Barry Manilow (born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn, New York on June 17, 1943) is an American singer and songwriter best known for his hit recordings "I Write The Songs", "Mandy" and "Copacabana (At The Copa)".
Manilow dominated the charts for much of the 1970s with a string of major hit singles and multi-platinum albums. His music has often been considered by many to be "kitsch" or "camp", owing to its difference in style from the majority of the pop or rock charts. Despite the frequent barbs from critics, as well as the lampooning by comedians, he continues to maintain a large fan base, especially among baby-boomer women in his native United States. This is evidenced by the No. 1 debut of his 2006 album The Greatest Songs of the Fifties. In 1990, Rolling Stone proclaimed him "the showman of our generation".
He has sold 75 million records worldwide.
Manilow was born to humble origins in Brooklyn, New York on June 17, 1943. Shortly after his birth, his father, Harold Pincus (born to a Russian-Jewish mother and Irish father) and his mother Edna Manilow divorced. The young Manilow was then brought up by his mother and grandparents, Russian-Jewish immigrants who had a strong influence on his life. He began singing shortly before his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13. At this point, he legally changed his surname to his mother's maiden name of Manilow. He took up the accordion, but preferring the piano, he persevered at the tickling of the ivories, a move which would one day prove to be vital for his future career.
Manilow's record label, Arista Records, took three years off his announced age when he was really 32 (in 1975) and made him 29 years old so he would appeal to teens; Arista public relations staff announced his birth to be in 1946, eschewing his actual birth year of 1943.
Early in his career, Manilow was a commercial jingle writer/singer, writing the theme for State Farm Insurance, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" and the "Stuck on Band-Aid" song, among many others. Reportedly he also wrote the breakthrough McDonald's ad campaign theme, "You Deserve a Break Today". He then worked as a pianist, producer and arranger, accompanying Bette Midler among others at the Continental Bathhousein New York City.
Manilow's major solo hits include "Mandy" (1974), "Copacabana (At The Copa)" (1978) and "I Write The Songs" (1975). Several year after its release, Manilow's Copacabana was turned into a stage musical that ran for two years in the West End. The show toured the US in 2000 and 2003. His greatest UK hit was "I Wanna Do It With You" (1982) which reached no. 8 in the UK charts, his only top ten hit there.
Manilow's first album was released by Bell Records, (later known as Arista records) in 1973. The album contained an eclectic mix of piano-driven pop, Big Band remakes, and guitar-driven rock. His second album, which was named Barry Manilow II (Bell/Arista, 1974) contained Manilow's huge breakthrough hit "Mandy." This led to a string of hit singles and albums that lasted through the rest of the 1970s, ending in the early 1980's. While Manilow is known as a songwriter, it is ironic that he did not write "I Write The Songs", which was actually written by Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys (written about Brian Wilson).
After his landmark Concert at Blenheim Palace in August of 1983, Manilow started to venture into a jazz-driven style, starting with the 1984 album 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe. The album was recorded with jazz greats Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme and Gerry Mulligan. Manilow would return to the genre in 1987, with the release of Swing Street. The techno-jazz-inspired album contained performances with Dianne Schuur, Phyllis Hyman, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and Tom Scott.
From 1985 to 1986, Manilow was involved with the pop album Manilow (RCA, 1985), and began a phase of international music, as he performed songs and duets in French, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese, among other languages. The 1980s saw a number of singles released, such as "Bermuda Triangle" 1981, "Let's Hang On" 1981, "Stay" 1982 and "Please Don't Be Scared" in 1989. The only one of these songs to chart in the U.S. was "Let's Hang On".
In the 1990s, Manilow recorded a succession of "event" albums, guided by Arista's President, Clive Davis. From 1991's Showstoppers, a collection of Broadway tunes, to a big band album, Singin' with the Big Bands (1994), a 1970s collection Summer of '78, (perhaps the weakest effort of his career), the decade ended with Manilow recording a tribute to Frank Sinatra Manilow Sings Sinatra (1998), shortly after Sinatra's death.
Manilow's music connected with a new generation when top British boy band Take That reached number 3 in the UK charts with "Could It Be Magic" (1992) . Later, Irish boy band Westlife reached number 1 with "Mandy" (2003), in a version clearly based on Manilow's hit version (differing only in that they omitted the piano introduction and inserted a different fade-out ending).
After the start of the new millennium, Manilow left Arista Records for Concord Records, a jazz-oriented label in California, and started work on the long-anticipated Here at the Mayflower album. The album was another eclectic mix of styles, almost entirely composed and produced by Manilow himself. 2004 saw the release of both a live album, 2 Nights Live! (BMG Strategic Marketing Group, 2004), and a soundtrack album of his musicals Scores (Concord, 2004). Two Christmas albums, many live albums and compilations have rounded out a very large body of music.
Manilow appeared as a guest judge and arranged music for American Idol on April 24, 2004, the year in which he also embarked on his "One Night Live! One Last Time!" final tour. Some fans were unhappy that Manilow charged his fans $1,000 to meet him after the show, but ticket sales were robust, landing Manilow's tour into the Top Ten club for box office grosses in 2004.
Manilow co-wrote, with lyricist Bruce Sussman, a musical, Harmony, which was originally scheduled to preview in Philadelphia in 2003. After financial difficulties and a legal battle, Manilow and Sussman won back the rights to the musical. It is currently unknown when the musical is slated to reach Broadway.
On the heels of his Farewell tour, Manilow opened a standing show in Las Vegas in 2005 at the Las Vegas Hilton, where he will reside in the penthouse where Elvis lived for 8 years (Newsweek/MSNBC).
Manilow has appeared in two movies. He portrayed Tony in a 1985 made-for-television film based on "Copacabana" (Annette O'Toole was Lola and Joseph Bologna was Rico). He also portrayed himself in the 2002 Kathy Bates-Rupert Everett comedy Unconditional Love, in which Manilow's hit "Can't Smile Without You" plays a key role in the plot. He co-wrote the Broadway-style musical scores for the animated films Oliver & Company (1988), The Pebble and the Penguin (1995) and Thumbelina. Manilow hits have figured prominently in several films such as Foul Play and Serial Mom.
Manilow made an appearance (performing "Can't Smile Without You", "Mandy", "I Write The Songs" and songs from his latest album) on the Oprah Winfrey show on April 7, 2005.
Manilow released a new album on January 31, 2006 called The Greatest Songs of the Fifties. The album includes classic songs from that decade, like "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Unchained Melody". It was an unexpected hit, debuting at number 1 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 1 in 29 years . It was eventually certified Platinum in the U.S., and sold over three million of copies worldwide. A sequel album, The Greatest Songs of the Sixties will be released on October 31 2006, including songs as "And I Love Her" and "Can't Help Falling in Love".