The unsung king of romantic pop
Born Barry Alan Pinkus, June 17, 1946, Brooklyn, New York, Barry Manilow was seven when he picked up his first instrument, the accordion. He later attended New York College of Music and the Juilliard School of Music. At age eighteen he met a director who encouraged him to do some musical arranging. In the spring of 1972, while filling in as house pianist at New York’s Continental Baths, he met Bette Midler and soon became her musical director, arranger and pianist. He co-produced and arranged her 1972 Grammy winning debut and her 1973 follow-up.
Manilow landed a solo deal with a record company in 1972 but first toured with Midler as a featured performer before releasing his debut LP in 1972 and doing his own road show in 1974. His second LP came out in 1973 and in only nine weeks his cover of Mandy went to the number one spot in January of 1975. Hits like Could it be magic, It’s a miracle, Beach Boy Bruce Johnston’s I Write the Songs and Trying to get the feeling, followed. His debut album went platinum and over the years a dozen more followed suit, including the multi-platinum, Barry Manilow Live, Even Now and Greatest Hits.
Manilow won an Emmy for one of his TV specials, a special Tony for a Broadway concert and a Grammy in 1979. In 1980 he produced Dionne Warwick’s comeback LP, which contained the hit I’ll Never Love This Way Again. In early 1982 he hit the top 20 with The Old Songs and later had a lesser hit with the remake of The Four Seasons’ Let’s Hang On. He continued scoring gold albums through the eighties.
In 1984, Manilow scored music to words written by the lyricist Johnny Mercer, for the song When October Goes. Mercer’s widow had found a trunk full of unpublished lyrics and offered them to Manilow. He eventually scored and produced an album, 1991 With My Lover Beside Me, full of Mercer’s lyrics and sung by Nancy Wilson.
Singer/Songwriter Barry Manilow has sold nearly sixty million records worldwide. His unabashedly romantic pop gave him five albums on the charts simultaneously, a record surpassed by only Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis. He has since focused on a wide range of genres, including Broadway show tunes and traditional jazz.A. GEORGE ANTONY