With The Greatest Songs of
the Sixties, Barry Manilow
has recorded the songs that
make the whole world sing.
he made it
takes to the charts
with his latest CD
By Stephanie E. Ponder
WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT that in 2006
Barry Manilow would have the world in the
palm of his hand? That’s right, Barry
Manilow, the singer-songwriter best known
for radio-friendly hits such as “Mandy,” “I
Write the Songs” and “Copacabana.”
The ageless Manilow has a new CD out,
The Greatest Songs of the Sixties, following on
the heels of The Greatest Songs of the Fifties,
released earlier this year, which debuted at
number one on the Billboard charts. In March
he made a guest appearance on American Idol,
and he also won an Emmy in August for
Outstanding Individual Performance in a
Variety or Music Program, beating Hugh
Jackman and David Letterman.
The only hitch is that Manilow followed
up his Emmy coup with surgery for torn cartilage in his hips—an injury common in athletes and most likely the result of his
enthusiastic stage performances. He assured
The Connection that he’d be back onstage
after a few weeks of rest and physical therapy.
Manilow, 60, was born Barry Alan Pincus
in Brooklyn, New York, later taking his
mother’s maiden name, Manilow. He attended
Juilliard School of Music and early in his
career worked as a jingle writer. (He’s responsible for ad tidbits such as “And like a good
neighbor, State Farm is there” and “I am stuck
on Band-Aids.”) He later became the musical
director for Bette Midler before coming out
with a string of hits of his own between 1975
and 1983—and taking over the music charts.
Since then he’s continued to perform and
record, experimenting with sounds and genres. But it wasn’t until this year’s The Greatest
Songs of the Fifties that one of his albums
debuted at the top—a feat he hadn’t accomplished in nearly 30 years.
It only made sense to follow that success
with The Greatest Songs of the Sixties. Both this
and the Fifties CD came about at the urging of
“It always made me feel
very grateful when I’d see
hundreds and hundreds
of people who wanted
to [be] close to me.”
Clive Davis, a longtime colleague and founder
of Arista Records.
Before he recorded any tracks, Manilow
says he did his homework, studying and playing each song. His method, he says, is to “pick
a song, play it on the piano and sing it. If it
feels right, I put it in a pile that contains the
songs that feel right for me. If not, they go
into the pile [of songs] that don’t feel good.
“For instance, the fantastic ‘Stop in the
Name of Love’ sounded bad coming from me.
Same thing with ‘Runaround Sue.’ There were
a lot of songs that just didn’t fit me.”
Eventually he and Davis whittled 300 songs
down to 19 that were recorded
and then culled to the 13 that
show up on the CD. Songs that
made the cut include “Blue
Velvet,” “You’ve Lost That
Lovin’ Feeling” and “Raindrops
Keep Falling on My Head.”
An interesting fact about
Manilow is that he records his
CDs alone in his studio. He uses neither musicians nor an engineer. “When I’m done I replace
various synthesizer instruments with real ones,
but until that moment it’s just me and my
machines,” he explains. “And I love it.”
Despite the tendency of critics to dismiss
his talents over the years, fans remain intensely
devoted to the performer—referring to themselves as Fanilows.
These days Fanilows can be found gathering at the Las Vegas Hilton, where Manilow
has a permanent performance venue. It’s a
convenient plane trip from his home in Palm
Springs, California, which allows him the luxury of sleeping in his own bed at night.
“Thirty years of living out of a suitcase is
quite enough, thank you,” he says.
Not that being on the road was all bad.
When Manilow used to tour he’d pick an audience member to duet with on “I Can’t Smile
Without You.” He says that people hoping to
be picked showed up with bigger and more
elaborate signs at each show.
“It was crazy, sweet and a riot,” he says. “I
don’t do that bit anymore, but it always made
me feel very grateful when I’d see hundreds
and hundreds of people who wanted
to [be] close to me.” C
Barry Manilow’s The Greatest
Songs of the Sixties is available
in most Costco warehouses.