Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow
Barry Manilow. Photo by Jack Mitchell / Getty Images

Born

Barry Alan Pincus - June 17, 1943, Brooklyn, New York. He later adopted his mother's maiden name Manilow as his legal surname.

Education and Early Career

Barry Manilow began playing the piano as a young child. After graduating from high school, he was accepted as a student at the Juilliard School of Music. Following his years as a student, Barry Manilow began writing theme music for television shows and commercials.

He became one of the most successful ad jingle writers. "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there," "I am stuck on Band-Aid," and McDonald's "You deserve a break today" were among his major successes. He also appeared as the singer of major commercial ad campaigns by Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper. In 1976, Barry Manilow received two Clio Awards for advertising excellence.

Barry Manilow and Bette Midler

In 1971 Barry Manilow met Bette Midler. She hired him as her pianist, arranger, and musical director. He accompanied her as she performed and gained a strong following from men attending New York City's notorious gay bathhouses. Barry Manilow co-produced her first two albums The Divine Miss M and Bette Midler and had the opportunity to introduce some of his own music at her 1972 concert at Carnegie Hall. He produced  Bette Midler's top 10 pop smash hit cover of the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

During the same period, Barry Manilow recorded four songs under the name Featherbed, a project produced by Tony Orlando. Among the songs was an early uptempo version of "Could It Be Magic" which flopped when released as a single.

Barry Manilow's Top 10 Pop Singles

 

  1. I Write the Songs - #1 1975
  2. Looks Like We Made It - #1 1977
  1. Mandy - #1 1974
  2. Can't Smile Without You - #3 1978
  3. Could It Be Magic - #6 1975
  4. Copacabana (At the Copa) - #8 1978
  5. Somewhere in the Night - #9 1979
  6. Ships - #9 1979
  7. Weekend in New England - #10 1977
  8. I Made It Through the Rain - #10 1980

Solo Success

Barry Manilow released his first, self-titled, solo album in 1973 on Bell Records. It did not sell well, but as Bell evolved into Arista, the label head, Clive Davis, suggested Manilow record a song called "Brandy" for his second album Barry Manilow II. The song's name was changed to "Mandy" to avoid conflict with an earlier hit single by another artist, and it became Barry Manilow's first #1 hit. Clive Davis also steered another song, "I Write the Songs," to Barry Manilow in 1975.

Pop Superstar

Barry Manilow emerged as one of the top pop superstars of the mid and late 1970s. He hit #1 with "Mandy," "I Write the Songs," and "Looks Like We Made It." The hit movie Foul Play with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn included Barry Manilow's "Ready To Take a Chance Again" on the soundtrack, and it earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. He made a major disco splash in 1978 with the top 10 pop hit single "Copacabana (At the Copa)."

At the peak of his commercial success in 1977, Barry Manilow released the two disc album Barry Manilow Live.

It featured his big hit songs and the "Very Strange Medley," a collection of the commercial jingles he worked on either as writer or performer. The album hit #1 on the album chart and sold more than three million copies.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Barry Manilow found great success with TV specials. He presented four for ABC. The first premiered in March 1977 and was nominated for four Emmy Awards winning Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Special. His second in 1978 earned four more Emmy Award nominations. The third appeared in 1979 and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. 

By the end of the decade Barry Manilow even ventured into producing other artists. He worked with Dionne Warwick on her 1979 comeback album Dionne. It included the top 5 pop hit single "I'll Never Love This Way Again," her first top 10 pop hit in five years.

The song earned her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal. 

Fading Pop Success

By 1980 Barry Manilow had racked up 10 top 10 pop hit singles including 3 #1's, but his ballad-heavy pop music was falling out of style. One last top 10, "I Made It Through the Rain," peaked in early 1981. Seven more top 20 hits appeared in the next 3 years, but he has failed to reach the top 40 since 1983's "Read 'Em and Weep." Instead of ending his career, Barry Manilow responded by diversifying his musical palette. One of the first signs of that change was the release of his cover of the 1941 Styne and Loesser pop standard "I Don't Want To Walk Without You" as a single in 1980. It peaked at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Jazz, Swing, and Pop Standards

Through the latter part of the 1980's and much of the 1990's Barry Manilow recorded albums of swing (1987's Swing Street), original jazz (1984's 2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe), and pop standards (1998's Manilow Sings Sinatra). Throughout this period he remained one of the most consistently successful concert attractions. He received Grammy Award nominations for his jazz and pop standard work. The 1986 TV-Movie based on "Copacabana" received 2 Emmy Awards.

Barry Manilow's Resurgence and a #1 Hit Album

As the new century began, Barry Manilow began seeking greater visibility. He recorded the critically acclaimed Here at the Mayflower album for jazz label Concord Records in 2001. The next year he performed "Let Freedom Ring" at the Super Bowl pre-game show with all-star support including Yolanda Adams, James Ingram, Wynonna, and Patti LaBelle. In 2003, he worked with Bette Midler for the first time in more than twenty years producing her album Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook. After that album was certified gold, they collaborated on the follow-up Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook in 2005. Barry Manilow was introduced to a new generation of music fans as a guest judge for American Idol in 2004. Following a farewell tour, he opened a standing show at the Las Vegas Hilton in 2005 that continued through 2008.

The biggest step back into the public spotlight came when Barry Manilow returned to recording with his long-term mentor, Clive Davis. After the surprising #3 album chart debut of the career-spanning collection Ultimate Manilow in 2002, it became apparent that Barry Manilow still had a loyal audience willing to buy his music. The new project became a collection of classic tunes from the 1950's. It was released in early 2006 as The Greatest Songs of the Fifties and promptly debuted at #1 on the album chart becoming only the second #1 album of Barry Manilow's career. The first was his 1977 Barry Manilow Live album. He continued in the spotlight with another round of service as guest judge on American Idol, release of a DVD of the Vegas show, and re-releases of 3 early albums with previously unreleased songs attached.

Barry Manilow's success with cover versions of classic songs continued through four more albums. Only The Greatest Songs of the Eighties failed to reach the top 10 on the album chart. The final collection, The Greatest Love Songs Of All Time, hit the top 5 and received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Album. Barry Manilow concluded his five years at the Las Vegas Hilton in December 2009. He began a new show in March 2010 at the Paris Hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Barry Manilow's album 15 Minutes, his first collection of all new songs in 10 years, was released in June 2011. It debuted at #7 on the album chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Album.

In March 2014 Barry Manilow released the collection of pop standards Night Songs. It reached #5 on the chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Album. He followed it with the album My Dream Duets in October 2014 and it earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Album. The album contained digitally created duets with singers of the past including Whitney Houston, John Denver, and Louis Armstrong. In February 2015, Barry Manilow embarked on his farewell concert tour. 

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Lamb, Bill. "Barry Manilow." ThoughtCo, Dec. 28, 2016, thoughtco.com/barry-manilow-biography-3244678. Lamb, Bill. (2016, December 28). Barry Manilow. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/barry-manilow-biography-3244678 Lamb, Bill. "Barry Manilow." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/barry-manilow-biography-3244678 (accessed September 24, 2017).