had a strong influence on his life. He began singing shortly
before his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13 when he legally changed his surname to
his mother's maiden name Manilow. He took up the accordion, but preferring the
piano, persevered with it, a decision which would be vital for his career.
Barry Manilow's record label Arista took three years off his announced age when he was really 32 (in 1975) and made him 29 years old so he would appeal to teens; this made him appear to have been born in 1946 instead of his actual birth year, 1943. Manilow reportedly wrote to Playboy in 1965 when he was 22 asking for advice about music.
Early in his career, Manilow was a commercial jingle writer and singer, writing the theme for State Farm Insurance, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" and the "Stuck on Band-Aid" song. He then worked as a pianist, producer and arranger, accompanying Bette Midler among others at the Continental Bathhouse in New York City. Manilow's major solo hits include "Mandy" (1974), "Copacabana (At The Copa)" (1978) and I Write The Songs (1975). Manilow's Copacabana was turned into a stage musical that ran for two years in the West End, and toured the US in 2000 and 2003. His greatest UK hit was "I Wanna Do It With You" (1982) which reached no. 8 in the UK charts, his only top ten hit there.
Barry Manilow's recorded work, spanning from 1971 through 2004, has gone through several distinct phases. He first made a series of demo singles, both under his real name (although born Barry Pincus, he had it legally changed to Manilow), and under a pseudo-group name of Featherbed. His first album was released by Bell (later Arista) records in 1973, and contained an eclectic mix of piano-driven pop, big band remixes and guitar-driven rock. His second album, called Barry Manilow II (Bell/Arista, 1974) contained the hit song "Mandy", and began a string of hit singles and albums that lasted through the rest of the 1970s, and into the early 1980's. While Manilow is known as a songwriter, it is ironic that he did not write "I Write The Songs", which was actually written by Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys (written about Brian Wilson).
After the landmark Concert at Blenheim Palace in August of 1983, Barry Manilow started to venture into a jazz-driven style, starting with the 1984 album 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe. The album was recorded with jazz greats Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme and Gerry Mulligan. Manilow would return to the genre in 1987, with the release of Swing Street. The techno-jazz-inspired album contained performances with Dianne Schuur, Phyllis Hyman, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and Tom Scott.
From 1985 to 1986, Barry Manilow was involved with the pop album Manilow (RCA, 1985), and began a phase of international music, as he performed songs and duets in French, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese, among other languages. The 1980s saw a number of singles released such as Bermuda Triangle 1981, Let's Hang On 1981, Stay 1982 and Please Don't Be Scared in 1989. The only one of these songs to chart in the U.S. was "Let's Hang On". The greatest UK hit of Manilow's career was I Wanna Do It With You in 1982 which reached no. 8, although it has since disappeared from his repertoire.
In the 1990s, Manilow recorded a succession of "event" albums, guided by Arista's President, Clive Davis. From 1991's Showstoppers, a collection of Broadway tunes, to a big band album Singin' with the Big Bands (1994), a 1970s collection Summer of '78 (perhaps the weakest effort of his career), (1996), the decade ended with Manilow recording a tribute to Frank Sinatra Manilow Sings Sinatra (1998), shortly after Sinatra's death.
Barry Manilow's music connected with a new generation when top British boy band Take That reached no. 3 in the UK charts with Could It Be Magic (1992) . Later, Irish boy band Westlife reached no. 1 with Mandy (2003), in a version clearly based on Manilow's hit version (differing only in that they omitted the piano introduction and inserted a different fade-out ending).
After the start of the new millennium, Barry Manilow left Arista records for Concord Records, a jazz-oriented label in California, and started work on the long-anticipated Here at the Mayflower album. The album was another eclectic mix of styles, almost entirely composed and produced by Manilow himself. 2004 saw the release of both a live album 2 Nights Live! (BMG Strategic Marketing Group, 2004), and a soundtrack album of his musicals Scores (Concord, 2004). Two Christmas albums, many live albums and compilations have rounded out a very large body of music.
Barry Manilow appeared as a guest judge and arranged music for American Idol on April 24, 2004, the year in which he also embarked on his "One Night Live! One Last Time!" final tour. Some fans were unhappy that Manilow charged his fans $1,000 to meet him after the show, but ticket sales were robust, landing Manilow's tour into the Top Ten club for box office grosses in 2004.
Barry Manilow co-wrote, with lyricist Bruce Sussman, a musical, Harmony, which was originally scheduled to preview in Philadelphia in 2003. After financial difficulties and a legal battle, Manilow and Sussman won back the rights to the musical. It is currently unknown when the musical is slated to reach Broadway.
On the heels of his Farewell tour, Manilow opened a standing show in Las Vegas in 2005 at the Las Vegas Hilton, where he will reside in the penthouse where Elvis lived for 8 years (Newsweek/MSNBC).
Barry Manilow has appeared in two movies. He portrayed Tony in a 1985 made-for-television film based on Copacabana (Annette O'Toole was Lola and Joseph Bologna was Rico). He also portrayed himself in the 2002 Kathy Bates-Rupert Everett comedy Unconditional Love, in which Manilow's hit "Can't Smile Without You" plays a key role in the plot. He co-wrote the Broadway-style musical scores for the animated films The Pebble and the Penguin (1995) and Thumbelina. Manilow hits have figured prominently in several films such as Foul Play and Serial Mom.
Barry Manilow made an appearance (performing Can't Smile Without You, Mandy, I Write The Songs and songs from his latest album) on the Oprah Winfrey show on April 7, 2005.
Manilow released a new album on January 31, 2006 called The Greatest Songs of the Fifties featuring new recordings of the classic hits from the golden years. The album charted at number 1 in its first week of release, marking the first time a Manilow album debuted at the top of the album chart as well as the first time a Manilow album has reached number 1 in 29 years.
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