Tuesday, May 24, 2022

On This Day: Barbra Streisand Was Born…

Today is the 79th birthday of singer and actress Barbra Streisand, born in Brooklyn (New York). Streisand made her singing debut in a small nightclub in 1961 and four years later starred in the award-winning musical ‘Funny Girl’ on Broadway. Since then she has recorded numerous albums, starred in numerous films and even directed and produced her own films. Despite lacking formal training as a singer, with her spectacular and instantly recognizable voice, she has interpreted all kinds of styles, such as pop, disco and Broadway standards with the mastery and conviction that only a few artists touched with that star quality have.

Born Barbara Joan Streisand, her childhood cannot be considered a happy time in her life. When she was not yet two years old, her father, a professor of grammar and literature, died of a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving the family with no income at all. Little Barbara grew up at her grandmother’s house and her only doll was a hot water bottle surrounded by a sweater. At the age of 14, after seeing a performance of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, she decided to become an actress and began to cultivate a bohemian image and eccentric behaviors to enhance her personality. Her mother insisted that she take typing classes (“just in case”), but Barbara refused to consider the possibility of failure.

After graduating with honors from Brooklyn’s Erasmus High School, Streisand moved to Manhattan, where she would literally sang in exchange for something to eat in bistros and nightclubs. When someone suggested that her last name sounded ‘too Jewish’, she nevertheless modified her first name, however, removing an ‘a’.

In 1961 Streisand won a talent contest in a Greenwich Village bar. Thanks to this she got a permanent contract at the Bon Soir, another local club. There, her personal interpretations of ‘Happy days are here again’ and ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?’ caught the attention of the demanding New York audience and she soon began appearing on TV shows. Just a year later, she landed an important role in a Broadway musical: ‘I can get it for you wholesale’.

The play ran for nine months with Barbra in the role of an unattractive secretary named Miss Marmelstein and when it ended, the 21-year-old singer began to get offers. She signed a contract with Columbia Records and her debut album, ‘The Barbra Streisand Album’, was the best-selling album by a female artist in 1963 and the winner of her first Grammy.

In October 1963 she appeared on the Judy Garland Show. Her performances on the show left such an impression that she was nominated for an Emmy for ‘Best Variety Performance’. It was the first time in history that a guest artist was nominated.

The Second Barbra Streisand Album’ and ‘The Third Album’ followed in 1964. Both had excellent sales and were Top 5 on the album charts.

Instead of cashing in on her recording success by offering lucrative concerts, she preferred to return to Broadway and accepted the lead role in the musical ‘Funny Girl’, a role she played for over two years. In many ways it was the perfect vehicle for Barbra’s rise to stardom. Her role combined comedy, drama and a series of melodic songs. The single ‘People’ (1964), from the musical, was her first record to enter the Hot100, reaching straight Top5 and the eponymous album was her first no1 on the album charts.

In 1965 she tried her luck with TV and recorded ‘My Name is Barbra’, the first of five specials that were recorded and broadcast regularly until 1973. This program became a milestone both in Barbra’s biography and in the history of television, to which, in addition, five Emmy awards must be added. The album with some of the songs from the special plus new ones reached No. 2. This album includes an extraordinary version of ‘My Man!’. Barbra again won the Grammy Award for Best Female Performance for the third year in a row. This was followed in 1965 by the albums ‘My Name is Barbra, Two’ and ‘Color me Barbra’, her second TV special – this time in color – in 1966. That same year she released ‘Je m’appelle Barbra’, her first collaboration with Michel Legrand with some songs sung in French. The album contains Barbra’s first composition, ‘Ma premiere chanson’. All three albums reach the Top 5.

In 1967, Streisand also appeared in the filmed version of ‘Funny Girl’, winning her first Oscar for her work. In June of that year, already immersed in the filming of Funny Girl, she sang for a crowd of 135,000 people (the largest audience ever to see a solo artist). This would become her fourth television special ‘A Happening in Central Park’. The event would be a huge success for Barbra, consolidating her legend as the most celebrated American singer at the age of 25. But by 1970 rock had taken center stage on the music scene and when her next films flopped at the box office, Barbra seemed destined for the Las Vegas circuit before she turned thirty. However, she returned to the Top 10 of the charts with Laura Nyro’s ‘Stoney end’, a pop hit that marked her change in style and won her a new following.

In the decade of the seventies, Streisand successfully combined her artistic artistic facets in music and film. The constant intrusions in his private life by the press and her private life by the press and fans, provoked in her a stage stage fright that drove her away from her from the stage. from the stage. In 1973, she starred with Robert Redford in the film ‘The Way We Were’. starred with Robert Redford in the film ‘The Way We Were’, whose theme song, sung by Barbra, was her first No. 1 in the Hot100. In 1976 she repeated the experience with the film ‘A Star is Born’, starring Kris Kristofferson and whose love song ‘Evergreen’, co-written by Streisand also reached No. 1 in the charts and won an Oscar.

Neil Diamond had composed and released the song ‘You don’t bring me flowers’ in 1977 and Barbra released a version on her 1978 album ‘Songbird’. Gary Guthrie, a radio station disc jockey noticed that the two songs were recorded in the same key and created a virtual duet that he began to broadcast. The social repercussion was such that both artists were forced to record a new version of the song together, which became a new hit and a new No. 1 on Billboard at the end of 1978.

She repeated in 1979 with her duet ‘No more tears (Enough is enough)’, performed with Donna Summer. During the 70s, Barbra was a a regular on the charts. charts. In the late 1970s, Streisand 70s, Streisand became became the best-selling female singer in the United States, only Elvis Presley and The Beatles were above her and the Rolling Stones were fourth (this ranking was still valid in 2010).

She was one of the few big-name artists to have a hit with a ‘disco’ song. Hers was with ‘The main event’, released in 1979 and the song did better than the film it appeared in, starring Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. In those days, Barbra had secluded herself at home, surrounded by hounds and bodyguards to keep away the numerous fans who constantly besieged her. She was starting a film project (‘Yentl’) which she was going to produce and direct herself and which would take a few years.

During that time she recorded the album ‘Guilty’ with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. It was one of her best selling and most successful albums of her career. The album was no1 as well as the single that was taken from it, ‘Woman in love’. ‘Yentl’, a film released in 1983 tells the story of a young Jewish girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to school and study the Talmud. Talmud. Barbra starred in, produced and directed the film, which film, which was a great success at the box office. Without However, after her nearly three years of effort, she was bitterly disappointed that her work that his work did not merit any Academy Academy nominations. The Streisand’s strong temperament and her many talents seemed to have aroused envy and suspicion in the Hollywood community. Barbra responded to her critics: “I used to excuse myself for being such a perfectionist. I don’t do it anymore because I worry about every detail. That’s the way I work…People who like working with me like to be pushed and pushed. Those who don’t like this work dynamic, I guess they won’t like to collaborate with me.”

She continued her career in film and song and still refused to perform in public. Nor did she need to. By her forties, Barbra Streisand was one of the highest paid performers in history, with a fortune then estimated at more than $100 million. Her album ‘The Broadway Album’, a new no1 released in 1986, contained old Broadway hits such as the theme ‘Somewhere’ from ‘West Side Story’. Two years later her second film as director, ‘Prince of Tides’, was released.

In 1993 she reaped a new no1 with her second revision of songs from musical shows, ‘Back to Broadway’ and, in 1994, she decided to return to the stage with a concert held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The album recorded at the event was a million-seller and reached the Top 10 on the charts. On New Year’s Eve 1999 she performed a concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in front of 12,477 spectators who, with tickets priced at over $1,000, filled the venue to full capacity. The show was recorded and released on CD and DVD the following year as ‘Timeless: Live in Concert’. This concert was intended to be her last appearance on stage, although she performed again at the Emmy ceremony in 2001 and at several benefit concerts for the Democratic Party, such as one she gave in June 2004 that generated $5 million for candidate John Kerry’s campaign.

In September 2009, the singer gave another special concert at the Village Vanguard in New York. This presentation was recorded and released in DVD format, under the title ‘One Night Only Barbra Streisand and Quartet at The Village Vanguard’. That same year she released a new studio album, ‘Love is the answer’. The album, produced by Diana Krall, reached the top of the album charts in the United Kingdom and the United States; she became the only artist up to that time to top the Billboard 200 for five consecutive decades.

Streisand once admitted that she never intended to be a singer. She preferred her film career and serious roles in dramas. However, it was as a singer that she first gained attention and remains today one of the most profitable artists on the Columbia label. In 2010 he participated in a remake of ‘We are the world’, this time dedicated to Haiti. In August 2011 she released her 33rd studio album, ‘What Matters Most’ and in November 2013 appeared ‘Back to Brooklyn’, a live album featuring tracks from her October 2012 performance at the Brooklyn Barclays Center, one of the venues she visited during her ‘Barbra: Live Tour.’ In 2014 appeared ‘Partners’. an album of duets with male partenaires such as Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Michael BublĂ©, Lionel Richie, Andrea Bocelli, Elvis Presley and Streisand’s own son Jason Gould. Again in duets format, ‘Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway’ was released in 2016.

Her most recent release was the album ‘Walls’ in November 2018, which contains the track ‘Don’t lie to me’ dedicated to President Donald Trump.