Barbra Streisand Biography
She is one of the most commercially and critically successful entertainers in modern entertainment history, with more than 71.5 million albums shipped in the United States and 140 million albums sold worldwide. She is the best-selling female artist on the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) Top Selling Artists list, the only female recording artist in the top ten, and the only artist outside of the rock and roll genre. Along with Frank Sinatra, Cher, and Shirley Jones, she shares the distinction of being awarded an acting Oscar and also recording a number-one single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
According to the RIAA, Streisand holds the record for the most top ten albums of any female recording artist - a total of 31 since 1963. Streisand has the widest span (46 years) between first and latest top ten albums of any female recording artist. With her 2009 album, Love Is the Answer, she became the only artist to achieve number-one albums in five consecutive decades. According to the RIAA, she has released 51 Gold albums, 30 Platinum albums, and 13 Multi-Platinum albums in the United States.
Streisand was born to a Jewish family, the daughter of Emmanuel and Diana (née Rosen) Streisand, on April 24, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the second of two children fathered by Emmanuel, who was a respected high school teacher. Fifteen months after his daughter's birth, Emmanuel died of a cerebral hemorrhage and the family went into near-poverty. She attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and joined the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club. Diana Rosen Streisand remarried and gave Barbra a half-sister who grew up to become a professional singer with the name Roslyn Kind.
Barbra Streisand became a nightclub singer while in her teens. She wanted to be an actress and appeared in summer stock and in a number of Off-Off-Broadway productions, including Driftwood (1959), with the then-unknown Joan Rivers. (In her autobiography, Rivers wrote that she played a lesbian with a crush on Streisand's character, but this was later refuted by the play's author.) Driftwood ran for only six weeks. When her boyfriend, Barry Dennen, helped her create a club act—first performed at The Lion, a popular gay nightclub in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in 1960—she achieved success as a singer. While singing at The Lion for several weeks, she changed her name to Barbra. One early appearance outside of New York City was at Enrico Banducci’s hungry i nightclub in San Francisco. In 1961, Streisand appeared at the Town and Country nightclub in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, but her appearance was cut short; the club owner did not appreciate her singing style.
Streisand's first television appearance was on The Tonight Show, then hosted by Jack Paar, in 1961, singing Harold Arlen's A Sleepin' Bee. Orson Bean, who substituted for Paar that night, had seen the singer perform at a gay bar and booked her for the telecast. (Her older brother Sheldon paid NBC for a kinescope film so she could use it in 1961 to promote herself. Decades later the film was preserved through digitizing and is available for viewing on a website.) Streisand became a semi-regular on PM East/PM West, a talk/variety series hosted by Mike Wallace, in late 1961. Westinghouse Broadcasting, which aired PM East/PM West in a select few cities (Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco), has since wiped all the videotapes because of the cost of videotape at the time. Audio segments from some episodes are part of the compilation CD Just for the Record, which went platinum in 1991. The singer said on 60 Minutes in 1991 that 30 years earlier Mike Wallace had been "mean" to her on PM East/PM West. He countered that she had been "self-absorbed". 60 Minutes included the audio of Streisand saying to him in 1961, "I like the fact that you are provoking. But don't provoke me."
In 1962, after several appearances on PM East/PM West, Streisand first appeared on Broadway, in the small but star-making role of Miss Marmelstein in the musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale. Her first album, The Barbra Streisand Album, won two Grammy Awards in 1963. Following her success in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, Streisand made several appearances on The Tonight Show in 1962. Topics covered in her interviews with host Johnny Carson included the empire-waisted dresses that she bought wholesale, to her "crazy" reputation at Erasmus Hall High School. It was at about this time that Streisand entered into a long and successful professional relationship with Lee Solters and Sheldon Roskin as her publicists with the firm Solters/Roskin (later Solters/Roskin/Friedman).
Streisand returned to Broadway in 1964 with an acclaimed performance as entertainer Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the Winter Garden Theatre. The show introduced two of her signature songs, "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade". Because of the play's overnight success she appeared on the cover of Time. In 1966, she repeated her success with Funny Girl in London's West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre. From 1965 to 1967 she appeared in her first four solo television specials.
Streisand has recorded 35 studio albums, almost all with Columbia Records. Her early works in the 1960s (her debut The Barbra Streisand Album, The Second Barbra Streisand Album, The Third Album, My Name Is Barbra, etc.) are considered classic renditions of theater and cabaret standards, including her slow version of the normally uptempo Happy Days Are Here Again. She performed this in a duet with Judy Garland on The Judy Garland Show. Garland referred to her on the air as one of the last great belters. They also sang There's No Business Like Show Business, with Ethel Merman joining them.
Beginning with My Name Is Barbra, her early albums were often medley-filled keepsakes of her television specials. Starting in 1969, she began attempting more contemporary material, but like many talented singers of the day, she found herself out of her element with rock. Her vocal talents prevailed, and she gained newfound success with the pop and ballad-oriented Richard Perry-produced album Stoney End in 1971. The title track, written by Laura Nyro, was a major hit for Streisand.
During the 1970s, she was also highly prominent on the pop charts, with Top 10 recordings such as The Way We Were (US No. 1), Evergreen (US No. 1), No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (1979, with Donna Summer), which as of 2010 is reportedly still the most commercially successful duet,(US No. 1), You Don't Bring Me Flowers (with Neil Diamond) (US No. 1) and The Main Event (US No. 3), some of which came from soundtrack recordings of her films.
As the 1970s ended, Streisand was named the most successful female singer in the U.S.—only Elvis Presley and The Beatles had sold more albums. In 1980, she released her best-selling effort to date, the Barry Gibb-produced Guilty. The album contained the hits Woman In Love (which spent several weeks atop the pop charts in the Fall of 1980), Guilty, and What Kind of Fool.
After years of largely ignoring Broadway and traditional pop music in favor of more contemporary material, Streisand returned to her musical-theater roots with 1985's The Broadway Album, which was unexpectedly successful, holding the coveted No. 1 Billboard position for three straight weeks, and being certified quadruple platinum. The album featured tunes by Rodgers & Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Stephen Sondheim, who was persuaded to rework some of his songs especially for this recording. The Broadway Album was met with acclaim, including a Grammy nomination for album of the year and, ultimately, handed Streisand her eighth Grammy as Best Female Vocalist. After releasing the live album One Voice in 1986, Streisand was set to take another musical journey along the Great White Way in 1988. She recorded several cuts for the album under the direction of Rupert Holmes, including On My Own (from Les Misérables), a medley of How Are Things in Glocca Morra? and Heather on the Hill (from Finian's Rainbow and Brigadoon, respectively), All I Ask of You (from Phantom of the Opera), Warm All Over (from The Most Happy Fella) and an unusual solo version of Make Our Garden Grow (from Candide). Streisand was not happy with the direction of the project and it was ultimately scrapped. Only Warm All Over and a reworked, lite FM-friendly version of All I Ask of You were ever released, the latter appearing on Streisand's 1988 effort, Till I Loved You.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Streisand started focusing on her film directorial efforts and became almost inactive in the recording studio. In 1991, a four-disc box set, Just for the Record, was released. A compilation spanning Streisand's entire career to date, it featured over 70 tracks of live performances, greatest hits, rarities and previously unreleased material.
The following year, Streisand's concert fundraising events helped propel former President Bill Clinton into the spotlight and into office. Streisand later introduced Clinton at his inauguration in 1993. Streisand's music career, however, was largely on hold. A 1992 appearance at an APLA benefit as well as the aforementioned inaugural performance hinted that Streisand was becoming more receptive to the idea of live performances. A tour was suggested, though Streisand would not immediately commit to it, citing her well-known stage fright as well as security concerns. During this time, Streisand finally returned to the recording studio and released Back to Broadway in June 1993. The album was not as universally lauded as its predecessor, but it did debut at No. 1 on the pop charts (a rare feat for an artist of Streisand's age, especially given that it relegated Janet Jackson's Janet to the No. 2 spot). One of the album's highlights was a medley of I Have A Love/One Hand, One Heart, a duet with the legendary Johnny Mathis, who Streisand said is one of her favorite singers.
In 1993, New York Times music critic Stephen Holden wrote that Streisand "enjoys a cultural status that only one other American entertainer, Frank Sinatra, has achieved in the last half century."
In September 1993, Streisand announced her first public concert appearances in 27 years. What began as a two-night New Year's event at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas eventually led to a multi-city tour in the summer of 1994. Tickets to the tour were sold out in under one hour. Streisand also appeared on the covers of major magazines in anticipation of what Time magazine named "The Music Event of the Century". The tour was one of the biggest all-media merchandise parlays in history. Ticket prices ranged from US$50 to US$1,500 – making Streisand the highest-paid concert performer in history. Barbra Streisand: The Concert went on to be the top-grossing concert of the year and earn five Emmy Awards and the Peabody Award, while the taped broadcast on HBO is, to date, the highest-rated concert special in HBO's 30-year history.
Following the tour's conclusion, Streisand once again kept a low profile musically, instead focusing her efforts on acting and directing duties as well as a burgeoning romance with actor James Brolin. In 1997, she finally returned to the recording studio, releasing Higher Ground, a collection of songs of a loosely-inspirational nature which also featured a duet with Celine Dion. The album received generally favorable reviews and, remarkably, once again debuted at No. 1 on the pop charts.
Following her marriage to Brolin in 1998, Streisand recorded an album of love songs entitled A Love Like Ours the following year. Reviews were mixed, with many critics carping about the somewhat syrupy sentiments and overly-lush arrangements; however, it did produce a modest hit for Streisand in the country-tinged If You Ever Leave Me, a duet with Vince Gill.
On New Year's Eve 1999, Streisand returned to the concert stage, with the highest-grossing single concert in Las Vegas history to date. At the end of the millennium, she was the number-one female singer in the U.S., with at least two No. 1 albums in each decade since she began performing. A two-disc live album of the concert entitled Timeless: Live in Concert was released in 2000. Streisand performed versions of the "Timeless" concert in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, in early 2000.
In advance of four concerts (two each in Los Angeles and New York) in September 2000, Streisand announced she was retiring from paying public concerts. Her performance of the song People was broadcast on the Internet via America Online.
Streisand's most-recent albums have been Christmas Memories (2001), a somewhat somber collection of holiday songs (which felt entirely—albeit unintentionally—appropriate in the early post-9/11 days), and The Movie Album (2003), featuring famous film themes and backed by a large symphony orchestra. Guilty Pleasures (called Guilty Too in the UK), a collaboration with Barry Gibb and a sequel to their Guilty, was released worldwide in 2005.
In February 2006, Streisand recorded the song Smile alongside Tony Bennett at Streisand's Malibu home. The song is included on Tony Bennett's 80th birthday album, Duets. In September 2006, the pair filmed a live performance of the song for a special directed by Rob Marshall entitled Tony Bennett: An American Classic. The special aired on NBC November 21, 2006, and was released on DVD the same day. Streisand's duet with Bennett opens the special.
In 2006, Streisand announced her intent to tour again, in an effort to raise money and awareness for multiple issues. After four days of rehearsal at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, the tour began on October 4 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, continued with a featured stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, (this was the concert Streisand chose to film for a TV special), and concluded at Staples Center in Los Angeles on November 20, 2006. Special guests Il Divo were interwoven throughout the show. On stage closing night, Streisand hinted that six more concerts may follow on foreign soil. The show was known as Streisand: The Tour.
Streisand's 20-concert tour set box-office records. At the age of 64, well past the prime of most performers, she grossed US$92,457,062, and set house gross records in 14 of the 16 arenas played on the tour. She set the third-place record for her October 9, 2006, show at Madison Square Garden, the first- and second-place records of which are held by her two shows in September 2000. She set the second-place record at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, with her December 31, 1999, show being the house record and the highest-grossing concert of all time. This led many people to openly criticize Streisand for price gouging, as many tickets sold for upwards of US$1,000.
A collection of performances culled from different stops on this tour, Live in Concert 2006, debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, making it Streisand's 29th Top 10 album. In the summer of 2007, Streisand gave concerts for the first time in continental Europe. The first concert took place in Zürich (June 18), then Vienna (June 22), Paris (June 26), Berlin (June 30), Stockholm (July 4, canceled), Manchester (July 10) and Celbridge, near Dublin (July 14), followed by three concerts in London (July 18, 22 and 25), the only European city where Streisand had performed before 2007. Tickets for the London dates cost between £100.00 and GB£1,500.00 and for the Ireland date between €118 and €500. The tour included a 58-piece orchestra.
In February 2008, Forbes listed Streisand as the No. 2 earning female musician, between June 2006 and June 2007, with earnings of about US$60 million. Although Streisand's range has changed with time and her voice has deepened over the years, her vocal prowess has remained remarkably secure for a singer whose career has endured for nearly half a century. Streisand is a contralto or possibly a mezzo-soprano who has a range consisting of well over two octaves from “low E to a high G and probably a bit more that in either direction.”
On November 17, 2008, Streisand returned to the studio to begin recording what will be her sixty-third album and it was announced that Diana Krall was producing the album.
On April 25, 2009, CBS aired Streisand's latest TV special, Streisand: Live In Concert, highlighting the aforementioned featured stop from her 2006 North American tour, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Streisand is one of the recipients of the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors. On December 7, 2008, she visited the White House as part of the ceremonies.
On September 26, 2009, Streisand performed a one-night-only show at the Village Vanguard in New York City's Greenwich Village. This [erformance was later released on DVD as One Night Only Barbra Streisand and Quartet at The Village Vanguard.
On September 29, 2009, Streisand and Columbia Records released her newest studio album, Love is the Answer, produced by Diana Krall. On October 2, 2009, Streisand made her British television performance debut with an interview on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross to promote the album. This album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and registered her biggest weekly sales since 1997, making Streisand the only artist in history to achieve No. 1 albums in five different decades.
On February 1, 2010, Streisand joined over 80 other artists in recording a new version of the 1985 charity single "We Are the World". Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie planned to release the new version to mark the 25th anniversary of its original recording. These plans changed, however, in view of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, and on February 12, the song, now called "We Are the World 25 for Haiti", made its debut as a charity single to support relief aid for the beleaguered island nation.
Streisand will be honored as MusiCares Person of the Year on February 11, 2011, two days prior to the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Streisand is one of many singers who uses teleprompters during their live performances. Streisand has defended her choice in using teleprompters to display lyrics and, sometimes, banter.