Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Motown Top 250 Countdown (#215-211) & This Week's Statistics

Hello, my friends, old and new! The weekend is here, which means it's time for our countdown and our statistics: Here we go!


At #215 we find the amazing Stevie Wonder with the beautiful ballad, Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer. It was featured on his album Where I'm Coming From (1971). The song describes a failed relationship using the metaphor of changing seasons. Although it wasn't a hit single, the song, co-written by Syreeta Wright, rightfully remains one of Stevie Wonder's most popular ballads to this day. Here it is:


He performed a version of the song on Michael Jackson's Memorial Service on July 7, 2009, his voice cracking with emotion as he called out his friend's name during the song's final refrain, "Why didn't you stay?" He prefaced his performance by saying, "This is a moment that I wished that I didn't live to see come."


The song was covered by Joan Baez on her 1975 album Diamonds and Rust:


A portion of this song was also remade by Lauryn Hill on Hip-Hop artist Common's Retrospect For Life, found on his 1997 album One Day It'll All Make Sense:


At #214 there is a duet by Marvin Gaye with Tammi Terrell, a 1968 single called Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing. The song - written and produced by regular Gaye/Terrell collaborators Ashford & Simpson - became a hit within weeks of release eventually peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart, as well as a top 10 hit in Canada.


Aretha's version won the 1974 Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance:


Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing was also recorded by Elton John and Marcella Detroit for John's 1993 album Duets:


At #213 we find The Temptations with the 1971 hit single, Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are). Something of an early ancestor to the "diss songs" prevalent in hip-hop music towards the end of the 20th century, Superstar is an attack at two former Temptations members, David Ruffin (who had been fired back in 1968) and his cohort Eddie Kendricks (who quit the act in early 1971 and negotiated a Motown solo deal).

Kendricks quit the group amidst conflicts and tension between him and his bandmates, Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin, and after being denied the opportunity to record a solo album of classic-styled soul as a reprieve from Norman Whitfield's psychedelic soul recordings, which he detested. He had continued his friendship with Ruffin following his firing in 1968, and by mid-1971 was making public statements blaming his departure on his problems with Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin. Kendricks pointed out the failure of It's Summer, the first single not to feature Kendricks' vocals, as evidence that the group was faltering without him, and Ruffin told the press that he was considering starting a new singing group with Kendricks, then-current Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards, and, once his health improved, Kendricks' good friend Paul Williams (another founding member of the Temptations who was forced to quit the group in 1971 because of failing health).

Ruffin and Kendricks' statements did not please the rest of the group or Whitfield. The song Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are) had begun its life as a song Whitfield and lyricist Barrett Strong were writing about one of Whitfield's former friends, a producer whom Whitfield thought had become too standoffish after achieving success. By the time the song was completed and being recorded by the Temptations, however, Otis Williams had had it reworked so that it was "about David [Ruffin] and Eddie [Kendricks]". Here it is:


The song was also covered by The Undisputed Truth:


At #212 it's Stevie Wonder again, with his 1970 hit single, Heaven Help Us All. The song, which was composed by Ron Miller, showcased a departure from Wonder's earlier works by displaying an earthier, gospel-infused sound, and continued Wonder's string of Top 10 singles on the pop charts reaching #9 on the Hot 100 singles chart and #2 on the R&B:


This is from Stevie Wonder's "Message of Peace" concert at the United Nations. With him are Freddie Jackson, BeBe Winans, and Stephanie Mills:


Here is the incredible Ray Charles performing the song at The Monastery Of Ettal in Germany, 1979:


Stevie had two songs today, but so did Marvin Gaye. At #211 we find Little Darling (I Need You), a 1966 single written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland. Similarly conceived with the same musical background as their previous collaboration, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You), the song has the singer declaring to his woman to stay beside him promising her that he'll be "(her) number-one fool."While it reached the top 40 of the US Top R&B Singles chart peaking at #16, it did not perform as well on the pop charts, peaking at #47:


The Flirtations covered the song in 1971:


... And the Doobie Brothers covered the song in 1977:


Now, let's continue with last week's statistics; I will give you the usual weekly and all-time lists, but, before that, here's our countdown of the top 20 cities with the most visits in the last two years. If you don't see your own city in the top 20, feel free to ask about its placing in the comments' section, I'll be happy to give you the exact position of your city. Let's continue with positions #15-#11.

At #15 we find Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria and the second-most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Founded by free settlers from the British Crown colony of Van Diemen's Land on 30 August 1835, in what was then the colony of New South Wales, it was incorporated as a Crown settlement in 1837. It was named "Melbourne" by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard Bourke, in honor of the British Prime Minister of the day, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne. It was officially declared a city by Queen Victoria, to whom Lord Melbourne was close, in 1847, after which it became the capital of the newly founded colony of Victoria in 1851. During the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, it was transformed into one of the world's largest and wealthiest cities. After the federation of Australia in 1901, it served as the nation's interim seat of government until 1927. Additionally, it was the host city of the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Kylie Minogue is a native daughter of Melbourne - and while she will certainly get a full presentation soon (as a Gay Icon), today she will provide the song I dedicate to Melbourne, her most successful song, Can't Get You Out Of My Head (2001):


At #14 is a city from the United States, the country that has the most cities in the twenty. Philadelphia is the largest city in the US state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the sixth-most populous US city. William Penn, an English Quaker, founded the city in 1682 to serve as the capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. Philadelphia played an instrumental role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 at the Second Continental Congress, and the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps, and is also the home of many US firsts, including the first library (1731), hospital (1751), medical school (1765), national capital (1774), stock exchange (1790), zoo (1874), and business school (1881).

There are many songs about the city to choose from; from Elton John's chart-topping Philadelphia Freedom to Bruce Springsteen's Oscar-winning The Streets Of Philadelphia. I have a soft spot, however, for another song that was also featured on the movie Philadelphia- and was Oscar-nominated. It's Neil Young's Philadelphia:


For the city at #13, we travel to the West Coast of the US. San Francisco is one of the five cities in this list that I've actually visited - and a lovely city it is. Before the AIDS crisis it used to be the gay capital of the world, is it still? It is the cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California. It is also the fourth-most populous city in California and the thirteenth most populous in the United States.

San Francisco was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís a few miles away, all named for St. Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. San Francisco became a consolidated city-county in 1856. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. In World War II, San Francisco was a major port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. It then became the birthplace of the United Nations in 1945. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, significant immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the hippie counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States.

San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) is a song written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie. It was written and released in June 1967 to promote the Monterey Pop Festival. It peaked at #4 in the US, while it went all the way to the top of the charts in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Norway:


We move north for the city at #12, more specifically to Canada and its largest city, Toronto. Indigenous peoples have traveled through and inhabited the Toronto area, situated on a broad sloping plateau interspersed with rivers, deep ravines, and urban forest, for more than 10,000 years. After the broadly disputed Toronto Purchase, when the Mississaugas surrendered the area to the British Crown, the British established the town of York in 1793 and later designated it as the capital of Upper Canada. During the War of 1812, the town was the site of the Battle of York and suffered heavy damage by US troops. York was renamed and incorporated as the city of Toronto in 1834 and became the capital of the province of Ontario during Canadian Confederation in 1867.

Toronto is an international center for business and finance, as well as a prominent center for music, theatre, motion picture production, and television production.

There are many famous musicians hailing from Toronto, the most famous recording artist on the planet right now, Drake, among them. But the song I want to dedicate to Toronto comes from a less famous, but certainly more eclectic Toronto band, the Cowboy Junkies. Their cover of the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane is very inspired. It was also used on the soundtrack of Oliver Stone's controversial film, Natural Born Killers. Here it is:


Finally, for today, we go south once more for the city at #11, which is Houston. Houston isis the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth most populous city in the United States.

Houston was founded by land speculators on August 30, 1836, at the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou (a point now known as Allen's Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city is named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had won Texas' independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto 25 miles (40 km) east of Allen's Landing. After briefly serving as the capital of the Republic in the late 1830s, Houston grew steadily into a regional trading center for the remainder of the 19th century. The arrival of the 20th century saw a convergence of economic factors which fueled rapid growth in Houston, including a burgeoning port and railroad industry, the decline of Galveston as Texas' primary port following a devastating 1900 hurricane, the subsequent construction of the Houston Ship Channel, and the Texas oil boom. In the mid-20th century, Houston's economy diversified as it became home to the Texas Medical Center - the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions - and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.

The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. Houston is the most diverse metropolitan area in Texas and has been described as the most racially and ethnically diverse major metropolis in the US.

The song that I chose to dedicate to our friends in Houston is one that actually gives a shout out to the city: At the beginning of the song, Bell introduces himself and the Drells as being from Houston, Texas. It is, of course, the classic #1 Tighten Up, by Archie Bell & the Drells. This is it:


Here are this week's Top 10 countries (I give a special mention to Vietnam, which, for a 2nd week in a row, is found in the top 10):

1. the United States
2. the United Kingdom
3. Greece
4. Vietnam
5. Canada
6. Germany
7. Australia
8. France
9. Russia
10. Brazil

Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, and Zambia. Happy to have you all!

And here's the all-time Top 10:

1. the United States = 29.8%
2. France = 21.5%
3. the United Kingdom = 12.7%
4. Greece = 6.9%
5. Russia = 2.4%
6. Germany = 1.8%
7. Canada = 1.7%
8. Italy = 1.2%
9. Turkey = 0.90%
10. Cyprus = 0.83%

That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Motown Top 250 Countdown (#220-216) & This Week's Statistics

Hello, my friends, old and new! The weekend is here, which means it's time for our countdown and our statistics: I have something special for you in the latter. More in a minute...


At #220 we find All of My Life by Diana Ross, a top 10 hit single in the UK, included in the album Touch Me in the Morning, which was released in 1973 and was a top 5 hit in the US (#1 R&B). Here it is:


The song was written by Michael Randall. Another song of his that was included in this album was Leave A Little Room. It's a nice song, so I thought I'd play it. I chose to play the version by the 5th Dimension, one of Record Man's favorite groups:


At #219 is another classic by Marvin Gaye. This time it's Too Busy Thinking About My Baby, which he released as a single in 1969, Marvin' second biggest hit of the 1960s after I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and remained at the number one position on Billboard's Black Singles Chart for six consecutive weeks, from the weeks of, June 7 until July 12, 1969 with sales totaling 1.5 million copies The single was the top-selling R&B single of the year. It was also a top 5 hit in the UK.


The song was written by Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, and Janie Bradford. It was first recorded by The Temptations as a track on their 1966 album Gettin' Ready. Eddie Kendricks sings lead on the recording, which was produced by Whitfield. Whitfield produced Gaye's version as well. These are The Temptations with the original version:


At #218 is a song called Who's Lovin' You. This song made the rounds at Motown, with The Miracles, The Supremes, and The Temptations all recording their own versions of it. Being written by Smokey Robinson, it was only natural that the original version was by his group, the Miracles, in 1960. It was the B-side to the Miracles' absolute classic, Shop Around. This is what I call value-for-money! Here it is:


Surprisingly, it was young Michael Jackson who absolutely nailed it, delivering a beyond-his-years lovelorn performance on the track with the Jackson 5. This is it:


At #217 we find The Temptations and their 1973 opus, Masterpiece. The song, almost 14-minutes-long, was one of the 15 US R&B #1 singles that The Temptations had in their illustrious career. It was also a #7 hit on the Hot 100. The song's architect, Norman Whitfield, titled the song Masterpiece because he felt it was a perfect blending of strings, horns, rhythm players, voices, studio tricks, and sweetening elements. However, the word 'masterpiece' does not appear in the song's lyrics, which do not point to anything obvious from which to draw a title. As with their Whitfield-produced hit from the previous year, Papa Was a Rollin' Stone, the Temptations do not make their first appearance until after a long instrumental section. This added to already building tension between the group and Whitfield and led some music writers to start referring to the Temps as "the Norman Whitfield Choral Singers". It would be their last Top Ten pop hit with Motown Records, and, not counting their collaboration with Rod Stewart in 1991, their last Top Ten pop hit at all.


Finally for today, at #216, is a song from 1970 called Mama's Pearl, by The Jackson 5. The song came after 4 consecutive #1 singles, starting from the first single they ever released. Mama's Pearl peaked at #2 and so did their next single, which means that their first six singles made the top 2 in the US. Not bad at all...

The song was also a #2 R&B hit, as well as peaking at #25 in the UK. It was written, produced, and arranged by The Corporation (Berry Gordy, Alphonzo Mizell, Freddie Perren and Deke Richards) who were responsible for many of Motown's biggest hits. The song, while sung mostly by Michael featured cameo spots from brothers Jermaine and Jackie. According to a Jackson biographer, Mama's Pearl was originally called Guess Who's Making Whoopie (With Your Girlfriend). Producer Deke Richards reportedly had the lyrics and title changed to preserve Michael Jackson's youthful, innocent image.

This is the original version:


Here is a live version, in a medley with The Love You Save:


Now, let's continue with last week's statistics; I will give you the usual weekly and all-time lists, but, instead of commenting on them, I'll try something new. This blog has been alive for 28 months now and since August 1, 2016, I also have data concerning the visiting cities. So, that's almost 2 years' worth of data. I want to honor these cities, so I decided on a small countdown, the top 20 cities with the most visits in the last two years, presenting five each week and dedicating a song to each one. If you don't see your own city in the top 20, feel free to ask about its placing in the comments' section, I'll be happy to give you the exact position of your city. Let's begin with positions #20-#16.

At #20 we find Sandton, an affluent area situated in the Johannesburg Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa. The name comes from the combination of two of its suburbs, Sandown and Bryanston. In 1969 Sandton was promulgated as a municipality in its own right but lost its status as an independent town after the re-organization of South African local governments. Despite this, Sandton is still unofficially earmarked as a distinct region of the city and operates as a macro-suburb.

An important event took place in Sandton in the 1960s: The Rivonia Trial derives its name from the locality of Liliesleaf Farm within the Sandton suburb where many of the Black freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela were captured by the South African state and subsequently tried for treason. Therefore, I've decided to dedicate to all our friends in Sandton the song Free Nelson Mandela by The Special A.K.A. (1984). Unlike most protest songs, the track is upbeat and celebratory, drawing on musical influences from South Africa. The song peaked at #9 on the UK Singles Chart and was immensely popular in Africa. Here it is:


At #19 is a city from the United States, the country that has the most cities in the twenty. Charlotte is the most populous city in the US state of North Carolina. Located in Piedmont, it is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. Between 2004 and 2014, Charlotte was ranked as the country's fastest-growing metro area, with 888,000 new residents. Wilbert Harrison was one of Charlotte's illustrious native sons. His biggest hit was the million-seller Kansas City, but, obviously, this is not the song that I chose. I dedicate to my friends in Charlotte, Harrison's other big hit, Let’s Work Together from 1970. Harrison's version was a top 40 US hit and the song was later a hit for Canned Heat and then for Bryan Ferry as Let's Stick Together. here it is:


For the city at #18, we travel to Australia. Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and sprawls about 70 km (43.5 miles) on its periphery. The city includes the amazing Sydney Opera House, a tourist landmark of international importance.

Samuel Falson (born 8 November 1982), better known by his stage name Sam Sparro, was born in Sydney. He is also openly gay - and will be the subject of one of our future stories. His biggest hit was Black And Gold in 2009, a top 10 single and platinum record in the UK, as well as a gold record in Australia and Italy and a Grammy nominee. This is the song that I dedicate to our friends from Sydney:


We return to the US for #17, to one of the most musical cities in the United States. After all, it's the city of origin of our current Motown Countdown. Detroit is the most populous city in the US state of Michigan, the largest city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. It is best known as the center of the US automobile industry, and the "Big Three" auto manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are all headquartered in Metro Detroit.

Detroit's diverse culture has had both local and international influence, particularly in music, with the city giving rise to the genres of Motown and techno, and playing an important role in the development of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and punk music. I could dedicate to our friends in Detroit any of the songs of the Motown Countdown, but that would be lazy. So, my Detroit friends, I dedicate to you Panic In Detroit (1973) one of the great songs by one of my favorite artists of all-time, David Bowie. Here it is:


Finally, for today, the city at #16 is one of the most famous cities in Europe: Berlin is the capital and the largest city of Germany, as well as the second most populous city proper in the European Union behind London and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. First documented in the 13th century, Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media, and science. During the period between the two World Wars, Berlin was also the gay capital of the world. I fully advise you to read Christopher Isherwood's Christopher And His Kind, which fully chronicles the gay atmosphere of Berlin in the early 1930s.

The song that I chose to dedicate to our friends in Berlin is one that I love a lot, Drowning in Berlin, a top 10 hit single in the UK in 1981 by the Mobiles. This is it:


Here are this week's Top 10 countries:

1. the United States
2. Greece
3. the United Kingdom
4. Canada
5. Italy
6. France
7. Germany
8. Australia
9. Brazil
10. Vietnam

Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Ghana, Guyana, Hong Kong, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), the Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Happy to have you all!

And here's the all-time Top 10:

1. the United States = 29.6%
2. France = 21.7%
3. the United Kingdom = 12.7%
4. Greece = 6.9%
5. Russia = 2.4%
6. Germany = 1.8%
7. Canada = 1.7%
8. Italy = 1.2%
9. Turkey = 0.91%
10. Cyprus = 0.84%

Before I leave you, let me congratulate my French friends for their amazing win at the World Cup Final, which I've been watching as I was writing this. I'm a multi-tasker.


That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Gay Icons - The Divas: Barbra Streisand (part 3)

Hello, my friends! In 1983, Barbra Streisand took another big gamble. Having already conquered the musical and romantic comedy genres, she went for really serious stuff. This time she was not only the movie star, the singer, and the producer. She was also the director, as well as one of the screenwriters.


Barbra's film was based on a story by Nobel-winning Isaac Bashevis Singer called "Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy". The story was first turned into a stage play called Yentl that was produced for Broadway. It starred Tovah Feldshuh, opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theater on October 23, 1975, and ran for 223 performances.

When Barbra decided to make the film, Hollywood told her she was crazy, on the irrefutable logical ground that a woman in her 40s can hardly be expected to be convincing as a 17-year-old boy. Streisand persisted. She worked on this movie four years, as producer, director, co-writer, and star. And she has pulled it off with great style and heart. She doesn't really look like a 17-year-old boy in this movie, that's true. We have to sort of suspend our disbelief a little. But she does look 17, and that's without a lot of trick lighting and funny filters on the lens, too. And she sings like an angel.

For this film, Barbra Streisand became the first woman ever to win the Golden Globe for Best Director. The movie won one Oscar, for Best Song Score - and was nominated for four more: two of the songs, Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Amy Irving for Supporting Actress. Amy Irving became the first actress to be nominated for an Academy Award and a Razzie for the same performance. The Razzies honor the year's worst performances. She won neither.

Steven Spielberg called the film "the best directorial debut since Citizen Kane (1941)". Two years later, Spielberg got married to Amy Irving.

You may have noticed that there was no Oscar love for Barbra. Not as a producer, not as an actress, not as a writer, and not as a director. Barbra was not happy about it. In an interview for Variety, she said: "It was strange. I didn't mind it for one reason: It really showed the sexism. I thought by not being nominated, I put a spotlight on the issue. I thought, 'Wow. This is so transparent.'"

Some 34 years later, the barriers that Streisand broke through - as the first woman to juggle duties as the star, director, producer and co-writer of a single studio movie - are at the forefront of everyone's mind in Hollywood. "I didn't know it was a glass ceiling," she says about her decision to step behind the camera. "I just thought, they don't believe in a woman's capacity to handle finances or to be the businessman. Years ago, I was told, 'You want control? A woman wants control? That's crazy!'"

The Oscar-winning song score was written by Oscar veterans (and friends of Streisand) Michel Legrand (music) with Alan and Marilyn Bergman handling the lyrics. The Oscar-nominated, Papa, Can You Hear Me? is my favorite song from this film:


This live version was recorded in 1987:


The Way He Makes Me Feel was also Oscar-nominated:


Another good song from Yentl was A Piece of Sky:


Before we go on with the music, here's a short update of Barbra's personal life in the 1980s: Jason Gould, Barbra's son with Elliott Gould, came out as gay to his parents in the 1980s. In 1985 Barbra and Jon Peters separated as friends. Then there was a brief love affair with Miami Vice's Don Johnson and a few years later, Barbra again rocked the boat: she dated tennis champion, Andre Agassi. Writing about the relationship in his 2009 autobiography, Agassi said: "We agree that we're good for each other, and so what if she's twenty-eight years older? We're simpatico, and the public outcry only adds spice to our connection. It makes our friendship feel forbidden, taboo - another piece of my overall rebellion. Dating Barbra Streisand is like wearing Hot Lava."

Emotion, Barbra's first "proper" studio album in 4 years, was released in 1984 and became a top 20 hit in the US and in most of Europe (including the UK). Jim Steinman wrote the album's lead single, Left in the Dark. It only just made the US top 50:


Barbra paired with Kim Carnes for Make No Mistake, He's Mine. Even so, it was a slightly lesser hit than her not-so-successful previous single:


The title track was the album's third single. Even though the Pointer Sisters helped with backup vocals, the single was even less successful than the previous two. It was becoming clear that Barbra was no longer a singles' artist.


Barbra Streisand's abandonment of Broadway was the worst thing that happened to the theater in the '60s. Her retreat from theater music on record was less of a loss, if only because she had tended to focus on second-rank composers and obscure songs by first-rate ones, while practically ignoring, for example, Stephen Sondheim. When she returned to show songs in 1985, she reversed these failings. Now, the singer who had never done much with Rodgers & Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, George Gershwin, or Jerome Kern finally felt confident enough to take on If I Loved You from Carousel, Adelaide's Lament from Guys and Dolls, Can't Help Lovin' That Man from Showboat, and a medley from Porgy and Bess, and she did them well. Even better, on seven tracks with Sondheim's name on them, she proved the perfect interpreter of the most contemporary and intellectual of Broadway's writers, whether singing his lyrics over the music of Leonard Bernstein (another composer she'd largely neglected) from West Side Story or making the most of material drawn from shows like Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park With George. Sondheim collaborated with Streisand, penning special lyrics for songs like Putting It Together and even his standard, Send in the Clowns. The result was an album that repositioned some of Broadway's best in a pop context and showed that Streisand was still at her best when presenting the dramatically satisfying story songs of the theater. Apparently, many longtime fans agreed: At sales over three million, The Broadway Album was Streisand's most commercially successful album in five years and an easy #1 in the US.

Putting It Together is where the album begins:


Somewhere was the album's first single and it almost made the US top 40 (#43):


Send In the Clowns was another highlight:


I also like what she did with three songs from The King And I: I Have Dreamed/We Kiss in a Shadow/Something Wonderful:


For her first live recording in more than 14 years, One Voice (1987), (a benefit held in her backyard with tickets at $5,000.00 dollars a throw that was held to raise money for Democratic Senate candidates), Barbra Streisand reviewed her work in the interim, singing her chart-topping themes from the movies The Way We Were and A Star Is Born and choosing material from such memorable projects as Guilty (for which Barry Gibb got up and sang along):


She also found room for a great version of Over the Rainbow:


In 1987, she also starred and wrote the score for a film called Nuts. Two People was the movie's theme song:


Barbra Streisand's first album of new studio material in four years, Till I Loved You was led by its title song, a duet with Streisand's current flame, actor Don Johnson, on a tune from a Columbia Records pet project, a studio musical called Goya, written by Maury Yeston (composer of the Broadway show Nine), that the label was encouraging its artists to promote. The song was released as a single - and returned Barbra to the US top 40 (#25) for the first time in five years:


All I Ask of You, from the musical The Phantom Of The Opera, was the next single, but it wasn't a hit:


Streisand recalled that on the set of Yentl, which took 14 years to make, she was greeted with open arms by her overseas crew. "Europe had a queen," she said. "Europe had a woman prime minister. They totally respected me, accepted me, as a first-time director."

The experience was drastically different on her second movie, The Prince of Tides, which was shot in the United States. She recalls how one day, she told her co-star Nick Nolte that he couldn't change the words in his scene. "When I cut, they have to match," she told him. "And he said, 'No, no, you don't see my mouth from over there.' He starts talking to the camera guy. And he says, 'You don't see my mouth moving, do you?' The guy says no. I have my monitor right over there. I look back, and of course, you can see his mouth. I go over to the camera operator, and I say, 'Why did you just lie to him?' He says, 'It's the boys' club.' Can you imagine? They were protecting him."

Another memory of that shoot still bothers her. She wanted everyone to stay a little late because Nolte was in a headspace where she thought he could nail a scene that called for his character to be tired. But the camera operator and the crew banded together and told her they wanted to go home. Nolte took their side (although he called her later that night to apologize). "So I had to walk off the set. It would have literally taken 10 minutes, but they were fucking with me." The next morning, Nolte needed 17 takes to get it right because he was too rested. "Today I wouldn't ask the question," Streisand said. "I would tell them. And if you don't want to do it, don't bother to come back to work tomorrow. I wouldn't be afraid of that. But then, I was afraid of it."

The Prince of Tides was released in 1991 and was nominated for 7 major Oscars, none of which for Streisand. Hollywood wasn't ready to accept Barbra the director just yet. Her son in real life, Jason Gould, appeared in the movie, as... her son. Places That Belong to You was the movie's theme song:


In 1996 Barbra repeated the Broadway tunes' experiment to great success. Her album Back To Broadway debuted at #1 in the US, and gave her the title of "only female artist to have a number one album in four different decades." The album sold 189,000 copies in the first week and has been certified 2× Platinum in the US, her fifth album to do so.

With One Look originated in the musical Sunset Boulevard:


Also from the same musical, As If We Never Said Goodbye:


My favorite from this album is her version of Sondheim's Children Will Listen:


The Concert (1994), a live album that was certified platinum, included Streisand's version of The Man That Got Away, from Judy Garland's version of A Star Is Born:


Streisand's last movie as a director was 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces, a romantic comedy in which she starred alongside Jeff Bridges. The movie was nominated for two Oscars, Best Supporting Actress for the fabulous Lauren Bacall and Best Song for I Finally Found Someone, a duet with Bryan Adams. The song was released as a single and returned Streisand to the top 10 in the US and the UK, earning a gold certification in the process:


Higher Ground (1997), her first studio album of mainstream pop material in nine years, is something of an oddity. Instead of devoting herself to Broadway standards or a set of radio-oriented pop tunes, Streisand has crafted a record that she intended as a tribute to the power of music as prayer. It's an ambitious project, but for the most part, it works, achieving a surprising grace. Higher Ground was her eighth #1 album in the US and has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide, surely aided by the success of Streisand's duet with Celine Dion, called Tell Him. Surprisingly, it wasn't released as a single in the US, but it was a top 5 hit everywhere else:


Everything Must Change was a beautiful album track:


On July 1, 1998, Barbra married her second husband, James Brolin, an actor whom I remember as an attractive young doctor opposite Robert Young on the hit TV series Marcus Welby, M.D. He also starred alongside Jill Clayburgh in a movie called Gable and Lombard (1976), detailing the romance and marriage of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Unfortunately, the movie wasn't well received. His son from a previous marriage is formidable actor Josh Brolin. Barbra and James continue to be happily married, 20 years later.

Her next album, A Love Like Ours (1999) was a love album, a soundtrack to Streisand and Brolin's wedding. I've Dreamed of You was the album's first single:


The next single was the Richard Marx-penned If You Ever Leave Me, which she sings with Vince Gill:


Another concert album followed in 2000 and then a Christmas album called Christmas Memories followed in 2001. Barbra Streisand makes a point of noting that she completed this, her second Christmas album, before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, even going so far as to list the recording dates (July 19-September 7, 2001). And listening to the disc, you can see why. If great artists sometimes demonstrate an uncanny ability to take the temperature of the times with their work, this one can be said to have anticipated the dramatic change in mood that the terrorist attacks occasioned.

The 59-year-old singer had assembled a group of songs that look back on Christmases past from a mature perspective that very much takes loss into consideration, beginning with one of those war songs, dating from the World War II era when families were separated and feared they might not be reunited, I'll Be Home for Christmas:


On two occasions, she has prompted lyricists to rewrite their songs, having Dean Pitchford alter the words to Closer, a new song submitted to her, to reflect the death of her friend Stephan Weiss (husband of fashion designer Donna Karan):


Duets (2002), collected all her older duets, plus two new tracks. The Richard Marx- Barry Manilow penned I Won't Be The One To Let Go, a duet with Barry Manilow:


... As well as All I Know of Love, a duet with Josh Groban:


The idea of Barbra Streisand making an album of movie songs was a no-brainer; she had already recorded over 50 songs written for motion pictures on her 59 previous albums. In fact, the only real challenge may have been a marketing one for Columbia Records, since potential customers simply might assume this was a compilation of some of her previous performances. The Movie Album (2003) was not. Rather, it was a newly recorded collection of songs chosen and arranged in Streisand's inimitable style.

Streisand's age was reflected in her choices, too. She frequently went for lyrics about mature love such as The Second Time Around, and she sounded more convincing singing them, giving the words the emphasis they deserved. Here it is:


As she herself notes, You're Gonna Hear from Me, which closes the album, is reminiscent of the assertive songs she sang in her youth, such as Don't Rain on My Parade, and that makes it all the more notable that she sings it in such a mellow way, as a fond memory rather than an upstart declaration. It makes a fitting closer.


Guilty Pleasures (2005), wasn't simply the belated sequel to Guilty, Barbra Streisand's 1980 collaboration with Barry Gibb. It's the best mainstream pop album she's made since that multi-platinum, chart-topping hit. Gibb, who wrote (along with a handful of other collaborators) and produced (along with John Merchant) the entire album, along with playing guitar and providing backup vocals, not only doesn't attempt to update his signature sound, but proudly sticks to unfashionable pop styles like the early-'80s anthemic soft rock of Stranger in a Strange Land, the mellow Latin-tinged Hideaway, and the disco of Night of My Life.

Yet instead of sounding like the work of a duo stuck in the past, Guilty Pleasures sounds as if Gibb has constructed a set of 11 songs that play to his strengths as a pop craftsman and Streisand's strengths as an interpreter. This may be firmly within both of their comfort zones, but despite the record's decidedly low-key vibe, neither Barry nor Barbra sounds lazy, nor do they sound like they have something to prove as if they're consciously trying to live up to the standard their first collaboration set. They sound relaxed and quietly assured, which makes this album far more charming than it might initially appear to be.

This is Stranger in a Strange Land:


This is Hideaway:


Night of My Life peaked at #2 on the US Dance chart:


Another live album followed in 2007 - and in 2009 came Love Is the Answer. Even before their first session together, Barbra Streisand and collaborator Diana Krall designed Love Is the Answer as a deeply emotional record: "each song an exploration concerning matters of the heart." And with the arrangements of maestro Johnny Mandel simply drawing occasional shading around Streisand's expressive voice - and often leaving her voice as the only instrument - the album goes well beyond the usual saloon-song tropes to become a heart-wrenching experience with virtually every song. Additionally, although much was made of the collaboration, Krall's piano stays in the background, and Streisand's is the only voice heard. But the song choices also were tailored to maximize the emotional impact of Love Is the Answer, and Streisand's incomparable voice. Nearly every song is a classic of tender balladry, despite the fact that none had been put on album by Streisand before during her long career.

The album received critical acclaim and became Streisand's record-breaking ninth #1 album on the Billboard 200. This resulted in making Streisand the only artist to have a number one album in America in five different decades. The album was certified Gold, giving Streisand her 51st Gold record in the US. It was also a #1 album in the UK. Not bad for a 65-year-old girl...

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most opens up like a flower akin to some of her best performances:


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a classic of the American songbook also proved itself irresistible to the Streisand treatment:


Over the course of 50 years, Barbra Streisand has enjoyed a special relationship with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. All three are Brooklyn-born (in the same hospital, no less) and Streisand describes their relationship not only as a friendship but as a love affair. Produced by Streisand herself, What Matters Most (2011) presents ten of the Bergmans' songs that she had never sung before - which makes this not a set of re-recordings but a living document, and not just a tribute from a friend, but a set of great songs sung by a great singer.

The album opener is one of my favorite songs of all-time, with amazing lyrics, The Windmills of Your Mind:


Barbra never moves into swing - not even when singing Nice 'n' Easy, which Frank Sinatra made the centerpiece and opener of his 1960 LP of the same name:


In 2013, Barbra guested on Il Divo's album A Musical Affair. The song they presented was The Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera:


Also in 2013, Barbra recorded a duet with her son Jason Gould. Here's what Jason has to say about it:

"You know, it was very meaningful, in a lot of ways.  It was like a full circle moment in a sense because I think a part of me was afraid to open my mouth - in front of anyone, but particularly, I think, in front of my mother. So to have that experience with her is really very healing - I think it sort of shocked her. I don't think she quite knew… listen… I'm not gonna brag about my singing. I don't think I'm the greatest singer in the world, but I don't know that she knew I could sing. [...] (The performing piece of this began a gift for my mother, but also) a gift to the little boy in me that was always afraid to have his own voice. And that's very meaningful. I think a lot of us gay kids… we have to face this fear: are we going to be accepted? Are we good enough?"

Here are Barbra and Jason duetting on the classic How Deep Is the Ocean:


... And here they are discussing their collaboration:


The song was included in the album Partners (2014), a duets album that features the legendary vocalist performing songs associated with her storied career alongside a handful of handpicked guests. Partners topped the Billboard 200 with sales of 196,000 copies in the first week, making Streisand the only recording artist to have a number-one album in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. Eventually, it sold 856,000 copies in the US alone and was certified gold in November 2014 and platinum in January 2015, thus becoming Streisand's 52nd gold and 31st Platinum album (she also has 7 Gold-certified singles to her credit), more than any other female artist in history. The album was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal album at the 57th Grammy Awards. It Had to Be You was a duet with Michael Bublé:


In Evergreen, she paired with one of the album's producers, the illustrious Babyface:


The follow-up to 2014's Partners, Barbra Streisand's 2016 studio effort, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, finds the acclaimed vocalist duetting with high-profile guest singers on a set of well-curated Broadway compositions. The difference this time out is that rather than simply singing the songs, wherever possible Streisand also includes the dialogue that frames the songs in their respective musical productions. The result is an album that straddles the line between a traditional pop album and musical theater recording. Helping to achieve this theatrical balance are Streisand's guests, all of whom can sing, but who are primarily known as actors.

The album opens with At The Ballet from the musical A Chorus Line. She's accompanied by Anne Hathaway and Daisy Ridley:


Particularly impressive is Star Trek's Chris Pine, whose nuanced baritone melds perfectly with Streisand on the yearning medley I'll Be Seeing You/I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face, from Right This Way and My Fair Lady:


Barbra apparently will never stop working; just a few months ago she released another live album, to preserve her 2016 concert tour - her December 5, 2016 performance in Miami.

Streisand sees herself returning to the director's chair soon. Her hiatus has been due in part to her own choosiness. While some directors (Clint Eastwood, for example) barrel through projects, Streisand is highly selective. "Sometimes she gets a lot of flak for being an over-perfectionist," says Jeff Bridges, who acted opposite her in 1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces, the last movie she directed. "But when you get that perfection focused on you, it's wonderful."

Streisand is in negotiations to direct Skinny and Cat, based on a 1994 script about Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White. She shopped it around five years ago with Cate Blanchett and Colin Firth attached. "No studio wanted it," she says. "I thought they were going to be fighting for it, and they all turned it down." Now she has most of the financing in place, though she has yet to hire a cast.

Streisand dismisses reports that she's in talks to co-star in Ryan Murphy's new Netflix TV series The Politician, but she can see herself in a role behind the camera, perhaps as a director or a producer. "If I'm not making a movie," she says. "I like the script."

The only roles she's interested in playing, she says, are that of French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt and Mama Rose in a big-screen adaptation of Gypsy, which has had some false starts.

What about a return to Broadway? "I still have stage fright," she says. "I'm not going to sing live again. Scott Rudin and Barry Diller wanted me to do Gypsy on Broadway and film it. I thought, 'Are you kidding me?'"

For the last three and a half years, Streisand has been writing her memoir, and it's been a slow, arduous process. "I just figured out my dedication for my book: 'For my mother and all she did for me.' You don't know if that's negative or positive." Streisand can't say how many words she's written so far or when the manuscript might be completed.


"It's so difficult because I don't want to relive my life," she says. "Once is enough."