Barry Manilow did it again! Fans worldwide were not disappointed when they recently heard his latest album “15 Minutes,” which, believe it or not, was his first new album in ten years. Whether your music preferences include love songs, inspirational lyrics, or Las Vegas show tunes, Manilow offers all of himself in “15 Minutes.”
Andy Warhol’s quote, “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” inspired the new album’s title, but Manilow’s inspiration for the songs was triggered after reflecting back on his own early experience with instant fame.
In 1974, after his first hit “Mandy” reached number one on the charts, Manilow recalls how his life changed and impacted his ego. He refers to himself as having become a “jerk” during the first three years following “Mandy,” and his friends dropped out of his life. Manilow didn’t like the person that instant fame led him to become, so he made a deliberate effort to change his attitude. He worked to become grounded again, and he surrounded himself with family and close longtime friends.
The pressure of instant fame can send vulnerable, inexperienced celebrities into an emotional nosedive. Manilow feels compassion for the plight of today’s new celebrities who struggle to navigate their way through the frenzied 21st Century media. His compassion, along with his affectionate ubiquitous musical style, is expressed within the songs of his new album. Although it’s been 40 years since Manilow experienced his first taste of fame, he still remembers the challenges of the early years.
Born Barry Pincus on June 17, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York, Manilow was raised by his mother Edna after his father Harold Pincus left the family in 1945. Young Barry bonded with his maternal grandfather and began learning to play the accordion and piano at age 7. In 1956 at age 13, he added singing to his musical skills. His grandfather appreciated his remarkable talent and treated him to a trip to Manhattan to record his music in a studio for the first time.
At 18, Barry Pincus changed his last name to Manilow, in reverence to his mother’s maiden name. He decided to pursue music as a career and enrolled at the New York College of Music and Julliard. In order to pay for his college expenses, Manilow worked in the mailroom at CBS where music director Bro Herrod gave him the opportunity to arrange a few old songs for the stage play THE DRUNKARD. However, by the time Manilow completed the work, he had composed a full original score. The musical ran Off-Broadway for nearly a decade. Manilow went on to write advertising jingles, such as the classic, “I am stuck on Band Aid…” and, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” And perhaps most popular, “You deserve a break today, so get up and get away to McDonalds.”
Manilow found success in the music industry, but did not experience fame until 1972. While working as Better Midler’s music director and pianist, a record company unexpectedly offered him his own record deal. He thought of himself as a “geek musician,” not a star. “I was background, playing piano for Bette,” he said. He had been writing songs that no one wanted to record, so he used his own voice to record demo tapes and sent the songs out to a few record companies. To his surprise, a record company offered to sign him as the writer and singer.
Manilow’s lifetime record sales exceed 80 million, and he has been ranked the top adult contemporary chart artist of all time. Grammy, Tony, and Emmy award-winning Manilow has written hundreds of songs and now with his first new album in 10 years, his success seems to continue. “I live for the music,” he says. He continues writing the same style today as he did in his early career, but thinks it has a lot more energy now. “Sometimes you need to do something that scares you, something that’s not safe.” He is surprised that his career has lasted so long and feels lucky to still be releasing hit songs after all these years.
Manilow’s concern for people, and his passion for igniting passion in others, can be heard in all of his lyrics and music, song after song. His unique talent for intimately drawing listeners into his songs creates an emotional connection between the characters he writes about and the fans. He says, “When it’s all over, people won’t remember what you did, they’ll remember how you made them feel.”
Barry Manilow lives in Palm Springs and currently performs live at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. When he isn’t working, he relaxes with the New York Times crossword puzzle while listening to classical music, and he continues his work for many fundraising organizations. To hear a sample of the new album or to check his live performance schedule, visit his website: Manilow.com