Barry Manilow Gives A GIFT OF LOVE This Christmas And Is BACK ON BROADWAY in 2013!
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by David Green
Pop legend Barry Manilow will be back on Broadway in January, but between now and then he will present a series of six benefit concerts at Palm Desert's McCallum Theatre called "A Gift Of Love" with all proceeds benefiting 27 local (Coachella Valley) charities. He recently celebrated his 50th chart-topping hit, debuting at number 22 on The Billboard Charts with "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" from his new holiday CD, The Classic Christmas Album. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with the entertainment icon backstage at The McCallum and talk "all things Manilow". Here are a few excerpts from that interview.
DG: Well, first of all … I'm so excited that you're going back to Broadway.
BM: Me too. Me too. I did it twenty years ago, Actually, I played it twice. Once in the seventies then I went back twenty years ago and I played The Gershwin for a couple of months and it was really fantastic. I just wanted to do it again – once before I croak. I want to do it one more time, You know, they think I'm crazy doing it because, you know, I'm lucky enough to still be able to sell out The Madison Square Gardens – but I just, you know, it means a lot to a New Yorker like me. Broadway musicals meant so much to me growing up. I mean, I still follow everything about what's going on and I try to listen to everything – because I live in Palm Springs so I can't get to every musical that opens == but I try to be on top of things because I love it. I love that world of Broadway musicals. So, to actually play a Broadway house – for me it's a big deal. It's a big deal going to work every night through the stage door of a Broadway house. That's the most fun for me,
DG: Is this a themed show?
BM: No, it's my concert. I know what the audiences want. So, it's my concert.
DG: I'm also very excited about The Gift Of Love Concerts here in the desert. How did that all come about?
BM: We did it a couple of years ago, I frankly don't remember how it started. It may have been my idea, or it may have been their (the Stiletto Organization's) idea – but we put it together, It's really our own little thing --- people from the Stiletto Organization and people down here (Palm Springs) . This time we put together a team of people that are part of the community here. There are about 600 charities that are part of The Coachella Valley. And, we made a list and we picked out 27 that we thought needed our help the most. So, that's how we did it. And all the proceeds go to them. We divide it up equally between 27 charities,
DG: Is it a Christmas Show?
BM: Yes. I'm going to do a Christmas Show. I'm going to be Andy Williams this year.
DG: When did you know that music was going to be your career?
BM: Well, I knew that as a very young person – my family knew that I had something musical about me. But nobody – you know, I come from Brooklyn – from no money – I come from Williamsburg which is now the hippest place to come from – but when I was growing up it was a slum, It was awful. Taxi drivers wouldn't go there. It was really a bad, bad, bad neighborhood. That's where I come from. No money, no nothin'. But my family knew that I was a musical kid. They didn't know what to do with me so they got me an accordion. And I was good at it. I learned music quickly. And when I got to high school I wasn't good at anything but I found the orchestra. My dump of a high school I went to has an orchestra class. And that grounded me. That's why the Manilow Music Project means so much to me – because they're cutting music and arts classes all over the country and, you know, to think that the kids are not going to have music – and there may be a baby Barry in a high school who doesn't know what to do with himself but he knows that he's musical – and not to have any place to put it – so that's what that's all about. But, you know, when I was growing up – like I said, they knew I was musical but they didn't know what to do with me – but little by little, the music was coming out of my ears. I knew that I couldn't go into music because you needed that Friday afternoon paycheck and music wouldn't do that,. So, I got jobs – you know, nine to five jobs – and eventually I just had to make a choice. I just said, I've gotta give this a try. So I left my day job and went into music.
DG: If you weren't making music, what would you see yourself doing?
BM: I write pretty well. And I like doing that. It might have been that.
DG: So it definitely would be doing something creative.
BM: I really can't imagine what it would be like without music.
DG: Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
BM: I do.
DG: Where were you and what did it feel like?
BM: My collaborator, Bruce Sussman, and I were in Florida. We were driving down – I don't know where, but – we were driving down in Dade County and an announcer came on and said "And now the number one record in Dade County is Mandy? And I'll never forget that. I nearly drove off the road.
DG: Did you have a special teacher or mentor who inspired you?
BM: No. No. I was on my own. David, I was on my own. I couldn't have been more terrified. I really had nobody to ask. I was making up my own rules. I remember that – I was a pianist, I played piano for everybody. I was everybody's accompanist. I'm good. I'm not a great piano player with concertos and classical music but I accompany good. I'm like a band, I dig in and all the singers love me. Anyway, I got this offer to conduct and music direct The Pajama Game in a local church production and I said "Sure I can do that". I had no idea what to do and they said "Great. You've got the job". And I ran to the library and I got these book on how to conduct an orchestra. And I was the music director of a Broadway show, And I did it. I did it. I just did it. You just do it. You say "sure, I can do it" and you do it.
DG: Who's our favorite entertainer?
BM: My favorite entertainer? Living or dead?
DG: Either way, Living or dead.
BM: Well, I love Gaga these days. I think she's the real deal. I'm rootin' for her. I really am. I'm rootin' for her. I just like everything about her. I love her interviews. I like when she discusses her family. Did you see that interview she did on Oprah? She's got a great family and a great sense of herself? Just great. So, living – I would say Gaga. Dead is Judy.
DG: Okay, they gave me the signal. One last question. When it's all said and done and you're no longer here – how do you want to be described on your tombstone?
BM: That I made people feel. I made you feel. Feel good. Feel better. That I actually connected with other people.