updated 4/7/2004 12:26:06 PM ET 2004-04-07T16:26:06



BARRY MANILOW, SINGER (singing):  ... miracle.  A true blue spectacle. 

A miracle...

ANNOUNCER:  He writes the songs that make the whole world sing.

MANILOW:  Her name is Lola.  She was a showgirl.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight his first primetime interview in two years, singer, musician and songwriter, Barry Manilow. 

MANILOW:  ... some rock ‘n‘ roll so you can move.

ANNOUNCER:  A melodic medley of movies, from Barry‘s early days as commercial jinglemeister, to his Grammy and Emmy winning gold-plated career. 

Plus, the recent scare that changed Barry‘s life.  And what he thinks about today‘s pop superstars. 

An exclusive full hour of Barry Manilow, featuring a performance of his greatest hits. 

From studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville. 


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  And good evening. 

It is hard to believe that Barry Manilow never set out to be a singer or have a solo career.  But 42 albums, 38 top 40 hits later, it looks like he was simply meant to be a star. 


MANILOW (singing):  Looks like we made it we left each other on the way to another love.


NORVILLE:  Well, Barry Manilow did make it in a humongous way.  His record sales have broken records, and he is consistently one of the most successful touring artists in the music industry.

The man ranked as the No. 1 adult contemporary artist of all time has written enough hits to be honored in the Songwriter‘s Hall of Fame.  He‘s also collected along the way a Grammy, an Emmy and lots of Tonys.

“Rolling Stone” has called Barry Manilow the show man of our generation.  His music ranges from pop to swing to Broadway to jazz.  And his newest two CD set, entitled “Two Nights Live,” was just released today.  It‘s a companion to his recent DVD set called “The Ultimate Manilow.”

And Barry Manilow is with us for the next hour.  And it‘s great to see you. 

MANILOW:  My God, it‘s like “This is Your Life.” 

NORVILLE:  It‘s like yes, yes.  You expect that guy to walk out with the book. 

MANILOW:  I expect that guy to be dead. 

NORVILLE:  I think he is. 

It‘s so great to see you. 

MANILOW:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  And it‘s so awesome that so many years into your career you‘ve got yet another C.D.

MANILOW:  I know.  And like you said, it came out today and BMG told me that it shipped gold.

NORVILLE:  It shipped out gold?

MANILOW:  It shipped gold, which is just the most amazing statement, after all these years.  I mean, that the public is really interested—still interested in what I do after all these years.  It‘s a double C.D.  that shipped gold today.  And it‘s just astounding. 

NORVILLE:  I can tell you‘re just sort of dumbfounded by all of that. 

MANILOW:  I am.  I don‘t know what to say. 

NORVILLE:  What does that say about the music?

MANILOW:  Well, you know, funny you should mention that.  I was thinking about that today, you know?  About what‘s going on on the radio, you know.  Will these songs sustain?  What‘s going on?  Will these songs that we hear every day still be popular 30 years later?

And I am nervous that the craft of songwriting is taking a nose dive.  The reason that I think these songs are still selling and popular is because I think they‘re well-written songs.  And whether I sing them or not, the songs are moving people. 

NORVILLE:  And it‘s about the message.  It‘s day break.  It‘s optimistic.  It‘s happy.  It‘s, you know, the song we were just hearing in the background. 

MANILOW:  I made it through the rains and this clever “Copa Cabana” song.  I mean, forget about the rhythm itself.  This clever lyric that sustain sustains for years, 15, 20, I‘m listening for that stuff on the radio all the time.  I just don‘t hear it. 

NORVILLE:  You don‘t hear that kind of music, or you don‘t hear that kind of meaningful lyric?

MANILOW:  Both.  I‘m afraid both.  And you know, what‘s happening is that the burden is falling to the drum machines, record producers and the people that sing it to make it sound interesting with their vocal acrobatics and the sounds of the records and all.  But the songs aren‘t there.  Well, they‘re there now and again.

NORVILLE:  It‘s not just the vocal acrobatics.  I mean, it seems like too many singers, during their concerts, aren‘t even singing.  They‘re lip-syncing.  You know, Milli Vanilli went down the tubes for that, and nowadays it‘s quite accepted.  You couldn‘t possibly do three triple herkys (ph) and a back flip and be able to sing without being out of breath.  The audience still goes to the concerts. 

MANILOW:  Do you think they‘re accepting the fact that they‘re lip-syncing?

NORVILLE:  I don‘t know.  But they go. 

MANILOW:  They go, even though they are lip-syncing.  I take a look at what you seeing on TV, and they‘re dancing like crazy.  How, I say, can they possibly be singing at the same time.  They must not be singing, you know?

So you know, maybe the production is so entertaining that we forgive them, you know? 


MANILOW:  And since I‘m a song writer and I connect with an interpretative, you know, interpretation of a song, I miss it.  I just miss it. 

NORVILLE:  And, yet, you‘re only going out once this year.  Rather than do a full tour to support the album, the DVD set that came out, you‘re doing one date on June 5.  Why not do more?  Because you know your fans will fill the auditorium. 

MANILOW:  Yes.  Well, the last tour was—started off to be a six-week tour promoting an album that I had done called “Here at the Mayflower.”  It‘s a wonderful original album. 

And a couple of weeks after that album came out, “The Ultimate Manilow” C.D. came out, this retrospective of all the greatest hits, and it went through the roof.  And suddenly, this tour stretched from six weeks to nine months. 


MANILOW:  And after nine months—AND we went into the summer, which was outdoor festivals in this humidity.  I MEAN, i would look out at the audience and they were sweating so—harder than I was. 

NORVILLE:  And you were up there singing and giving it your all. 

MANILOW:  I was, like, down to 130 pounds.  And the audience was, like, you know, sweating. 

Finally, by the end of this tour I just said, “We have to stop.”  No matter how wonderful the music is, and the audiences were getting bigger, and that‘s where this album comes from.

I finally just said, “We just have to stop.”  And so I‘ve stopped for a while.  So—but I‘ve missed it and I miss them.  And I‘m so grateful to them, you know, for being supportive, that I said, “Let‘s just do one big one this year.”  So we‘re doing one big one on June 5. 

NORVILLE:  How much does what happened at Super Bowl happened—and I don‘t mean Janet Jackson and Justin at the half-time show.  You had a serious health incident with your heart.  How much does that have to do with this decision, too?

MANILOW:  I was laying there on the gurney, you know, before they were giving me the paddles.  You know, they had to give me the paddles.

NORVILLE:  You saw them coming at you with...

MANILOW:  Well, they said they were going to give me the paddles, because my heart would not stop.  They called it fibrillation.

NORVILLE:  Fibrillating, right.

MANILOW:  And it was like—it was like insane.  Insanely fibrillating.  I felt like I had a flounder in my chest. 

NORVILLE:  What did it feel like?

MANILOW:  It felt like there was a fish in my chest.  You know, and they hooked me up to these monitors and it looked like a piano score.  Like that, you know.

And so in order to stop it, they had to do that.  They put me down for it, you know.  And as I was laying there right, being about to be put out, I said to myself, “Whoa, whoa, this is serious, man, you know?”


MANILOW:  And I thought—I‘ll tell you what I thought about.  I thought about my fans. 


MANILOW:  I did.  I thought about these people who have been so unbelievably supportive for 30 years.  And so when I got up, you know, it was—I was fine.  I got a clean bill of health from my cardiologist, you know. 

But it stunned me.  The whole experience stunned me.  And the next thing I did was say, “I have to get back to thank them.”  And that‘s why I‘m doing June 5.

NORVILLE:  Wow.  You didn‘t think my fans, I‘m going to leave them?

MANILOW:  No.  I just was so grateful.  All of a sudden I realized what—I began to think of all those things that you read about in books, you know.  Have I done everything I‘ve ever wanted to do; have I said everything I wanted?

You know, they were about to put me out, and who knows if I was going to come out of it?  My heart was going like that, you know?  And I started to think about those questions, you know, have I done everything?  And so I just wanted to make sure that I—they know how grateful I am for their support all these years. 

NORVILLE:  Wow.  So this is really a thank you concert. 

MANILOW:  It is. 

NORVILLE:  Awesome.  What caused the stress?

MANILOW:  Well, I had this incredible year.  I mean, a beautiful year, very creative year. 

NORVILLE:  Here, you‘ve got the year right here. 

MANILOW:  I brought my year.  I brought my year. 

NORVILLE:  This pile is one year of your work, times almost 40 years, 30-something years.  It‘s a big pile. 

MANILOW:  Yes, yes.  I mean, I‘ve got a bigger pile at home.  But this is this year.


MANILOW:  So the year started with a wonderful opportunity to sing with one of my favorite singers, Barbra Streisand.  We did a duet.  I wrote a song that we did a duet on. 

NORVILLE:  I‘ll be “The Price is Right” girl.  There‘s Barbra. 

MANILOW:  Then I did this Christmas special for A&E, which was one of my favorite things I‘ve ever done.  It was live, like we were doing live?  But it was two hours live of live music and Christmas songs. 

NORVILLE:  Well, you‘re a nice Jewish guy from Brooklyn.  How do you get to do the Christmas special?

MANILOW:  It‘s the holidays.  I just love the idea that finally during the year everybody stops hollering at each other. 


MANILOW:  I just love that part of it.  So I put together this great Christmas album, and they—A&E was so generous and gave me two hours live.  And I took requests.

NORVILLE:  And it was one of the highest rated request shows they‘d ever had. 

MANILOW:  It was.  I loved it so much.  So that was that. 

And then I got to write with Eddy Arkin and my co-producers and all, this wonderful album for the great Diane Chu (ph).  That was another incredible experience, a fantastic thrill. 

And then I broke my nose. 

NORVILLE:  Wait, wait.  OK.  You broke your nose. 

MANILOW:  I walked into a wall. 

NORVILLE:  Middle of the night. 

MANILOW:  What a shmuck. 

NORVILLE:  The wall moved?  The wall moved?

MANILOW:  No, I went the wrong way.  I have two houses.  So I thought I was in L.A., and I got up and I went to the bathroom and I went right into the floor. 

NORVILLE:  And you were not in L.A., you were in a different house. 

MANILOW:  Right.  And I went back on the bed and knocked myself out. 

I felt like Daffy Duck. 

NORVILLE:  I remember a lot of people were worried that, you know, you broke your nose; it is a rather prominent part of your facial feature. 

MANILOW:  It is.  I had it done.  I had it made bigger. 

NORVILLE:  Did you have to have surgery?

MANILOW:  No, no. 

NORVILLE:  You didn‘t.  But people were worried it was going to affect your singing. 


NORVILLE:  And it didn‘t.

MANILOW:  No.  It was fractured.  You know, there was like this line down it, but it wasn‘t like Sonny Liston, like, punched me or something.  But I concussed myself, you know.

It was like I woke up and the world was going like that, you know, and I started thinking—the doctor said don‘t go to the emergency room.  You‘ll probably get nauseous, he said, and I did.  And then it calmed down.  But it just kind of blew up.  It got bigger.  Can you believe it got bigger?

NORVILLE:  And then in the fall you really had the stressful thing. 

MANILOW:  I‘m not done yet. 

NORVILLE:  You‘re not done?

MANILOW:  So then I called my friend Bill, because I had this dream about doing this Rosemary Clooney tribute.  It was—we kind of knew Rosemary.  And Bette and I hadn‘t together in so many years. 

NORVILLE:  And you and Bette started together.

MANILOW:  We did.

NORVILLE:  You were Bette‘s musical arranger before anyone knew who Barry Manilow was. 

MANILOW:  Yes.  I had no eyes to be a soloist ever.  What I wanted to do was what I was doing with Bette.  I wanted to be an arranger, conductor, maybe songwriter, producer, pianist.  And I was looking for someone to do that for, and Bette came along. 

NORVILLE:  And this was really not just Bette singing the Rosemary Clooney songbook.  It was a singer that I know you had admired for so long.

This was kind of mending fences and two old friends coming back together and realizing we‘ve got too much history together to not have a future together, too. 

MANILOW:  Well, you know, we kind of ended awkwardly a couple of years before I had this dream about the Rosemary Clooney album.  Bette talks about it as if—people got it blown out of proportion as far as I‘m concerned.  It wasn‘t like a breakup or an estrangement or something, it was just awkward. 

The “Roseanne”—Remember the “Roseanne” show?

NORVILLE:  Oh, sure. 

MANILOW:  Yes.  And they called me and the Harlettes, all of the Harlettes—a lot of them—to surprise Bette to sing “Friends,” and Bette wasn‘t surprised in a good way.  She just didn‘t.  She was just like...

NORVILLE:  You again. 

MANILOW:  Well, it wasn‘t exactly that.  She doesn‘t like singing without rehearsal.  I don‘t blame her, you know.  It just...

NORVILLE:  She felt a little bit blindsided?

MANILOW:  She did, you know?  And, you know, she did it, you know,. 

But she was, like, not pleased that that had happened, you know?

And the next day she called everybody and apologized for her attitude and she called me.  And I said, “Well, you know, you could have had a good time with it.”  It was really, you know—And that was it.  That was it, you know.  We didn‘t talk for a couple of years.  But it wasn‘t because we were upset at each other.  I was on the road and she was on the road. 

And when I had this dream about the Rosemary Clooney thing, she was happy to hear from me.  But you know, I did.  I had the dream, I think, not only because it was a musically valid idea.  But because I really did want to make sure that Bette were in good shape, and we were.  We had a great time doing this album.  We went out and had dinner at the end and laughed. 

If it had ended right there, it would have been fine.  But it turned out to be one the most successful albums of both of our careers and was nominated for a Grammy a couple of months ago.  So isn‘t that beautiful?

NORVILLE:  And, you know, it‘s wonderful.  Time can march on, but people can come back together and have even more success than they had in the past. 

MANILOW:  Great.  Yes.  Absolutely.  And she‘s as talented as I believed—as I always believed she was.  And you know, I‘ve always loved her, and I still love her.  And I will always love her, you know?

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to talk more about the successes in Barry Manilow‘s life.  We‘re going to come back and talk about the Broadway play that is in the process of being put together.  It‘s called “Harmony.”  And also some of the upcoming TV appearances.  The singer becomes a TV star.

Barry Manilow is with us for the entire hour.  We‘ll take a look back at his amazing life and career in just a moment. 


MANILOW (singing):  Many, you came and you gave us—but I sent you away.  Oh, Mandy, you kissed me...




MANILOW (singing):  Lola, she was a show girl but that was 30 years ago when they used to have a show.  Now it‘s a disco, but not for Lola.  She‘s in the dress she used to wear, there with feathers in her hair.  She sits there so refined and drinks wine...


MANILOW:  New York accent.

NORVILLE:  “Thirty years ago.”  That was Brooklyn. 

MANILOW:  I can‘t help it.  Thirty years ago. 

NORVILLE:  Thirty years ago.  Thirty years ago, “Copa Cabana.” 

Grammy-winning song. 


NORVILLE:  You‘ve had an amazing life.  You know, not bad for a kid who grew up in Brooklyn, mixed neighborhood, Jewish mom, Irish dad.  Your folks separated when you were a little kid, and you really were raised by your grandparents and your mom and kind of lots of arms around you bringing you up. 

MANILOW:  True.  I had family and friends, you know.  But that was about it.  No—Nothing else, because there was no money. 

NORVILLE:  You grew up poor.  No money. 

MANILOW:  There was no money around there, you know?  And, you know, we were talking, being raised the way I was raised in New York and Brooklyn, with not much, it really does ground you.  You know, New Yorkers, which is—oh, my God. 

NORVILLE:  That was high school graduation. 

And this accordion, you know, a lot of people think oh, gosh, you see him always at the piano, he‘s the writer.  This is where you learned your music. 

MANILOW:  You know, and I‘m not bad at an accordion. 

NORVILLE:  Do you do a polka?  Or...

MANILOW:  “Lady of Spain” I like. 

NORVILLE:  “Lady of Spain.”  That‘s the only accordion song most of us know, actually. 

MANILOW:  That‘s the only way they‘ll let you across the Brooklyn bridge, if you can play “Lady of Spain” on the accordion.  Then you‘re allowed to go into Manhattan. 

NORVILLE:  You‘re allowed to come across.  Otherwise, stay over there. 

MANILOW:  You do have to learn to play “Lady of Spain.”

NORVILLE:  And it was when your mom remarried and your stepdad got a stereo and a bunch of records.  That kind of opened a whole world for you.  How so?

MANILOW:  It did.  Up until my 13th birthday, that‘s when Willy Murphy came into my life.  I really—I knew I was musical.  As a matter of fact, I knew I was the most musical human being on the planet.  And every musician will tell you that once you know—you just know it.  You just know it. 

You don‘t—Of course, you have to learn the language and, you know...

NORVILLE:  How to do it. 

MANILOW:  How to do it.  But you just understand it.  It‘s probably like a scientist or a mathematician or something.  I just always knew it.  I just know.  I got it.  I got music. 

And they stuck an accordion in my hands, and it didn‘t, you know—it didn‘t really turn me on.  But the musical part of it, I just—I got it.  I was able to read music real quick and I was able to play it real quick. 

When Willy Murphy came into my life, he threw out the accordion and got me a spinnett piano.  And brought a stack of records with him, because he had wonderful taste.  A truck driver that shouldn‘t know anything about anything, I guess.

NORVILLE:  But very cultured?

MANILOW:  Reading “Ulysses” and—And the albums that he introduced me to were jazz by people like Jerry Mulligan and Art Farmer and Bill Evans, and Broadway show music from Frank Lesser and Hammerstein.  And just -- it was a treasure trove to a guy who‘s 13 years old who really didn‘t have—I knew that there was something out there, but I didn‘t know what it was. 

And Willy turned my musical motor on and took me to the town hall to see jazz concerts and Dave Brubeck and stuff, you know, and suddenly I said, “Oh, oh, I get it.” 

And I went back, and I memorized jazz pieces on the piano from the records that he had bought, you know.  And while the other kids were singing do wop on the streets for four chords, you know, I was playing “Lush Life,” you know, Billy Scraghorn (ph), like the most complicated piece you could, you know.  And I put a jazz band together, you know?

And that‘s what I was doing when I was 15 years old, you know, because it really turned my motor on.  And if I ever had a kid, that‘s what, you know, I would hope that, you know, I could do, and maybe I have done for my family, you know, is to turn their matter on.  Because that‘s the age.  That‘s the age where you decide what you‘re going to do with the rest of your life. 

NORVILLE:  And it wasn‘t really that many years after that that you started working with Bette, arranging her music.  And then there was an opportunity, because there was a little down time, for to you go out and do your own show.  And before you knew it, there‘s a Barry Manilow album out there. 

I want to look at some of the covers.  You‘ve got—is it 40 albums? 

Thirty-eight top 40 hits?

MANILOW:  Is it really that many? 

NORVILLE:  Just, you know, marching through time.

MANILOW:  It‘s a medley of—it‘s a medley of hair. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s a medley of hair.

MANILOW:  Look at my hairstyles here. 

NORVILLE:  When your...

MANILOW:  I just want you to know, we all looked as idiotic as that. 

NORVILLE:  You know, you go back to 1984 and look at the record here (ph).

MANILOW:  Have you looked at pictures of yourself?

NORVILLE:  Ghastly.  But you know, as you look at these, remember, you thought that style looked good.  I mean, that‘s recent, ‘92.  You‘ve got more or less the same hairstyle.

MANILOW:  The earlier ones...

NORVILLE:  That‘s the feathered look.

MANILOW:  The earlier ones are really rough. 

NORVILLE:  How important is the album cover to actually moving the C.D. or record in the store?

MANILOW:  I think that—I think that “Ultimate Manilow” album had a lot to do with that album cover. 

NORVILLE:  Really?

MANILOW:  I really do.  You know, there was a lot...

NORVILLE:  That‘s the DVD that we just saw. 

MANILOW:  That new one, yes, but that one was two years ago.  You know, because a lot of my contemporaries had their ultimates out, and they had older pictures of themselves. 

And I wonder whether it was just by luck or whether maybe, you know, my management picked a contemporary picture of me, maybe that helped. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I‘ll tell you what.  Barry Manilow, you know, for someone who‘s been out there for a long time, the fairy dust has been sprinkled all over you.  You‘re going to be on an upcoming edition of “Will & Grace.”  And it‘s so much fun.  I want to play the clip so everybody can get a look ahead of time, before Barry Manilow is once again on prime time television. 

Here‘s Barry in “Will & Grace”. 


MEGAN MULLALLY, ACTRESS:  I don‘t get it. 

SARA GILBERT, ACTRESS:  Well, have you ever heard his music?


GILBERT:  He makes you feel like he knows you.  Like everything you‘ve ever felt and everything you‘ve ever wished is OK with him.  He makes you feel less alone in the world. 

MULLALLY:  Eek.  Sad. 

GILBERT:  No, it‘s impossible to be sad when you hear him. 

MULLALLY:  OK, honey, let‘s just agree to disagree on this one, because I really—Oh, my, why, that‘s just...


NORVILLE:  It has that effect everywhere he goes.  Actually, this has already been on “Will & Grace.”  That is so funny.

MANILOW:  That‘s my favorite show. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s your favorite show?

MANILOW:  It‘s my favorite show.  You know, they‘re putting together a “Will & Grace” C.D., a retrospective of the people who have been on their shows.  And Cher did it, you know, and I think Elton did it.  And they‘re just—Eric and I have become kind of friends, and he called and e-mailed me and said, “Don‘t throw the furniture at me, but what if we wrote a song together?” 

NORVILLE:  Really?

MANILOW:  So Eric and I have written this beautiful song that he wrote the lyric to, and that might wind up being on the C.D. “Will & Grace” C.D.

NORVILLE:  Is that one you could play for us?

MANILOW:  During a break I‘ll go to the piano and see if I can begin it and I‘ll show you, because his lyric is so beautiful.  It‘s called “Living with Grace.”

NORVILLE:  Oh, isn‘t that sweet?

MANILOW:  Isn‘t it? 

NORVILLE:  That message.

MANILOW:  It moved me so much.  So I put a pretty melody to it.  I‘ll see if I can remember it.  And I haven‘t played it in so long.

NORVILLE:  And before we go to the break, I want to just mention “Harmony.”  It was a show that you did out in La Jolla.  This was the cause of the stress, that had the whole heart thing going on.

But you had a dispute with the producers over some financial issues. 

MANILOW:  Yes, but we had...

NORVILLE:  But everything is good to go?

MANILOW:  Yes.  We—I did what I‘ve never done.  My collaborator, Bruce Sussman and me, sued for the rights back.  We got the rights back.  It‘s ours again.  And we‘ve got new producers who are very excited about it. 

It‘s a wonderful, wonderful—it‘s the best work we‘ve ever done. 

So, you know, it‘s due to get into New York next season. 

NORVILLE:  And it is, briefly speaking, the story of some harmonists who were working during that pre-Hitler time. 

MANILOW:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  During the Weimar Republic.

MANILOW:  Yes.  They were called the Comedian Harmonists.  A very unwieldy name.  But they were the first tight vocal group, like the Manhattan Transfer or Take Six.  They were the first vocal—a capella vocal group that would sing like that. 

Plus the comedy, the slapstick comedy of the Marx Brothers.  And they were the Beatles of Germany.  They were the Backstreet Boys of Germany.  And we don‘t know them, because they never were able to become hugely successful, because of them three Jews and three were not.  And the Nazis destroyed all of their work, everything. 

So we don‘t know of them.  So Bruce and I are telling their story in an original musical. 

NORVILLE:  Isn‘t that wonderful?  Well, it will be on Broadway next fall, but Barry Manilow will be in our studio for the rest of the hour. 

When we come back, he is the man who writes the songs.  We‘ll talk about which of those songs are Barry Manilow‘s favorites.  And then later on, you guys have been drowning us with e-mails, we‘ll let Barry answer some of your questions, coming up. 


MANILOW (singing):  Even though, when I have come so far, I wonder where you are.  I wonder why it‘s still so hard without you.  Even though the light come shining through...



MANILOW:  This is a lyric by Eric McCormack for his...

NORVILLE:  For “Will & Grace.”


MANILOW:  The “Will & Grace” C.D. 

(singing):  I tell the world I‘m 35.  Only you have the proof.  I tell them all I‘m playing the field, but only you know the truth.  I tell myself I fall in love and not fall on my face, but until then, I‘m living with hope and I‘m living with grace.

Isn‘t that great? 

NORVILLE:  That‘s so beautiful.  And...

MANILOW:  And I think Eric, he‘s so talented.  He plays Will.  He‘s so talented that he would write a beautiful lyric like that.  It‘s amazing. 

NORVILLE:  And how difficult is it for you to come up with a lyric, make it beautiful?

MANILOW:  A melody, you mean?

NORVILLE:  I mean to make the melody to make the lyric beautiful. 

MANILOW:  It only took one pass.  When I looked at it, I just put it on the piano.  I went, I tell...

NORVILLE:  Unbelievable. 

And “Copacabana,” you actually wrote in 15 minutes? 

MANILOW:  Yes.  Well, Bruce and Jack wrote this brilliant lyric and they gave it to me on the phone.  They said OK.  He‘s the scan we hear.  Her name was Lola.  She was a show girl. 

I said, well, you have to be an idiot not to put a melody to that.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

MANILOW:  So I hung up the phone and I went, her name was Lola, she was a showgirl.  And I just kept going. 

NORVILLE:  Are the biggest hits the ones that are organic like that and just come easily? 

MANILOW:  Yes, yes, yes.  The ones that I find that I struggle with a

lot, you never hear.  And if I force them out, they‘re never hits.  Like

the one that came the fastest to me was this song in a dream called one

voice singing in the darkness

NORVILLE:  That‘s so gorgeous. 

MANILOW:  The whole song was in my head.  And I ran down the hallway to catch it.  And I plunked up the record button on the tape recorder and I just whispered it into.  And then later I added chords to it.  But the whole thing—who knows how these things happen?  I don‘t know how these things happen. 

You know, one of the great composers, I think it was either Sammy Cahn or one of those guys, said they just take dictation.  And I agree.  It‘s like taking dictation. 

NORVILLE:  Are you ever worried that you‘re not going to get to the notepad or the recorder quickly enough?

MANILOW:  Yes.  Yes. 

NORVILLE:  Because it‘s coming so fast?

MANILOW:  And then I forget it if I don‘t grab it.  I really say I have to catch—sorry, guys, I have to catch a melody and I run down the hallway. 

NORVILLE:  So your friends have learned to deal with your unexpected departures from the dinner table. 


MANILOW:  Right, I‘ll be talking to you like this and I hear something and they all know, uh-oh, there he goes. 

NORVILLE:  We‘ve lost him.  He‘s out of here. 


NORVILLE:  The new C.D. just came out today, Barry Manilow, “Two Nights Live.”  This is a compilation of songs from live concerts that you have done, what, last year. 

MANILOW:  Yes.  Yes.  That was the end of that long tour.  But what‘s interesting about this—well, there‘s two things I think that‘s interesting about it. 

No. 1, it‘s a mature guy who knows what he‘s singing now, because that‘s what I hear, at least, when I hear the album.  It‘s not this young, you know, pup singing “Can‘t Smile Without You.”  For some reason, there‘s a maturity there which we all have once you get as old as I am and have done this kind of thing that you better do.  And I think when I sing “Even Now” or “This One‘s For You” or even “I Write the Songs,” there‘s a maturity there I hear that wasn‘t there in the beginning.  So I think that‘s interesting. 


NORVILLE:  So the person who bought the Barry Manilow albums along the way would buy this one and hear a new song. 

MANILOW:  I think you hear depth, which is one of the things that I work on all the time.  The word depth keeps coming to me in meditations and in conversations and all.  It‘s where I think we have to wind up as we grow older.  I try to find the depth in everything I do.  And so that‘s why I love singing these songs over and over, because I find different facets of these wonderful songs. 

NORVILLE:  And which is your favorite?  This very heavy book is the Barry Manilow anthology.  It‘s got everything, every, every, everything. 


MANILOW:  And such awful pictures. 

NORVILLE:  And no pictures, or maybe there‘s some in there.


MANILOW:  No, there‘s


NORVILLE:  Which is your favorite? 

MANILOW:  I don‘t know.  I love them all.  Today, I was thinking, if you ask me that, you know, what would I say?  I would say, I made it through the rain.  I kept my world protected.  I made it through the rain.  I kept my point of view.

For some reason, that one is the one that I was going to... 

NORVILLE:  It says something about the year that you had.  You got through the year.

MANILOW:  Maybe that was reason I kept—I mean, no one‘s talked about “I Made it Through the Rain.”  Everybody talks about “Copacabana.”  Those are the ones that flash when you think of my catalog of songs.  But “I Made it Through the Rain” is a real good one. 

NORVILLE:  You know what I never understood?  How come “Weekend in New England,” you never say weekend in New England anywhere in the song? 

MANILOW:  I know.  You‘re right.  Well, first of all, Randy Edelman wrote “Weekend in New England.”  And my friend Clive Davis insisted, once again, that I record these outside pieces of material, and I fought him every step of the way.  I turned down every song. 

And then, of course, I gave in after I found the beauty and the wisdom in what he was saying.  But I was this obnoxious, ambitious songwriter, and I didn‘t want to record outside material.  And he showed me “Weekend in New England.”  And no matter beautiful it was, I wanted my own stuff.  I wanted to do my own things. 

NORVILLE:  Sure.  But he was right. 

MANILOW:  But he was right.  Certainly, he was right commercially.  He was definitely right.  And I was able to find the beauty and the production in it and give them, give him a hit record with a waltz.  “Weekend in New England” is a waltz that never says weekend in New England in it.  And it was still a huge record. 

(singing):  When will our eyes meet?  When can I touch you?  When will this strong yearning end?  And when will I hold you again? 

Beautiful song, right? 

NORVILLE:  It‘s gorgeous. 

MANILOW:  Beautiful.

NORVILLE:  And everyone thinks of the lost love, the person who‘s not there. 

MANILOW:  One would hope.

NORVILLE:  There‘s a personal connection for everybody on that. 

MANILOW:  One would hope.

Well, you know, I never considered myself a singer, as you said before.  And I figured, well, the best thing I could do is to communicate.  That was my goal.  My goal was somehow to communicate with the listener and with the audience, because I really didn‘t trust my voice, since I never went after it.  I never went after being a singer.  I was only going to be a musician.  And so I got the opportunity to perform my own material and then outside material.

And I figured, well, I better make an impression with what I was singing, because my voice isn‘t Luther Vandross. 

NORVILLE:  And when you‘ve made that impression, you probably have a favorite of your fans that day in, day out, concert in, concert out, they say, oh, Barry, would you please play?  What is the one that you get asked to play more often?  And maybe we‘ll let you play that as we go into this next break.

MANILOW:  I‘ve got to think about it, because, really, it‘s a huge catalog.  Just—why don‘t you just...

NORVILLE:  Let me just pull one out. 

MANILOW:  Just pull one out. 

NORVILLE:  Well, here‘s one of my favorites. 



I brought my cheat sheets, because I haven‘t been on the road.  So I need the chords.  And as you get older, you forget the chords.  Don‘t you notice?

NORVILLE:  You haven‘t forgotten a thing, baby. 

MANILOW:  So here.

(singing):  Looks like we made it.  We left each other on the way to another love.  Looks like we made it or I thought so until today, until you were there everywhere and all I could taste was love the way we made it.


NORVILLE:  What do Barry Manilow and Clay Aiken have in common?  Well, find out when we continue. 

More with Barry Manilow in just a moment.


NORVILLE:  Barry Manilow is definitely ready to take a chance again.  He has a new double C.D. out today called “Two Nights Live,” a double DVD, “Ultimate Manilow.”  And he‘s with us for the full hour. 

It‘s so cool to see you on stage, because you so enjoy it.  I remember, you were wonderful and did an Alzheimer‘s fund-raiser for me once. 

MANILOW:  No, I loved that.  I was so happy I was able to do that. 

And you there, yes.

NORVILLE:  You have been so kind to so many charities.  But it is just obvious the joy you feel on stage.  For a guy who didn‘t want to be a singer, you into it. 


Well, it‘s gratitude.  It‘s not just joy.  It‘s gratitude.  Honestly, it‘s all about, once that huge orchestra kicks up, you know, to be able to get a chance to keep doing this after all these years, it‘s...

NORVILLE:  You‘ve got to stop saying that, after all these years. 

You‘ve got to eliminate that from your vocabulary.

MANILOW:  I guess you‘re right.

NORVILLE:  What‘s cool is, coming up in a few weeks, April 20, Barry Manilow day on “American Idol.”  You will be one of the judges.

MANILOW:  Right. 

NORVILLE:  And all the contestants will be singing your songs.  How is that going to work? 

MANILOW:  They‘ve chosen to do a whole evening of my work.  But I asked them if I could somehow be involved in the arranging of each song for the kids.  And so they‘re allowing me to work with the kids for a week before that night. 

NORVILLE:  How lucky for them. 

MANILOW:  And so I can do for them what I do for Bette, actually, because I love doing it.  And I thought, well, maybe I could give them a little input on why they‘re singing whatever song they choose to sing. 


NORVILLE:  Now, will they choose the song or will they be given the song? 

MANILOW:  No, they have to choose the song. 


MANILOW:  And if they choose, I don‘t know, “Even Now,” you know, maybe, I could say, what is it that you‘re thinking when you‘re singing it?  Or maybe I could—and if they tell me the right thing, maybe I can arrange it so that it feels good for them, you know?  So I‘m going to spend a week with them and see if I can—I don‘t know.  Maybe I can help them.

NORVILLE:  What kind of judge are you going to be?  Are you going on to be a Simon Cowell kind of judge or a Paula Abdul kind of judge? 

MANILOW:  I‘m the anti-Simon.  I‘m sorry.  I never had to audition.  I never had to do that.  I don‘t know how people do that. 

NORVILLE:  What about Clay Aiken?  A lot of people have looked at him and liked at you and, go, wait a minute, separated at birth? 

MANILOW:  Really?

NORVILLE:  Yes, he kind of looks like you.  He‘s got that cute spiky haircut.


NORVILLE:  He‘s had great success since the “Idol.” 

MANILOW:  He has, right.  Well, this is what he‘s going to look like in 30 years. 


NORVILLE:  He‘s not sweating it, then.

MANILOW:  Well, I think he is very talented.  And I think the kids that actually win deserve to win.  This Kimberly Locke girl is fantastic.  Ruben is fantastic.  And they‘re young and they have got experience, like I needed, you know.  But I think they‘re on their feet.  They‘re solid.  And Clay is really great.

NORVILLE:  But getting back to what you said before, they‘re performers.  They‘re coming up with a song and they‘re delivering it.  It may not be the kind of music that you became known for, music with a message. 

MANILOW:  Well, they need to choose great material in order to sustain, because if they just choose hit material, in my opinion...

NORVILLE:  Right. 

MANILOW:  It doesn‘t sustain.  You‘ve got to choose material that is well crafted.  And that‘s what—I‘ve got a catalog of this stuff.  I hope they can tell the difference. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Let me throw out some names of people who are out there now.  Britney Spears.  What do you think?

MANILOW:  Beautiful.  A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful woman. 

NORVILLE:  Good singer? 

MANILOW:  I don‘t know.  I think she makes great records.  I‘ve never really heard her sit and sing on a stool.  But I know that the records that she makes are irresistible. 


Beyonce Knowles.

MANILOW:  Great.  Really great.  I saw her on the Grammys.  Forget it. 

I was throwing things at the television, she was so great. 

NORVILLE:  She was so great?

MANILOW:  Oh, please.

NORVILLE:  Christina Aguilera? 

MANILOW:  One of the best singers ever.  One of the best singers ever. 

NORVILLE:  Does the look get in the way because she‘s so out there or does that bring people into the tent? 

MANILOW:  For me, she could stand there with a black T-shirt on and sing.  She‘s just got a great, great voice. 

NORVILLE:  Just a great voice.

And how about Eminem? 

MANILOW:  I‘ve never really investigated Eminem.  He was so offensive the first year that I kind of turned off. 

NORVILLE:  And OutKast.  They won a Nickelodeon‘s Kids Choice Awards. 


MANILOW:  I love that.  I love what I heard.  And you know why I loved what I heard?  Because there was a little bit of the ‘70s sneaking back into OutKast.  There was a little bit of the ‘70s grove and chord changes and delivery.  And there‘s nothing quite like the R&B of the Philadelphia world, from the ‘70s, the Philadelphia sound of the ‘70s.

And I think they have a little bit of that, and it really made my heart sing when I heard them. 

NORVILLE:  Well, that‘s cool.  Well, maybe we‘ll get them in here and we‘ll let them have their hearts singing out here, too. 

MANILOW:  I think they‘re good guys, too.  I think they‘re good guys.

NORVILLE:  They‘re great guys. 

We‘re going to take a break.  I‘ve been asking all the questions.  Now it‘s your turn. 

MANILOW:  Oh, yes?

NORVILLE:  We asked you to e-mail us your questions for Barry Manilow. 

When we come back, he‘s going to answer. 

MANILOW:  All right. 


NORVILLE:  Barry Manilow has been nice enough to spend the hour with us.  And many of you have been nice enough to e-mail your questions to Barry. 

So I want to share you with you some of the stuff that folks who wrote us wanted to hear from you.

Eileen Bramswig from Pleasantville, New York, asks: “What the craziest experience you ever had with a fan on stage when you were singing ‘Can‘t Smile Without You?”  She says she still wants to get her chance to sing with you.

MANILOW:  Well, the craziest was when I had two fans come up, two girls.  I picked one, because, usually, I just pick the one with the biggest sign or, I can‘t see very well because of the lights.  So I pick—their signs or wearing bright outfits or they‘re jumping like crazy in the middle of the aisle.

So I said, you, and two girls came up.  That was kind of—I felt like—you know, at the climax of “Can‘t Smile Without You,” I usually like jump on the piano, and put them between my legs we both sing.  Well, now I had two girls between my legs and I felt like make a wish, like a turkey bone.  I had two microphones.  That was pretty silly. 


NORVILLE:  So now it‘s you with the red hair, instead of just you generic. 

MANILOW:  I really have to be very, very clear as to who I


NORVILLE:  Very specific.

Gail Van Bergen from Rochester, New York, writes: “Hi, Barry.  We‘re looking forward to see you as a guest judge on ‘American Idol.‘”  She said:

“I wanted to know, are you going to be nice to everybody there?  And is there anything that you wish somebody would have told you when you first started out?”  We already know the answer to the first part.

MANILOW:  Well, maybe they told me this, but I really didn‘t hear it. 

But it‘s harder becoming a success than becoming a failure.

NORVILLE:  Really? 

MANILOW: , Well they told me to watch out for that, you know?  And because my success, my huge success happened after I was 30, I was grounded. 

But I really didn‘t expect the hurricane to knock me over the way it did.  And I think, if I were to give people advice, it would be to watch out for that hurricane of success and all of those yes people that pull you out of yourself.  And you find yourself in the middle of all of this—people...

NORVILLE:  So you really have to know who you are. 

MANILOW:  Yes.  People telling you what they think you want to hear.  And, suddenly, after about three years of my huge success in the ‘70s, I found myself alone with people that I paid.  And you‘ve got to watch out for that. 

NORVILLE:  Not cool, not cool. 


NORVILLE:  And Turid from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, wonders: “Do you ever get tired of singing the old songs?  You always sing them like you really mean each word, but do you?”

MANILOW:  I really do. 

The longer I sing these things, the more I find that they are great songs, and the deeper I can go into them.  I am—you know, I love them.  I love singing these songs and I never get tired of them.  And the few moments that I have felt like I‘ve gotten, you know, stale, I take them out of the show immediately. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

And finally, this last one, which I really love.  Debbie Cohen says:

“You have made so many of us so happy all these years.”  She wants to know what makes you happy.

MANILOW:  You do, Debbie.  You do. 


NORVILLE:  The fans. 

MANILOW:  They do, yes. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  And you‘re still writing.  It‘s not just Barry Manilow singing the old songs.  It‘s Barry Manilow singing a lot of new material, too.

MANILOW:  Oh, yes.  I‘ve got like C.D.s filled with original material, C.D.s filled with them that I don‘t know whether anybody will ever hear.  But I love being creative and writing and collaborating.  And I‘ve always got the next one.

NORVILLE:  Well, we‘re going to take a break.  We‘re going to come back and hear one more Barry Manilow song.  More with him in a moment.


NORVILLE:  And that‘s our program for tonight.  thanks so much for watching.

Tomorrow night, Vanessa Williams joins us.  She‘s got a new comedy film in which she co-stars with Cedric the Entertainer.  It‘s called the “Johnson Family Vacation.”  She‘ll talk about marriage to L.A. Laker Rick Fox and the balancing act that she does between work and family.  Vanessa Williams our guest tomorrow night.

Thanks, always, for your e-mails, too.  NORVILLE@MSNBC.com is the address.

But the biggest thank you to Barry Manilow. 

Thanks so much.  It‘s so great to see you and see good things in your life.

MANILOW:  Thank you for the hour.  Thank you for the hour. 

NORVILLE:  Will you play something for us?

MANILOW:  Yes.  This is the first one that you would know.  It was on my first album, breaking the rules when I didn‘t know there were rules to break.  It based on the Chopin Prelude, this one.  I wrote this song based on the Chopin Prelude, released it.  It was eight minutes long.

And it goes:

(singing):  Come, come, come into my arms.  Let me know the wonder of all of you.  Baby, I want you now, now, now and hold on fast. 


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