When Barry Manilow decided to make music his career, his goal was to create music that would endure beyond his lifetime.
That goal was reached as Manilow was formally enshrined into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame this past June. Manilow’s music is now deemed on a par with fellow Great American Songbook composers such as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter.
It is an honour that Manilow does not take lightly as he prepares for his upcoming concerts on Aug. 20 and 21 at Casino Rama.
“What I love most about the Great American Songbook composers is the respect they all gave to the lyrics in a song. Today, the stars in music are not the songwriters or singers, but the engineers and producers who give a groove and a good rhythm in songs. I miss the art of songwriting and it’s sad. So, I am deeply appreciated of being inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame and to be respected in music,” said Manilow, 69, in a phone interview.
“Barry cares about the classic way of writing a song, telling a story with emotion with a melody to go with poignant lyrics. The Manilow songs continue the tradition of the great songwriters of the 20th century,” said singer-songwriter Michael Feinstein, who inducted Manilow into the hall of fame and was an archivist for Ira Gershwin.
The Manilow song catalogue featuring 25 top 40 songs, such as Copacabana, Even Now and Mandy, are standard fare in many pops orchestral shows, and a number of Manilow tribute shows have been presented in Canada, England and the United States.
“The many tribute shows indicate the acceptance of Barry Manilow as a standard bearer of the classic song,” said Alan Jacobson, who produced I Am Music: The Songs Of Barry Manilow, which featured 10 vocalists performing Manilow’s hits at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Beach, Fla., last May.
“Barry’s music has melodies that stick in your head. His music is timeless, and the Manilow songs will endure for many generations to come,” Jacobson added.
“My fans really love those big hit songs, so I will go from It’s a Miracle to I Write the Songs and also throw in album cuts such as 15 Minutes at both Casino Rama shows. My hits never get old for me, and I always go back to basics – find the meaning of the song in the lyric and sing believing in the words,” Manilow said.
Manilow was raised by his mother, Edna, and grandparents, Esther and Joseph Manilow, Jewish immigrants from Russia, in a small Brooklyn apartment. Although born as Barry Pincus, he changed his surname to Manilow shortly before his bar mitzvah out of love for his zayde.
Manilow honed his music first on accordion and refined it on the piano that he received as a bar mitzvah gift.
For a time, things were traumatic for Manilow financially and emotionally. He nearly went bankrupt twice and had married and divorced his high school sweetheart by the age of 25.
In the 1960s, Manilow coached singers who wanted to audition on Broadway and wrote commercial jingles, before becoming musical director for Bette Midler. Manilow produced Midler’s first album, among many more for several singers before starring on his own in 1973.
Very little has gone wrong in Manilow’s career. In addition to selling 80 million albums over his career, Manilow showed his theatrical flair by co-writing a musical based on his hit song Copacabana, which also became a made-for-television movie, and recorded concept albums on jazz, Broadway standards, big band and swing music.
Barry Manilow stars in concert at Casino Rama, Aug. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. For tickets, call 1-800-832-7529 or go to www.casinorama.ca.