Synopsis of Pop Music
“I write the songs that make the whole world sing,
I write the songs that say those special things,
I write the songs that make the young girls cry,
I am music, and I write the songs…”
Barry Manilow was a pop star of a different kind. During his 1970’s and 1980’s heyday, he forsook up-to-the-minute trends in pop music in favor of the old-fashioned, melodic sound of the pre-rock and roll era. As a result, hits like “Mandy” and “Can’t Smile Without You” sounded both fresh and comfortingly familiar all at once. After carving out an impressive legacy of hits that remain popular today, he continued to broaden the public’s appreciation for older musical styles by recording albums of showtunes, big band music, and even jazz. In the process, he formed an important link between pop music’s past and its present and became one of its top showmen.
Barry Manilow devoted himself to music at an early age, learning to play the accordion at age seven and later studying at the Juilliard School of Music. By the late 1960’s, he put his musical skills to work as a musical director for CBS. He also carved out a solid side career composing advertising jingles for products like Dr. Pepper, State Farm Insurance, and Band-Aids. He also sang (but did not compose) the famous “You Deserve A Break Today” jingle for McDonald’s. These catchy ditties remained so popular that Manilow performed a medley of them during his concerts long after achieving fame with his pop songs.
In 1972, Barry Manilow took his first step to pop stardom when he substituted for another pianist who was backing up a rising cabaret singer. The singer happened to be Bette Midler, and the two worked well as a team. Manilow became Midler’s musical director and did the musical arrangements for her first two albums, The Divine Miss M and Bette Midler. These ambitious musical outings mixed blues, boogie-woogie, country and countless other styles in a way that showed off Manilow’s knowledge and skill as a musician. They also helped Manilow win a record contract of his own. He enlisted former Archies vocalist Ron Dante as a producer and recorded his self-titled debut album in 1972. It contained a future favorite in the lush, Chopin-inspired ballad “Could It Be Magic.”
Manilow’s star really began to rise when he released his cover of an English pop song called “Brandy” at the end of 1974. He retitled this ballad of lost love “Mandy” and gave it a heart-rending performance that gained further power from the stylish production he and Dante had crafted: starting with a solo piano line, it swelled into an operatic, emotional tour-de-force driven home by a swelling string arrangement. This powerful sound helped “Mandy” become a #1 hit in early 1975 and established Manilow as a master of old-fashioned pop balladry. That year, he scored another two hits with the danceable, harmony-laden pop of “It’s A Miracle” and a reissue of “Could It Be Magic.”
In 1976, Manilow scored another #1 hit with a tribute to music-makers called “I Write The Songs.” Ironically, he did not pen this song: former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston wrote it as a tribute to Brian Wilson. Later that year, Manilow scored another Top-10 hit with “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling,” a tale of lost love that skillfully blended the rising emotion of Manilow’s vocal with a smooth bed of background harmonies. He began the next year with another Top-10 classic called “Weekend In New England.” This sentimental tale of romantic yearning brought its poignant, emotional lyric to life with a gorgeous orchestral backing built on string melodies.
1978 was the biggest year yet for Manilow. He began it by winning the Favorite Pop Artist honor at the American Music Awards. In May, he scored one of his biggest hits in “Can’t Smile Without You.” It remains a sing-along favorite at Manilow’s concerts, where he performs it as a duet with an audience member. Later in the year, Manilow adapted his lush pop style to fit a disco beat on the Top-10 smash “Copacabana.” This tale of a love triangle in a gangster nightclub also won Manilow a Grammy Award. He closed out the year with another Top-20 gem in “Ready To Take A Chance Again.” This typically lush Manilow ballad was used in the hit film Foul Play and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.
Manilow closed out the 1970’s with the dreamy “Somewhere In the Night” and a gorgeous cover of the Ian Hunter song “Ships.” As the 1980’s began, he remained a pop chart fixture with hits like the inspirational-themed “I Made It Through The Rain” and the nostalgic “The Old Songs.” Despite this continued success, Barry Manilow was ready for a new challenge. He began pursuing jazz on albums like 2:00 A.M. Paradise Café and Swing Street with legends like Sarah Vaughan and Gerry Mulligan. These albums won him new respect from the press and helped him transcend the ‘pop star’ label to become a showman for the ages.
In the 1990’s, Barry Manilow continued to break new musical ground by tackling showtunes on Showstoppers and big-band music on Singin’ With The Big Bands. He also penned music for unused lyrics by classic pop songsmith Johnny Mercer and transformed his classic “Copacabana” into a musical for the London stage. He remains active today, putting out albums like Manilow Sings Sinatra and touring on a regular basis. As long as people like to hear ‘the old songs,’ there will always be a place for timeless pop style of Barry Manilow.
Artist Release History1972 - Barry Manilow I
1974 - Barry Manilow II
1975 - Tryin’ To Get The Feeling
1976 - This One’s For You
1977 - Live
1978 - Even Now
1978 - Greatest Hits
1979 - One Voice
1980 - Barry
1981 - If I Should Love Again
1982 - Here Comes The Night
1982 - Oh, Julie!
1983 - Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
1984 - 2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe
1985 - Manilow
1987 - Swing Street
1987 - Live On Broadway
1989 - Barry Manilow
1989 - Greatest Hits, Volume One
1989 - Greatest Hits, Volume Two
1989 - Greatest Hits, Volume Three
1990 - Because It’s Christmas
1991 - Showstoppers
1992 - The Complete Collection and Then Some…
1993 - Live In Britain
1994 - Singin’ With The Big Bands
1994 - Greatest Hits: The Platinum Collection
1995 - Another Life
1996 - Summer of ‘78
1998 - Manilow Sings Sinatra
2001 - Here at the Mayflower
2002 - Ultimate Manilow
Pop Sub Categoriespop
Essential Music AlbumsGreatest Hits, Volume 1 (Arista)
Greatest Hits, Volume 2 (Arista)
Greatest Hits, Volume 3 (Arista)