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Barry Manilow

Date of birth : 1943-06-17
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-12-12

Barry Manilow is an American singer-songwriter, musician, arranger, producer, conductor, and performer, best known for such recordings as "Could It Be Magic", "Mandy", "Can't Smile Without You", and "Copacabana (At the Copa)."

"Barry Manilow has spent ... years at the top of the heap, no matter where the critics would wish him," declared David Van Biema in People magazine. Though frequently denigrated by music reviewers as bland and lacking talent, Manilow has had a string of hit singles, including "Mandy," "Could It Be Magic," "This One's For You," "Weekend in New England," and "Copacabana," and has watched at least ten of his albums go platinum. Extremely popular with fans of the soft ballad genre, Manilow won several awards for his musical performance in the late 1970s, including a special Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for two weeks of sold-out concerts on Broadway. In the 1980s he made successful forays into a jazz reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s, and wrote his autobiography, Sweet Life: Adventures on the Way to Paradise.

Manilow was born June 17, 1946, in Brooklyn, New York. Two years later his father deserted the family, and Manilow was raised by his mother and grandparents. They were poor and lived in a slum area of Brooklyn that has since deteriorated further. "Ask a cabdriver to take you there now," Manilow told Stephen E. Rubin in Ladies' Home Journal, "and he'll run away." As the singer explained further, "I was really ugly, the ugliest kid in school.... I didn't have a lot of friends," and his shyness intensified his interest in music. He learned the accordion at an early age and later progressed to the piano. After his mother remarried in the late 1950s, Manilow's stepfather, a jazz enthusiast, took him to hear saxophonist Gerry Mulligan. This broadened the young musician's interests, and he began buying jazz and Broadway musical albums, but unlike most of his peers, Manilow held no affection for the rock and roll that was sweeping the country during his adolescence. He told Gerrit Henry in After Dark: "I really did not like [Bill Haley and the Comets'] 'Rock Around the Clock.' I think the Beatles finally convinced me there was something going on in rock."

After Manilow graduated from high school he entered the City College of New York to study advertising, but, quickly bored by marketing courses, he left for the New York College of Music. Due to lack of funds he never graduated, but he continued his studies at Juilliard while supporting himself with a job in the mail room of CBS's New York City headquarters. Eventually Manilow worked his way up to film editor for the local affiliate, WCBS-TV; his primary task was inserting commercials into the programming, but he also created new theme music for the station's late show. Meanwhile, in his spare time, Manilow was arranging music for others who tried out in Broadway auditions and playing piano in lounges and bars.

Roughly concurrent with an early marriage to a high school sweetheart that ended in divorce after a year, Manilow was named musical director of WCBS-TV's "Callback," a showcase for young musical talent. He won an Emmy in this capacity for his work writing many different kinds of musical arrangements--from opera to rock and roll. In the 1970s, Manilow began to supplement his income by writing and performing commercial jingles. His composing endeavors in this field include advertisements for Bowlene Toilet Cleaner, Band-Aid bandages, Chevrolet automobiles, and State Farm Insurance; in addition, he sang the famous "You Deserve a Break Today" theme for McDonald's fast food restaurants.

At around the same time, Manilow served as a substitute pianist for singer Bette Midler. Midler liked his work, and he became the musical director for her 1972 tour, fashioning the arrangements that helped Midler become a major star. As Manilow explained to Robert Windeler in another People article, "Arranging is my strongest suit.... I'm only a fair singer, I write nice songs, but I'm a great arranger." With the money he was earning in this position, Manilow felt secure enough to invest in making demonstration tapes of his own material, and he submitted them to Bell Records, which later became Arista. The result was a contract for a solo album, which, when finished, was Manilow I. Though one cut in particular from this effort, "Could It Be Magic," a richly emotional love song based on a prelude by classical composer Frederic Chopin, received favorable criticism and frequent FM airplay, Manilow did not have a major hit until his second album, Manilow II, in 1974. The featured single, "Mandy," a haunting song of regret for a formerly spurned lover, was a runaway success and put Manilow into the limelight and on his way to becoming one of the most popular singers of the 1970s.

Manilow followed "Mandy" with the upbeat "It's a Miracle," but for the most part he has scored his biggest successes with sad love ballads like "Trying to Get the Feeling," in 1975, "Weekend in New England," and "Looks Like We Made It," in 1976, "Even Now," in 1978, his 1982 rendition of "Memory" from the Broadway musical "Cats," and 1983's "Read 'Em and Weep." In addition, Manilow wrote and performed the theme song for television's "American Bandstand" and sang "Ready to Take a Chance," which served as the theme of the film, "Foul Play."

Though chided by critics as amateurish in his singing style, Manilow feels this is the very trait that makes him so popular. He told Dennis Hunt in a Los Angeles Times interview: "You can hear me spitting, you can hear me making mistakes.... There's a more human element in a song if my voice cracks or if you can hear me sighing. It's emotional, it's realistic." Despite this attitude, enormous record sales, and myriad sold-out concert appearances, however, Manilow is upset by negative critical response. "All the things they say--'marshmallow,' 'syrupy,' 'ugly,' 'talentless,' 'can't sing,' 'wimp,' 'fag'--hurt so badly because I call myself all those things before they do," he confided to Van Biema. He deals with it, according to Van Biema, by working "even harder." Manilow also has attempted to change his image, while simultaneously indulging his own musical taste, by writing and recording songs in the style of 1930s and 1940s jazz. He got together with jazz musicians, including his early influence Gerry Mulligan, to record the 1984 release, 2:00 A.M., Paradise Cafe, which was viewed with greater kindness than his ballad albums by many critics. Manilow released a similar effort, Swing Street, in 1987.

2004 brought the release of two albums. These were, consecutively, a live album, 2 Nights Live! (BMG Strategic Marketing Group, 2004), and Scores: Songs from Copacabana & Harmony, an album of Manilow singing songs from his musicals. Scores was the last of Manilow's creative projects with the Concord label.

Manilow returned to Arista Records under Davis for a new covers album, released January 31, 2006, called The Greatest Songs of the Fifties. Manilow said he was blown away with the idea, which Davis presented to him when he visited his Las Vegas show. "When he suggested this idea to me, I slapped my forehead and said, 'Why hasn't anyone thought of this idea?'" Manilow said. It was an unexpected success, debuting at number one in the Billboard 200, 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 one in 29 years. It was eventually certified Platinum in the U.S., and sold over 3 million copies worldwide.

On January 26, 2010, Manilow released his new album The Greatest Love Songs of all Time. In December 2010, Barry was nominated for a Grammy award in the category Best Traditional Pop Album for "The Greatest Love Songs of All Time." On December 11, 2010, Manilow performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway. Manilow completed work on his new album, 15 Minutes, in March 2011, with his official Facebook page announcing that he had completed putting 'finishing touches' to the album on March 16, 2011.

1977 Grammy – I Write The Songs – Song of the Year (award went to the song's writer Bruce Johnston)
1977 Emmy for Outstanding Special – Comedy, Variety or Music – The Barry Manilow Special
1977 Special Tony Award – Barry Manilow on Broadway
1978 American Music Awards – Best Pop/Rock Male Artist
1979 Grammy – Copacabana Best Pop Male Vocal Performance
1979 American Music Awards – Best Pop/Rock Male Artist
1980 American Music Awards – Best Pop/Rock Male Artist
2002 Songwriter's Hall of Fame
2006 Emmy for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program – Barry Manilow: Music And Passion
2007 RIAA – Plaque commemorating worldwide record sales of 75 million
2009 Clio Awards Honorary award for prior work with commercial jingles
? Kentucky Colonel
2009 Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame

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