Barbra Streisand Biography
Last updated: 07/09/2012 12:00:00 PM
BORN: April 24, 1942, Brooklyn, NY
The career of Barbra Streisand has been paved with bold, creative achievements and highlighted by a series of firsts.
"The Prince of Tides" was the first motion picture directed by its female star ever to receive a Best Director nomination from the Directors Guild of America as well as seven Academy Award nominations. Barbra Streisand produced the heralded drama in addition to directing and starring in it.
For her very first Broadway appearance in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," she won the New York Drama Critics Award and received a Tony nomination.
For her very first record album, "The Barbra Streisand Album," she won two 1963 Grammy Awards. One of these was Album of the Year; and she was then the youngest artist to have received that award.
For her motion picture debut in "Funny Girl," she won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actress, the first of two Oscars. With "Yentl" in 1983, she became the first woman ever to produce, direct, write and star in a major motion picture.
She was honored with an Emmy Award and the distinguished Peabody Award for her first television special, "My Name Is Barbra," in 1965. The program earned a total of five Emmys. This achievement was repeated 30 years later by "Barbra Streisand: The Concert" with two additional Emmy awards for Ms. Streisand among the five for the production.
She is the first female composer ever to win an Academy Award, this for her song, "Evergreen," the love theme from her 1976 hit film, "A Star Is Born." She was nominated again in 1997 as co-composer of "I Finally Found Someone," based on her love theme for her most recent film as director/producer/star, "The Mirror Has Two Faces."
The "actress who sings," as Streisand once termed herself, has repeatedly been at the top of the record sales charts. Her recent Columbia Records albums, "A Love Like Ours" (1999) and the double album, "Timeless - Live In Concert" (2000), were both quickly certified as gold and then platinum. Her prior "Higher Ground" (1997) and earlier "Back To Broadway" (1993) albums are among only a handful of recordings ever to become Number One on the sales charts in their initial week of release and to go platinum through their first shipping orders. The previous "The Broadway Album" (1985) similarly enjoyed great praise and sales, became #1 and brought her three Grammy nominations and her eighth Grammy for Best Pop Female Vocalist.
The double-album "Barbra Streisand: The Concert" (1994) was another recent effort in her parade of hits. "Higher Ground" occasioned two additional Grammy nominations. At home in pop, show tunes, rock and ballads, she even made a classical album titled "Classical Barbra" (1976) which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the classical division. Of all her releases, 1980's "Guilty," Barbra's collaboration with Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, achieved the greatest success worldwide, selling over 20 million units and spawning several smash hit singles.
The statistics of her achievements as a recording sales leader are clearly drawn in platinum and gold. She had achieved sales unequaled by any other female recording artist. With forty-five gold albums, she is second in the all-time charts, ahead of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, exceeded only by Elvis. Thus, she is the only artist among the top four all-time gold record sellers who was not part of the rock & roll revolution which has dominated the record business for four decades. Her twenty-eight platinum albums, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, exceeds all other female singers. That organization also noted that she is the only female artist ever to have achieved thirteen multi-platinum albums (including the soundtrack for her motion picture "A Star Is Born"), earning her eight Grammy Awards and Grammy's Lifetime Achievement and Legend Awards in the process.
She continues to be the highest-selling female recording artist ever and has had number one albums in each of the last four decades. Her number one albums span a period of nearly 35 years, the greatest longevity in that statistic for any solo recording artist. A recent poll by the Reuters news agency identified her as the favorite female singer of the 20th Century and Frank Sinatra as the favorite male singer.
Streisand's 57th album, "Christmas Memories," was released in October 2001. It's her first full-length studio album since 1999's "A Love Like Ours" and her first new recording since her 1999-2000 New Year's Eve millennium performances captured on "Timeless - Live In Concert." "Christmas Memories" is Streisand's first seasonal collection since "A Christmas Album," which has been certified quintuple- platinum by the RIAA and has re-entered the charts each year since its 1967 release. An album of inspirational music for all seasons, "Christmas Memories" is "lovingly dedicated" to Stephan Weiss, the husband of designer Donna Karan and a close friend of Streisand's, who passed away in June 2001. The album was certified gold and platinum in December 2001.
Recipient in 1995 of an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis University, Barbra Streisand is a rare honoree, the only artist to earn Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe, Cable Ace, Peabody, and the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. The latter accolade, a tribute to her film work as director, performer, writer, producer and composer, was conferred in February 2001. She is also the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts' National Medal of Arts and has been honored by France as a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Her most recent motion picture directorial effort, the TriStar Pictures release "The Mirror Has Two Faces," continued the tradition of each Streisand-directed film being accorded Academy Award nominations. The romantic comedy, her third triple effort as director/producer/star, received two Oscar nominations in 1997 and led to Lauren Bacall winning the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress.
In 1995, Ms. Streisand added to her Emmy Awards, winning two more for her performance in and work as producer of "Barbra Streisand: The Concert." The HBO program earned a total of five Emmy Awards, matching the Emmy achievements of her first TV Special, the one-woman show "My Name Is Barbra," exactly thirty years before. Each of the shows won the coveted Peabody Award as well. "Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story," the first television dramatic production for her Barwood Films, earned an additional three Emmy trophies, a total of eight Emmys for Ms. Streisand's company in the same year. Ms. Streisand's Barwood Films has followed "Serving in Silence" with a continuing slate of television dramas, each of which addresses important issues.
Ms. Streisand's Millennium New Year's Eve concert, "Timeless," at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, December 31, 1999, set an all-time TicketMaster record for one-day sales of a single event, virtually selling out in the first few hours of sale eight months before the performance. The two-night Madison Square Garden conclusion of her storied live concert performance career, preceded by her two Los Angeles farewell live appearances at Staple Center, was similarly a record-setting success. One of the most talked about and well-reviewed concert productions of all time, "Timeless" was captured for a Valentine's Day 2001 television special, co-directed by its star, which won four Emmys including one for Streisand's performance. The home video/DVD was certified gold and platinum.
Virtually every aspect of Barbra Streisand's 1994 concert tour was record setting. Those twenty-six appearances were her first paid concerts in nearly three decades, all intervening concerts since 1966 having been fund-raisers for various social or political causes. The tour initiated with the celebrated 1994 New Year's performances at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas and continued to set attendance and box-office records with immediate sellouts in London, Washington D.C., Southern California, Detroit, San Jose, and New York's Madison Square Garden. Over 5 million phone requests were recorded in the first hour when tickets for the first American leg of the tour went on sale.
The tour also generated over $10.25 million for charities the artist supports, channeling money to significant causes in each locale. Reflecting Streisand's social concerns, over $3 million went to AIDS organizations, with other gifts addressing such urgencies as women and children in jeopardy, Jewish/Arab relations and agencies working to ameliorate relations between African-Americans and Jews.
"Barbra Streisand: The Concert," the critically lauded film version of the concerts became the highest rated musical event in HBO's history, as well as a quadruple-platinum home video and triple-platinum double album (exceptionally rare for a multi-disc set). In addition to its five Emmy Awards and Peabody Award, it earned three Cable Ace Awards. Four other home videos have been certified gold.
The filmmaker/entertainer was born April 24th in Brooklyn to Diana and Emanuel Streisand. Her father, who passed away when Barbra was 15 months old, was a highly respected teacher and scholar.
An honor student at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, the teenage Streisand plunged, unassisted and without encouragement, into show business by winning a singing contest at a small Manhattan club. She developed a devout and growing following at the clubs which began hiring her, and soon she was attracting music industry attention at such spots as the Bon Soir and the Blue Angel.
Streisand signed a contract with Columbia Records in 1962, and her debut album quickly became the nation's top-selling record by a female vocalist.
Following her award-winning stage debut performance in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," she was signed to play the great comedienne Fanny Brice in the Broadway production of "Funny Girl." When the curtain came down at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 26, 1964, the star and the show were major hits. Her distinctly original musical-comedy performance won her a second Tony nomination.
Her star on the ascent, she signed a 10-year contract with CBS Television to produce and star in TV specials. The contract gave her complete artistic control, an unheard of concession to an artist so young and inexperienced. The first special, "My Name Is Barbra," earned five Emmy Awards, and the following four shows, including the memorable "Color Me Barbra," earned the highest critical praise and audience ratings. The two aforementioned specials were released 20 years later and became instant top-sellers in the videocassette market.
In 1966, Streisand repeated her "Funny Girl" triumph in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre. London critics voted her the best female lead in a musical for that season.
Few movie debuts have been as auspicious as Streisand's in Columbia Pictures' "Funny Girl." In addition to winning the 1968 Academy Award, she won the Golden Globe and was named Star of the Year by the National Association of Theatre Owners.
After appearing in the films "Hello, Dolly!" and "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," she starred in the non-musical comedy "The Owl and the Pussycat," released in 1970. 1972 brought another resounding comedy hit, "What's Up Doc?," followed by "Up the Sandbox," one of the first American films to deal with the growing women's movement. It was the premiere picture for her own production company, Barwood Films.
The memorable motion picture "The Way We Were" brought her a 1973 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The very successful "A Star Is Born," released in 1976, was the first movie to benefit from her energy and insight as a producer and won six Golden Globes. The soundtrack album topped the charts and has been certified quadruple-platinum.
Shortly after Streisand had completed her first movie, she read a short story titled "Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy" and hoped to make it her second film. However, it took 15 years of development and persistence before the dream came true.
"Yentl," a romantic drama with music, is about a courageous woman who discovers that nothing is impossible in matters of the heart and mind. It is a movie that celebrates women trying to fulfill their capabilities, not allowing traditional restrictions to deter them. The film also was the first big budget project ($15 million) which was instrumental in opening doors to women in film on a higher professional level. Streisand's directorial debut film received five 1983 Academy Award nominations, and she received Golden Globe Awards both as Best Director and as producer of the Best Picture (musical or comedy) of 1983. The 10 Golden Globes she has received throughout her career are the most achieved by any entertainment artist. In January 2000 she received that organization's coveted Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.
Her follow-up film to "Yentl" was "Nuts," the unusual story of a smart woman shaped into an angry, anti-social character because of her childhood experiences. In addition to starring, Streisand produced and wrote the music for the powerful drama released in 1987.
Her second creation as a film director, "The Prince of Tides," concerning the consequences of childhood traumas and exploring family relationships, achieved seven Academy Award nominations and a nomination for her direction from the Directors Guild of America, making her only the third woman ever so honored. She brought this book to the screens because, "It's about how love and compassion can heal and liberate the soul. I'm interested in telling stories about positive transformations and the potential for human growth."
After working with her for two weeks, the book's author, Pat Conroy, gave Streisand a copy of his novel with the inscription: "To Barbra Streisand: The Queen of Tides...you are many things, Barbra, but you're also a great teacher...one of the greatest to come into my life. I honor the great teachers and they live in my work and they dance invisibly in the margins of my prose. You've honored me by taking care of it with such great seriousness and love. Great thanks, and I'll never forget that you gave 'The Prince of Tides' back to me as a gift. Pat Conroy."
Her Barwood Films has placed great emphasis on bringing to television dramatic explorations of pressing social, historic and political issues which would not otherwise be addressed in more widely viewed television movies. "Rescuers: Stories of Courage," a series of six two-part dramas on Showtime in 1997 and 1998 with great acclaim and wide viewership, pays tribute to non-Jews who heroically saved Jews from the Holocaust. Through Barwood, Ms. Streisand helped bring to millions of television viewers a drama investigating military harassment of and repression of the civil rights of gays. It was acknowledged that the critically praised "Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story," would never have been realized on network television had not Barbra Streisand put her executive producing talents and considerable artistic and social-issue influence behind it. It had great impact in conveying the urgent civil rights issue and earned three Emmys, six Emmy nominations and the Peabody Award in the process.
Barwood's "The Long Island Incident," which aired on NBC in May 1998, inspired a national debate on gun control with its true story of Carolyn McCarthy, a wife and mother who surmounted tragedy to win a seat in Congress after initiating a crusade to achieve sensible controls on guns.
Similarly, Barwood is currently preparing for Showtime a film supporting the Middle East peace process. "Two Hands That Shook The World" will parallel the lives of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat up to their historic handshake at the White House.
And like the true Renaissance woman she is, her life and her art are dedicated to the humanities as reflected by The Streisand Foundation, which is committed to gaining women's equality, the protection of both human rights and civil rights and liberties, the needs of children at risk in society, and the preservation of the environment. Through The Streisand Foundation, she directly funded the United States Environmental Defense Fund's research for and participation in the recent Global Warming world summit conference in Kyoto. Her environmental dedication is reflected, also in her donation to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy of the five-home, 24-acre Malibu estate on which her "One Voice" concert had been performed. The site has been dedicated as a center for ecological studies.
Ms. Streisand is a leading spokesperson and fund-raiser for social causes close to her heart, including AIDS. During the twenty-seven years, which preceded her limited 1994 tour and the Las Vegas New Year's appearances, she had devoted her live concert performances exclusively to the benefit of those causes she supports. Her concern with social issues is reflected not only in the dedications of her personal life, but in the subject matter of the films she has initiated, each of which has addressed some social consideration.
Recent honors reflecting the range of her involvement in charitable and social causes include the 1992 Commitment to Life Award from AIDS Project Los Angeles for her dedication to help people living with that disease, and the ACLU Bill of Rights Award for her ongoing defense of constitutional rights.
Ms. Streisand's feelings about the rights and obligations of artists to participate in the political process were brought into sharp focus by her early 1995 speech at Harvard University under the sponsorship of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. The address won unprecedented reportage and reproduction in such print media as the New York Times and the Washington Post. It was carried a record number of times on C-SPAN and is included in Senator Robert Torricelli's book, "In Our Words: The American Century," a collection of important speeches of the 20th century.
Prior to the 1986 elections, she performed her first full-length concert in 20 years, raising money for the Hollywood Women's Political Committee to disburse to liberal candidates. Taped on Sept. 6, 1986, before 500 invited guests at her California home, the concert was called "Barbra Streisand: One Voice" and aired on HBO on Dec. 27, 1986 to enormous acclaim. The money raised that night helped elect five Democratic Senators, which restored a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Additionally, she headlined concerts which raised millions of dollars for each of the successful presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton. To date, over $10 million including $7 million in profits from "Barbra Streisand: One Voice," have been channeled to charities through the Streisand Foundation, which continues to occupy much of the star's energy and resources. A concert at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, headlined by Ms. Streisand in support of the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign, raised over $5 million, the Democratic Party's largest "hard money" intake ever. Her celebrated speech in support of the Gore candidacy later was played in substantial excerpts on several national television broadcasts.
Her passionate political activism continues. Convinced that 1998 national general election was one of the most crucial in recent history, she applied herself to the election of candidates and issues she felt essential. She was one of the first and most outspoken critics of the Republican Congress' use of the impeachment issue as a means of blocking or undoing the social achievements of the Clinton administration. Ms. Streisand contributed financially to support the campaigns of 35 candidates in the general election, 27 of whom won. Similarly, she also supported specified candidates by endorsing 194 of them on her web site and then recommending consideration of this list when she did her AOL get-out-the-vote chat on election eve. Of the candidates she endorsed, 155 were elected and 39 were not. In both instances, that is a won/lost ratio of nearly 80%.
On July 1, 1998, Ms. Streisand married director/actor James Brolin.