Barry Manilow Never Thought People Would Like ‘Copacabana’

Barry Manilow performs on the runway during the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2019 Runway Show at Cipriani Wall Street on February 13, 2019 in New York City
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Michael Kors

Whether you’re a fan of Barry Manilow or not, you likely know one of his most famous songs, “Copacabana.” While the tune became one of his most recognizable hits, he didn’t believe it would be such a smash hit at first. He was asked to name a song that he “really did not put [his] money on” and he admitted that it was “Copacabana,” co-written by Manilow with lyricists Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman.

Manilow recalled that he and his co-producer, Ron Dante, didn’t even believe the song would make the radio at the time. He explained, “It sounded really great, but it was a novelty card. Nobody was making songs like that. We never thought it would ever get played on the radio. But we took it to a disco, when there were discos and, we asked the DJ to play it. And everybody ran to the dance floor and started to dance like they were back in the 1940s. They were dipping the girls and all because, you know, it’s ‘Copa.’ And, I said to Ron, we may be onto something with this one. And then, it turned out to be the most popular song in my catalog.”

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The song was featured on his fifth studio album called Even Now and became the first certified gold record that he wrote or co-wrote. While it never quite hit the top 5 on the Billboard charts, it did stay steady at No. 8 in the United States. Inspired by a visit to Rio De Jenario and the New York nightclub of the same name, Manilow received his first and only Grammy for the novelty song in 1979. While the song wasn’t based on a real story oddly enough the club in New York turned into a discotheque just like in the song.

Copacabana Barry Manilow, 1985 TV Movie

Everett Collection

After the song became a hit, Manilow, Sussman and Feldman created the 1985 musical TV movie Copacabana and later a stage musical. The show ran for two years in London and toured the United Kingdom for 18 months. And they thought it wouldn’t even be a popular song!

Now, Manilow is 80 years old and continues to tour, selling out shows at Radio City Music Hall and in Las Vegas. He is also going on a nationwide tour this summer.

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May 2019

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