Saturday, December 27, 2014

Barry Manilow, The #13 Artist of the Seventies*

Barry Pincus adopted his mother's maiden name of Manilow at the time of his bar mitzvah.  He graduated from Eastern District High School in Brooklyn, New York in 1961.  He then enrolled in the famous Juilliard performing arts school, working at CBS to pay expenses.  Manilow met Bro Herrod, a director at CBS, who asked him to arrange some songs for a musical adaptation of The Drunkard.  Manilow instead wrote an entire original score, and Herrod used Manilow's work in the Off Broadway musical, which enjoyed an eight-year run at New York's 13th Street Theatre.  Manilow also worked as a pianist, producer and arranger during this time.

He also began to write jingles for commercials, including some of the most famous of the period ("Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there..." for State Farm Insurance, "I am stuck on Band-Aid, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me!" for Band-Aid, and "Meet The Swinger" for Polaroid Cameras, and sang "You Deserve A Break Today" for McDonalds, and on jingles for Dr. Pepper and Kentucky Fried Chicken ("Finger-Lickin' Good")).  Manilow earned two Clio Awards in 1976 for his work for Tab and Band-Aid.

Manilow became the musical director for the WCBS-TV series Callback, which premiered in 1968.  He then conducted and arranged for Ed Sullivan's production company, arranging a new theme song for The Late Show.  Manilow and Jeanne Lucas performed for two years at New York's Upstairs at the Downstairs club.

Manilow then joined a group of musicians known as Featherbed, who were produced and arranged by Tony Orlando.  Three songs all flopped, however, and the group was short-lived.  Manilow continued to accompany artists on the piano for auditions and performances, and one person who saw him was Bette Midler.  Midler asked Barry if he would accompany her on piano at the Continental Baths, which he did.  She also had Manilow produce her first two albums, The Divine Miss M in 1972 and Bette Midler in 1973.  Manilow was Bette's musical director on tour and worked with her through 1975.

Barry then recorded his self-titled debut album, which was released in 1973 on Bell Records.  When the former head of Columbia Records, Clive Davis, took over Bell Records, and reorganized smaller labels under Arista Records,  many artists were dropped, but Davis was impressed by Manilow after seeing him open for Dionne Warwick.  The first album contained a promising song, "Could It Be Magic", which Manilow based on Frederic Chopin's "Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, Number 20".  Donna Summer's disco version received play in clubs, but Manilow's album went nowhere.

In 1974, Barry released the album Barry Manilow II.  A song originally called "Brandy" was changed to "Mandy" at the insistence of Davis, because there was already a song called "Brandy" by Looking Glass.  The million-selling "Mandy" became Manilow's breakthrough hit, leaping to #1 on both the Popular and Adult charts in the U.S. and Canada, and #11 in the U.K.

"It's A Miracle" stopped short of the Top 10 at #12, but went to #1 on the Adult chart.  "It's A Miracle" and "Mandy" helped Manilow II reach #9 on the Album chart and go Double Platinum.

Following the success of Manilow II, his first album was re-mixed and re-issued on Arista as Barry Manilow I, and the single "Could It Be Magic" was released as well.  This time, the song rose to #4 on the Adult chart and #6 overall, and propelled Manilow's first album to Platinum status. (You get the full version on Inside The Rock Era--no shortcut edits here...)

Barry's appearance in 1975 on American Bandstand started a great friendship with Dick Clark, who subsequently invited him on his Dick Clark New Year's Rockin' Eve shows, on American Bandstand, and American Music Awards performances as well.

In 1975, Manilow released the album Tryin' to Get the Feeling, which soared to #5 on the Album chart and has now gone over three million in sales.  The leadoff single "I Write The Songs" gave Barry his second #1 song on the Popular chart and his third chart-topper among adults in the United States and hit #3 in Canada.  It sold over one million copies.


The single "Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again" also became a #1 Adult song and peaked at #10 overall.


Manilow also provided clues on the album of the appeal he would have throughout his career with audiences.  We feature the great but unreleased song "New York City Rhythm".


Manilow paid tribute to his friend Dick Clark's American Bandstand with the track "Bandstand Boogie".  Frank Sinatra was quoted in the 70's praising Manilow by saying "He's next." 


The following year, Barry released the album This One's for You, which also went Triple Platinum, and became his third straight Top 10 album.  The title song gave Manilow a third straight #1 on the Adult chart and fifth of his career.


The excellent "Weekend In New England" gave Manilow yet another #1 among adults that also reached #10 in the U.S. and #7 in Canada.


Manilow scored another smash with "Looks Like We Made It", #1 Adult (his fifth straight) and #1 Popular in the U.S., #4 in Canada, and his third career Gold single.


Manilow by now had become an outstanding live performer, and his album Barry Manilow Live! went to #1 on the Album chart and sold over four million copies.  The single "Daybreak" reached #7 on the Adult chart, but only #23 overall.

Manilow won an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist.  The Barry Manilow Special aired on ABC-TV with an audience of 37 million people.  It was nominated for four Emmy Awards, and won a statue for Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Special.  Barry won a special Tony Award for his Barry Manilow on BroadwayThe Second Barry Manilow Special in 1978, with guest Ray Charles, was also nominated for four Emmys.

In 1978, Manilow released another solid album, Even Now, which gave him three Triple Platinum albums in a row.  At a peak of #3, Even Now was the biggest album of his career.  The single "Can't Smile Without You" not only returned Manilow to #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart; it became one of The Top 20 Adult Songs of the 70's*.  The song peaked at #3 overall in the United States and #9 in Canada, and sold over one million copies.


Manilow won the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist for a second straight year. The title song was Manilow's ninth #1 on the Adult chart.


Manilow gave us something unexpected with his next single, a different sound than what most were used to.  Of course, Manilow fans already long before knew what he was capable of.  "Copacabana (At The Copa)" reached #6 on the Adult chart and #8 overall in the U.S., and #3 in Canada.  It too went Gold. 

Manilow won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance.   "Copacabana" would later become a musical television movie, which Manilow starred in, as well as three musical plays.

Also in 1978, five Manilow albums were among the best-sellers, a feat equaled only by the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Herb Alpert, and Johnny Mathis.  Manilow's Greatest Hits package was one of those, going all the way to #7 and selling three million copies. 

Manilow was called upon to provide the theme song for the hilarious movie Foul Play, with Goldie Hawn, Dudley Moore, and Chevy Chase.  At #11, it's a bit underrated, although it did go to #5 on the AC chart--"Ready To Take A Chance Again".  The great song was nominated for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture at the Academy Awards.


A remake of "Somewhere In The Night" achieved a #4 ranking on the Adult chart and #9 on the Popular chart.

In 1979, one of the concerts from Manilow's sold-out performances at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles aired on HBO, the first pay-television show to become a threat to network shows in the ratings.

Manilow released the album One Voice, his fifth consecutive album to sell at least two million copies.  The single "Ships" sailed to #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart and rose to #9 overall.


Barry captured a third consecutive American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist. The follow-up single "When I Wanted You" gave Barry his first Adult #1 since "Even Now".

ABC-TV aired The Third Barry Manilow Special, with John Denver as guest.  The show was nominated for two Emmy Awards, and won for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography.

Manilow wrote, arranged, and produced the best album of Dionne Warwick's career, Dionne

Manilow continued to enjoy tremendous success in the 80's, with numerous hits, and his album 2:00 A.M. Paradise CafĂ© in 1984 became one of his best.  Barry's 10-night run at Radio City Music Hall in New York City set a box-office record of nearly $2 million, making Manilow the top draw in the then 52-year history of the venue.  In the last 10-20 years, Manilow has enjoyed a revival with a change in direction, and wildly popular shows in Las Vegas, Nevada. 
In addition to Barry's Greatest Hits album in 1978 that sold three million, later compilations that collectively sold eight million contained material primarily from the 70's, and those sales are also factored into the rankings.

In 2002, Manilow was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.  In 2009, he received an Honorary Award from the Clio Awards for his great work in commercial jingles prior to his career as a solo artist.

Manilow sold over 23.5 million albums containing his Seventies material, which ranks 13th in the decade.  He posted 15 hits, with 9 of those going to the Top 10 and three #1 songs.  Barry was one of the dominant performers among adults, registering 17 hits, with an incredible 16 of those reaching the Top 10 and ten #1's.  In looking at The Top 5000 Songs of the Rock Era*, Manilow's 70's material ranks 6th among performers of the decade. 

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