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Overview for Barry Manilow
Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow


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Also Known As: Barry Alan Pincus Died:
Born: June 17, 1943 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: Music ... singer songwriter musician musical conductor arranger CBS mailroom attendant brewery worker


An immensely talented singer-musician, Barry Manilow trained at Juilliard before creating several endlessly lucrative jingles for such companies as State Farm and Band-Aid. After accompanying Bette Midler during her famous bathhouse sets, he produced her first two albums, and also began longtime professional friendships with Clive Davis and Dick Clark, gifting the latter with "It's Just another New Year's Eve" and a new version of "Bandstand Boogie." Manilow embarked on his own successful solo career with his 1973 debut album, which included the future Donna Summer single "Could it Be Magic," and he would go on to notch the hit ballads "Mandy," "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again," "Weekend in New England," "Looks Like We Made It," "Can't Smile Without You," "Ready To Take a Chance Again" and his most iconic smash, the upbeat, infectious "Copacabana." Frequently mocked for his middle-of-the-road persona and soft-focus music as well as his ambiguous sexuality, Manilow displayed a refreshing, self-deprecating sense of humor, and embarked on multiple successful international tours. He contributed a song to "Oliver & Company" (1988), co-wrote the scores for the animated films "Thumbelina" (1994) and "The Pebble and the Penguin" (1995), and co-wrote several live-action musicals. An Emmy winner, Manilow topped the Billboard album charts for the first time with 2006's The Greatest Songs of the Fifties and booked long-running stints in Las Vegas and on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16). Self-aware of his campy but inescapable appeal, Barry Manilow achieved international fame as a much-loved superstar.

Born June 17, 1943 in Brooklyn, NY, Barry Alan Pincus was born into a Jewish family, and took his mother's maiden name, Manilow, at the time of his bar mitzvah. Gifted with an innate, prodigious musical talent, Manilow enrolled in Juilliard in 1961, while working at CBS. There, he met a director who asked him to arrange some songs for a musical, "The Drunkard," but Manilow surprised him by writing the entire score, which then earned an eight-year run off-Broadway. Supporting himself as a pianist, arranger and producer, Manilow then embarked on the most lucrative of all his ventures: working as a commercial jingle writer. Enjoying unparalleled success, he wrote, composed and sang such immensely memorable and profitable jingles for companies such as State Farm, Band-Aid and McDonald's. Ed Sullivan's production company hired him as an arranger, and he began performing with Jeanne Lucas as a musical duo at New York's Upstairs at the Downstairs club.

In 1970, Manilow began accompanying Bette Midler for her famous sets in New York's Continental Baths, and their musical collaborations proved so inspiring to her that she retained him to assist with the production of her first two albums, 1972's The Divine Miss M and 1973's Bette Midler, as well as serving as the musical director for her "The Divine Miss M" tour. His debut album, 1973's Barry Manilow, included the song "Could It Be Magic," which would later become one of Donna Summer's biggest hits. The singer-songwriter's talents caught the eye of a young Clive Davis, who saw enormous potential in him, and he took a special interest in guiding and shaping his career at Arista Records. The second album, Barry Manilow II, (1974) cemented Manilow's stardom as a viable performer, spinning off the smash No. 1 hit, the timeless ballad "Mandy." So popular was the second album that it caused the label to remix and reissue his first album, retitled Barry Manilow I.

Manilow's 1975 appearance on "American Bandstand" (WFIL-TV, 1952-57; ABC, 1957-1987, syndicated, 1987-88, USA Network, 1989) led to a fruitful, longtime collaboration with Dick Clark, with Manilow composing and performing "It's Just another New Year's Eve" for Clark's annual specials and providing an updated rendition of "Bandstand Boogie," the series' theme song. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Manilow began a run of chart dominance with such lush, soft-focus smashes as "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again," "Weekend in New England," "Looks Like We Made It" and "Can't Smile Without You." Capitalizing on his success, ABC tapped him to appear in four variety specials, which received huge ratings, multiple Emmy nominations and several wins. His smash "Ready to Take a Chance Again," which appeared on the soundtrack to the Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase romantic comedy smash "Foul Play" (1978) earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

But his most iconic song was perhaps the campy sing-a-long "Copacabana," which told the story of the passionate showgirl Lola and her ill-fated romance with bartender Tony. So catchy was the ditty that it took on a life of its own, later inspiring multiple projects by Manilow, including several musicals, including "Copacabana" (CBS, 1985), which starred Manilow as Tony and Annette O'Toole as Lola. In 1979, Manilow produced Dionne Warwick's platinum-selling Dionne and earned another Top Ten hit, "Ships." Throughout the 1980s, Manilow continued to enjoy musical success, but on the adult contemporary rather than mainstream pop charts, notching the hits "The Old Songs," "Somewhere Down the Road," "Read 'Em and Weep" and "I Don't Want to Walk Without You." Though his popularity had peaked in the 1970s, he continued to book multi-million dollar sold-out performances around the world, including a record-setting 10-night set at Radio City Music Hall in 1984.

Despite, or perhaps because of, Manilow's amazing success, he was frequently the target of jokes and parody, most often in terms of rumors regarding his ambiguous sexuality and his perceived "middle of the road," un-cool persona, which he bore through the years with self-deprecating humor. Artistically, he began incorporating more world music into his compositions, and to generously support music departments at multiple colleges and universities. His autobiography, Sweet Life: Adventures on the Way to Paradise, was published in 1987 and he wrote a song, "Perfect Isn't Easy" for Bette Midler's character to sing in the animated Disney film "Oliver & Company" (1988). Starting in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Manilow began focusing on recording other artists' music, releasing albums of holiday, Broadway, Big Band and tribute covers. He co-wrote the musical scores for the Don Bluth animated films "Thumbelina" (1994) and "The Pebble and the Penguin" (1995) and co-wrote a live-action musical, "Harmony," which was eventually canceled due to financial issues.

His 2002 greatest hits CD, Ultimate Manilow, was a hit, and he once again collaborated with Midler on two successful projects: 2003's Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook and 2005's Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook. Like many crowd-pleasing artists of his ilk, he began a long-running gig in Las Vegas as well as a string of appearances on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16) as a mentor and guest judge. Far from winding down, his career continued unabated; he earned his first No. 1 album with 2006's The Greatest Songs of the Fifties, which went platinum; won an Emmy for his performance in "Barry Manilow: Music and Passion" (PBS, 2006); and notched a No. 2 album with 2006's The Greatest Songs of the Sixties. In 2010, Manilow performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. In April 2015, it was revealed that Manilow had married his longtime manager, Garry C. Kief, in a small private ceremony in 2014.

By Jonathan Riggs

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