He’s an enduring music legend. Ask anyone you meet, and they would most likely be able to tell you what he looks like : blond wavy locks, larger than average nose, and enough smiles to fill a hundred children’s charity calendars.
If you’re really unlucky, the first thing you get after asking about him will be a very shaky, extremely nasal and often off-key rendition of ‘oh Mandeeee, well you cayme and you gayve without taykin‘….
Were that the limits to Barry Manilow’s celebrity status, then it’s likely that this blog wouldn’t get written. But what we are talking about is something different. A true superstar. Someone who has managed to stay true to their roots, and carry new generations of fans along with them.
I have to say, I’m not one of Barry’s fans. Oh, I know his stuff. Last Christmas, we played Copacabana as one of the songs in our local pantomime – albeit with rewritten lyrics, so that the drunken, washed-up lush still cruising the bars of Mexico in search of her long-dead boyfriend was transformed into the suave, debonair and popular Robinson Crusoe, surrounded by Girl Friday and, naturally, Girls Monday through Thursday. And whenever a friend shows their love by dragging me off to a local Karaoke bar, there’s a full range of Barry to croon along to. There’s Mandy, Could It Be Magic, I Write The Songs, Can’t Smile Without You, the aforementioned Copacabana, Bermuda Triangle, We Made It Through The Rain, and others.
There does seem to be a theme running through many his songs, when you look at them.
Take Mandy – for example. The narrator paints a picture of true sadness as he recounts how terrible he feels to have lost his one true love. Copacabana is the story of the once beautiful, now faded club dancer still pining away for the loss of her one true love. Can’t Smile Without You…. Well, you get the picture. Even in Bermuda Triangle, he sings of how his women disappear.
Maybe that’s it – maybe when he sings these songs, there’s a resonance in the lyrics that “boom boom, shake ya booty baby” just doesn’t deliver. Because everyone has pretty much loved and lost at some time, and even if that wasn’t brought about by a dramatic night-club shooting, there’s still a “what if” that never quite leaves you.
Musically, his tunes are catchy, melodic, a little generic maybe, but when they are heard on radio stations around the world, even hairy builders with buttock-crevices they can store a claw-hammer in can still be heard singing lines such as “Bermuda Tri-Ang-Gle, Look at it from my ang-gle”…. It brings tears to your eyes every time – for whatever reason.
Could there be a little Barry Magic in each of us? There’s a reason he’s still so popular, but I can’t work out quite why. Is it the recognisability of his themes? Is it the catchy, proto-formulaic tunes? Is it that he’s been around so long that he’s just always been there? I dunno.
One thing’s for sure. My friend Judith loves him.