Barry Manilow on His Favorite Song (You Won’t Guess It!) and More
Barry Manilow truly writes the songs that make the whole world sing. From “Mandy” and “I Write the Songs” to “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Copacabana,” we all know and love these melodies. So how do you even begin to pick a favorite? It’s like picking your favorite child and announcing it publicly, but for global music superstar Barry Manilow, it took only a few minutes before he responded to our question.
When we talked to Manilow about his new holiday special coming up, Barry Manilow’s A Very Barry Christmas (airing Dec. 11 at 10pm ET on NBC), he shared so much about his career and his favorites. Here’s more of our conversation:
ReMIND Magazine: Is there a song that speaks your truth the most? Is most personal to you?
Barry Manilow: That’s an interesting question. There’s one song that I did on an earlier album that I wrote with my collaborator, Marty Panzer, who wrote the lyrics, and it’s called “All the Time.” Out of all the songs that I’ve ever written, and I’ve had a lot. And I certainly love “Could It Be Magic,” which is based on a Chopin prelude, and “Copacabana.” But “All the Time” is very deep. It’s about feeling like a misfit when you’re growing up. And it affects a lot of people when I do it. So that’s the one that comes to mind.
Do you have a favorite song of yours?
I go back to the first album where I did “Could It Be Magic,” and it still holds up for me. “Could It Be Magic” I based on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor, and I knew nothing about records. I knew nothing about singles. Single records should last two minutes. “Could It Be Magic” lasted eight minutes. I didn’t even know anything about singles, I just liked the song. I loved what I did to the song when I started writing it, because I’m an arranger. I love producing records. And so on that first album, it was an eight-minute song and it jumped out of the record. It jumped out of the album, what they used to call FM stations. The hip stations started to play it, and it became popular during the ’70s. And I’m still crazy about it. So that’s the long answer to your question. “Could It Be Magic” is the answer.
Any song you get tired of performing? Like, “Oh, do I have to sing this song again?”
Never, never. If I ever did, I wouldn’t sing it. I would take it out of the show. It’d be very unfair to the song and to the audience. Actually, that did happen to “Looks Like We Made It” years ago. I just couldn’t find the truth in it for some reason. I found myself thinking about somebody else while I was singing it. That’s just awful. So I took it out of the show for a couple of weeks or maybe a month or so, and then I put it back in. But now, I don’t feel that way about any of it.
Tell us about your Fanalows — your fan base over the years. What is it like when you look out into the audience, and you see these people crying when they hear your music and just so absolutely in awe of you and your work?
It means I’m doing the job that I love to do. I’m very grateful that they’re still with me, and that there’s anybody with me. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m always ready for the whole thing to fall apart any day. And yet I’ve got these strangers out there that continue to come and cheer me on, and they’ve been doing that for all these years. From the very first time I got on a stage. And I stunk. I really didn’t know what I was doing all those years ago, and yet they didn’t agree. They liked what they heard, they liked what they saw, and they stuck with me all these years. And they’ve gotten bigger and it’s just an amazing ride that I’ve had because of them. I would not have the kind of life I have without those people whose names I don’t even know. And yet they just have been so generous all these years.
Do you have a fan encounter memory that you’ll never forget?
The kind of stuff I do kind of does draw people because it is very emotional. They’re not just silly love songs — and there’s nothing wrong with silly love songs — but with me it’s just, for some reason, it’s deeper than that for people who listen to what I do. So I get the most moving people. It’s the most moving meetings that I could ever imagine. I stand there and just listen to them or watch them cry or I have to think that I’ve helped them with my music. Really to think that I’ve helped them get through hard times with a song or a performance, it’s just kind of overwhelming. So yeah, I get it all the time and it’s really quite amazing.
Barry Manilow’s A Very Barry Christmas airs on NBC Monday, Dec. 11 at 9pm ET.