Barry Manilow Biography
Last updated: 08/21/2012 11:23:30 AM
BARRY MANILOW is an internationally renowned superstar whose career spans recording and songwriting, television, film and stage. Based on industry charts, he is the undisputed Number One Adult Contemporary Artist of all time, and his record sales exceed 50 million worldwide. He has written hundreds of songs and performed around the world, thrilling millions of fans, picking up a Grammy, an Emmy, Tony Awards, and an Oscar nomination along the way.
Barry's roots are in Brooklyn, New York, where music was always a part of his life. By the age of seven, he was a budding musician, taking accordion lessons and playing on a neighbor's piano. When he decided to make music his career, he went to the New York College of Music and Julliard while working in the mailroom at CBS to pay his expenses.
At CBS, 18-year-old Barry met a director who asked him to arrange some public domain songs for a musical adaptation of the melodrama The Drunkard. Instead, he wrote an entire original score. The musical became such a success that it ran for eight years.
Also at CBS, Barry was the music director for the local TV series Callback while he was writing, producing and singing radio and television jingles. In addition to all this, he was half of a musical duo for a two-year run at New York's Upstairs at the Downstairs club.
Then, in 1972, Barry met Bette Midler and became her music director, arranger and pianist. He co-produced and created arrangements for her first Grammy Award-winning album, The Divine Miss M, as well as her second platinum album, Bette Midler. Barry had signed with Bell Records (which later became Arista Records) to make his solo album debut when Bette persuaded him to remain as her music director for her first national tour. Barry opened the second half of Bette's show with three original songs that literally stopped the show.
Barry began his own first solo tour in 1974 and the release of "Mandy" started an unprecedented string of 25 consecutive Top 40 hits, including "Even Now," "This One's for You," "Weekend in New England," "I Write the Songs" and "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again." Four years later, five of Barry's albums were on the charts at the same time, a record equaled only by Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis.
On March 2, 1977, ABC-TV presented Barry's first network special, The Barry Manilow Special, to an audience of 37 million. The show won the Emmy Award for "Best Special of the Year" and was followed a year later by his Home Box Office special, taped live in concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, which was the first pay-TV show to seriously challenge network primetime specials in the ratings.
ABC followed the first special with The Second Barry Manilow Special in 1978, The Third Barry Manilow Special in 1979, and One Voice a year later.
In 1981, the Showtime cable TV network presented The Barry Manilow Special taped live at a sold-out concert at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
In 1983, The Concert at Blenheim Palace was taped live before 50,000 enthusiastic fans in England.
Barry's In the Round World Tour of 1981-1982 set box office and building attendance records. He broke records set by the Rolling Stones and captivated British audiences when his U.K. tour kicked off with five sold-out performances at the Royal Albert Hall, for which nearly one-half million people vied for the 21,500 available seats. When Barry arrived in London, he was met by fans who had braved one of the worst storms in English history to catch a glimpse of the superstar. Three hundred policemen were on hand at Heathrow Airport to control what the British Daily Mail described as "a fervor scarcely matched since the heyday of Elvis Presley and The Beatles." The next day, the papers all carried the same headline... "Manilow Mania."
While performing at the Royal Albert Hall, Barry recorded a live album, Barry Manilow-Live in Britain, and he became the first American performer to see his LP debut at number one in its first week of release. A few months later, he was awarded three consecutive platinum albums in Britain, surpassing a record set by The Beatles.
Barry's 1982-1983 Around The World In 80 Dates tour included his first concert appearances in Japan and Australia. A tour highlight was the outdoor concert on the historic grounds of Blenheim Palace in England, which Barry refers to as one of the most significant events of his career. The tour concluded triumphantly with a gala charity concert at the Royal Festival Hall hosted by the Prince and Princess of Wales.
In a dramatic departure in 1984, Barry fulfilled a lifelong dream of recording an original collection of "saloon tunes" with a classic all-star jazz ensemble, including Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Gerry Mulligan and Shelly Mann. The 2:00 A.M. Paradise Caf?/i> album was universally heralded as his most important body of work.
In 1985, Barry released Manilow for RCA Records, his first new studio album in three years, and made his acting debut in the CBS telefilm Copacabana, a forties era musical comedy based on his Grammy Award-winning song. Copacabana was one of TV Guide's "Top Ten Made-For-TV Movies" of the year.
Barry returned to Arista Records in 1987 with the release of Swing Street, an album he describes as "the kind of contemporary music the great artists who have been influenced by music would be making if they had the advantage of modern electronics." The album features a variety of legendary artists including Diane Schuur, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Phyllis Hyman, Jerry Hey, Tom Scott and Gerry Mulligan and contains an eclectic mix of pop and swing with jazz overtones on such songs as "Brooklyn Blues," "Hey Mambo" and "Black and Blue."
Inspired by the music of Swing Street and 2:00 A.M. Paradise Caf?/i>, the Barry Manilow: Big Fun On Swing Street CBS-TV special costarred many of the artists featured on the two albums. Barry described the show as "a little bit of the forties and a little bit of the eighties... a fantasy trip down a timeless jazz street that could exist anytime, anyplace."
The same year, Barry added "author" to his already impressive list of talents and achievements. Sweet Life: Adventures on the Way to Paradise recalls highlights of his early years as a struggling musician and captures his musical adventure from his appearances at the Continental Baths through the creation of his landmark 2:00 A.M. Paradise Caf?/i> album. "As painful as they've sometimes been, I wouldn't trade away one minute of the adventures I've been through," he wrote. The book went into a second printing and kept fans lined up across the country for Barry's ten-city book signing tour.
Barry embarked on the Big Fun Tour de Force, an extensive two-year international tour throughout the U.S. and Europe, including a two-week engagement at the London Palladium. The stage spectacular was both intimate and highly theatrical, earning worldwide praise from the press as "hip," "fabulous," "impressive," "dazzling," "ultra-lavish," "a total triumph" and "the performance of a lifetime." The show was filled with stories from Barry's career interpreted through music and included the show-stopping 30-minute "Gonzo Medley" of ALL his hits.
Barry has consistently been one of the most successful touring artists in the music industry. His return to Broadway in 1989 for Barry Manilow at the Gershwin was praised by critics and played to standing-room-only houses for eight weeks. The show produced the Barry Manilow: Live on Broadway album and a home video of the same name, which stayed eight weeks at the number one spot on Billboard Magazine's music and videocassette charts.
Between tours, Barry produced Nancy Wilson's album With My Lover Beside Me, which includes previously unrecorded lyrics by the late Johnny Mercer and music by Barry Manilow. Barry had previously put music to Johnny Mercer's lyrics for his 1984 recording "When October Goes" on the Paradise Caf?/i> album.
1990 marked the release of Barry's first holiday album, Because It's Christmas. It combined original songs with new versions of holiday standards, including "White Christmas," "Joy To The World," a "Baby It's Cold Outside" duet with country star K.T. Oslin, and a Bing Crosby/Andrew Sisters inspired version of "Jingle Bells" with the pop group Expos? The album was certified Gold within two weeks of its release and was followed a year later with the companion home video.
Showstoppers, a collection of some of the most memorable musical moments in Broadway history, was Barry's 23rd album. The songs span nearly 90 years of music -- from "Give My Regards to Broadway" from the 1904 production Little Johnny Jones to the Tony Award-winning hit The Will Rogers' Follies. Barry is joined on the album by Broadway stars Michael Crawford (The Phantom of the Opera) and Hinton Battle (Miss Saigon) to sing a memorable rendition of "Fugue For Tinhorns" from the classic show Guys and Dolls. Barry joined Barbara Cook (The Music Man) for the duet "Look To The Rainbow" from the 1947 musical Finian's Rainbow.
To coincide with the 1991 release of Showstoppers, Barry went on a nationwide tour with a Broadway-style show. The tour was Barry's salute to the American musical theater and depicted the evolution of the Broadway musical through sketches and songs, including many of Barry's hits as if they had been performed in well-known Broadway shows. The tour featured a cast of five actors/singers/dancers and included a six-night engagement in New York to re-open the historic Paramount Theatre.
In 1992, Arista Records released Barry Manilow: The Complete Collection and Then Some, a four CD/cassette boxed set of Barry's recordings, including 70 cuts, with 30 new songs and original demos of some of his Top 40 hits.
The boxed set featured the original first take of "Mandy" (where Barry accidentally sings the original lyric "Brandy"), his performance opening the second act of Bette Midler's Carnegie Hall concert, duets including "My Girl/No One In This World" with Melissa Manchester, rare live recordings such as "I Am Your Child" (recorded at New York's Continental Baths in 1973), and new songs including "Let Me Be Your Wings" and the stirring anthem "Let Freedom Ring." Barry Manilow: The Complete Collection and Then Some also includes a collector's book and a one-hour home video of previously unreleased great performances spanning 20 years.
In conjunction with the boxed set, Barry kicked off The Greatest Hits and Then Some... World Tour with a five-night engagement at New York's Radio City Music Hall and concerts in Japan, the Philippines and Great Britain. The performance videotaped at the Wembley Arena for the BBC was seen by over 4.5 million viewers, more than twice the expected audience. The home video of the concert, released in the U.K., premiered at number one on the charts.
Barry returned to the studio in 1994 to record his 28th album, a salute to the "Big Bands," released by Arista Records. Singin' with the Big Bands, named for a song written for the album by Barry and Bruce Sussman, chronicles some of the best known songs of the Big Band era, performed by the actual bands that made them famous, including the orchestras of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Jimmy Dorsey, and Les Brown & His Band of Renown. It was quick to go Gold.
Venturing into new areas, Barry signed a three-picture deal to score and compose the songs for the animated films Thumbelina, and The Pebble and the Penguin, with the third film Rapunzel still in development.
These films follow Barry's production of Barry Manilow Presents Copacabana at Caesar's Atlantic City, a musical fantasy featuring a cast of 20 singers and dancers which Barry directed, with a script and song score created by Barry and his longtime collaborators Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman. The show played to over 100,000 people in its first six months and received rave reviews as the "must-see casino show" in Atlantic City.
Barry's career in the theater ranges from his Tony Award-winning Broadway debut in 1977 to an SRO eight-week run on "The Great White Way" in 1989. Barry Manilow's Copacabana-The Musical premiered in the U.K. in March of 1994, touring England's provinces for four months before opening at London's Prince of Wales Theatre on June 23, 1994. Inspired by his hit single, "Copacabana," the elaborate two-act musical spectacular ran to packed houses on London's West End for 18 months. Barry Manilow's Copacabana-The Musical is currently on a National Tour sweeping through 30 major U.S. cities. Copacabana's great reputation has spread, and the musical is presently booked for the next two years.
Barry's most recent creative theatrical project is called Harmony. The world premiere of this musical (with book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman) enjoyed a successful run at the La Jolla Playhouse, and it will soon be heading to Broadway. Harmony is a completely original musical based on the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a brilliantly talented group of male singers who attempted to find harmony during one of the darkest chapters in human history as the Nazi party came to power in Germany.
The 1995 leg of the Greatest Hits Tour began with a string of dates in the U.S. and a tour of Mexico, which included three standing-room-only performances at Mexico City's National Auditorium. Marking Barry's first trip to Mexico, 12 newspapers proclaimed that "Mexico Loves Manilow!" Following on the heels of his incredibly successful entry into the Mexican market, Barry returned to the U.S. where he was invited to be the inaugural performer at Chicago's new Rosemont Theatre, a grand scale luxury venue. After Rosemont, Barry continued with a string of sold-out dates in the Eastern United States before wrapping up 1995 with a week-long engagement at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. There was a new series of concerts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong in 1996.
1996 also saw Barry's return to the time of his initial success with the release of his 29th album, Summer of '78. Featuring Barry's remarkable take on the classic songs that shared the charts with his own mega-hits, the collection includes some of the decade's best-known love songs. To support the album, Barry kicked off a new world tour, Manilow: Reminiscing, with a series of shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall. The first three nights sold out with absolutely no advertising. Due to the overwhelming demand, additional nights were added, proving that word of mouth alone is still enough to propel a Manilow show over the top. That same year Barry returned to television with A&E's production of Barry Manilow: Live by Request. This two-hour A&E special, where viewers called in to request their favorite songs, was the highest rated music show in the network's history.