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Barry Manilow is an American singer and songwriter best known for his recordings "I Write the Songs", "Mandy" and "Copacabana".
His career achievements include selling more than 75 million records worldwide. In 1978, five of his albums were on the best-selling charts simultaneously, a feat equalled only by Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. He has achieved a string of Billboard hit singles and multi-platinum albums that have resulted with him being named Radio & Records number one Adult Contemporary artist and winning the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist for three consecutive years. Several well-known entertainers have given Manilow their "stamp of approval," such as Sinatra, who was quoted in the 1970s regarding Manilow, "He's next." In 1988, Bob Dylan stopped Manilow at a party, hugged him and said, "Don't stop what you're doing, man. We're all inspired by you." Arsenio Hall cited him as a favorite guest on The Arsenio Hall Show and admonished his audience to give him respect for his work.
As well as producing and arranging albums for other artists, such as Bette Midler, Dionne Warwick and Rosemary Clooney, he has also been responsible for writing songs for musicals and movies.
Since February 2005, he has been the house show at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Manilow was born Barry Alan Pincus on June 17, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, Harold Kelliher and Edna Manilow (who died in 1993 and 1994 respectively ) came from a Russian Jewish ancestry. His father originally named Barry after his (Barry's) paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Pincus, but Barry's mother later had it legally changed to Manilow.
His parents were divorced when he was two years old, after which he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents, Joseph and Esther Manilow, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. His grandparents had a strong influence on his life. It was they that encouraged him to take up his first musical instrument, the accordion, a popular instrument in his Jewish and Italian neighborhood.
In 1948, at age five, he recorded "Happy Birthday" in a coin-operated recording booth with his grandfather as a present for his cousin Dennis. Twenty five years later, a sample of this recording, known as "Sing It", served as the opening track on his first album.
When Manilow's mother married again, his stepfather, Willie Murphy, brought with him an extensive collection of jazz and swing records into the house. Manilow listened to these records constantly. He came to idolize conductors and composers such as Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Cole Porter and Nelson Riddle. It was Willie that gave him a piano for his 13th birthday in 1956, the year of his Bar Mitzvah.
At this point, his mother legally changed her surname and Barry's, as well, to her maiden name, "Manilow". Over the next few years, he started to perform locally for small businesses and parties. He graduated from Eastern District High School in 1961.
In the beginning of the new century Manilow had two specials, Manilow Country and Manilow Live!, taped over two consecutive days at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, Tennessee. On April 11, 2000, The Nashville Network (TNN) aired the two-hour Manilow Country, which featured country stars Trisha Yearwood, Neal McCoy, Deana Carter, Jo Dee Messina, Lorrie Morgan, Kevin Sharp, Lila McCann, Gillian Welch and Jaci Velasquez singing their favorite Manilow hits with a "country" twist. Manilow performed as well. The special was TNN's first high definition broadcast and became one of TNN's highest rated concert specials.
In June 2000, DirectTV aired the two-hour concert special Manilow Live! where Manilow had his band, a 30-piece orchestra, and a choir. This HDTV special documented his most recent concert tour with the greatest hits of his career and was released to video.
In 2000 he also worked with Monica Mancini on her Concord album The Dreams of Johnny Mercer which included seven songs Manilow wrote to Mercer's lyrics.
Meanwhile, Manilow's record contract with Arista Records was not renewed due to new management. He then got a contract at Concord Records, a jazz-oriented label in California, and started work on the long-anticipated concept album, Here at the Mayflower. The album was another eclectic mix of styles, almost entirely composed and produced by Manilow himself.
Whilst at Concord Records, The Barry Manilow Scholarship was awarded for four consecutive years from 2002 to 2005 to the six highest-achieving students to reward excellence in the art and craft of lyric writing. The UCLA Extension course "Writing Lyrics That Succeed and Endure," taught by long time Manilow collaborator Marty Panzer and each student received three additional "master class" advanced sessions as well as a three-hour private, one-on-one session with Mr. Panzer. Scholarship recipients were selected by the instructor based on progress made within the course, lyric writing ability, and the instructor's assessment of real potential in the field of songwriting.
In February 2002, Manilow's recording career bounced back into the charts when Arista released a greatest hits album Ultimate Manilow. On May 18, 2002,
Manilow returned to CBS with Ultimate Manilow his first special at the network since his 1988 Big Fun on Swing Street special. The special was filmed in the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California and was nominated for an Emmy in the category of "Outstanding Music Direction".
Produced by Manilow, Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook was first released on September 30, 2003. It was the first time that Bette Midler had worked with Barry in more than twenty years. Instantly successful, the album went gold and they worked together again on a 2005 follow-up album entitled Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook.
On December 3, 2003, A&E aired A Barry Manilow Christmas: Live by Request, his second of two concerts for the series. The two-hour special had Manilow taking requests for Christmas songs performed live with a band and an orchestra. Also on the special were guests Cyndi Lauper, Jose Feliciano, and Bette Midler.
2004 saw 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 his musicals songs were both released in 2004. Scores was the last of Manilow's creative project with the Concord label.
During his third appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show on September 15, 2004, Winfrey announced that Manilow is one of the most requested guests of all time on her show. On the show he promoted his One Night Live! One Last Time! tour explaining it wouldn't be his last performance, but the last one where he tours six months on the road with trucks and buses, but he will still come to the big cities. On his final tour he played at sold out venues in 22 cities in which he performed for 250,000 fans and promoted his then latest album. It was around this time period where Manilow appeared for the first time on the mainstream FOX program American Idol in which his back-up singer, Debra Byrd, doubles as voice coach on the series. It was also during this period that several in the media felt the meteoric rise of Idol runner-up Clay Aiken and the constant comparisons of him to Manilow caused the revitalization of Manilow's career in the mainstream with a lot of younger music listeners learning of Manilow by way of the comparisons of Clay Aiken to him. Manilow appeared on Aiken's TV special, A Clay Aiken Christmas. It was reported that Manilow often introduced himself to younger audiences as an older Clay Aiken. Typically introducing himself like this: 'I'm Barry Manilow...this is what Clay Aiken will look like in 30 years'.
Las Vegas Hilton executives in a press conference with Manilow on December 14, 2004 announced his signing to a long-term engagement as the house show. In March 2006, Manilow's engagement was extended through 2008.
Manilow returned to Arista Records under the guidance of Davis for a new album of cover versions released on 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. "But of course there is only one Clive Davis. I feel honored and terribly fortunate to be working with him again after all these years. It's like coming home." The album included classic songs from that decade, like "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Unchained Melody". It was an unexpected hit, 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 three million copies worldwide.
In March 2006, PBS aired Barry Manilow: Music and Passion, a Hilton concert taped exclusively for the network's fundraising drive. Manilow was nominated for two Emmys, winning for "Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program".
A sequel album to his best-selling fifties tribute album, The Greatest Songs of the Sixties was released on October 31, 2006 including songs such as "And I Love Her" and "Can't Help Falling in Love". It nearly repeated the success of its predecesor, debuting at #2 in the Billboard 200.
In January 2007, Manilow returned to his hometown of New York City for three shows at Madison Square Garden. One highlight was the showing onscreen of Manilow performing in one of his first television appearances while the "live" Manilow played along onstage. In July 2007, it was revealed that Manilow will release a CD spotlighting the decade he became a super-star: the 1970's. The Greatest Songs of the Seventies is set to be released September 18, 2007.
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