Barry Manilow PhotoBarry Alan Pincus
BORN: June 17, 1946, Brooklyn, NY

Although he has never earned the respect of critics or much of the public, Barry Manilow was one of the most successful recording artists of the '70s. Manilow began his pop music career by writing advertising jingles in the '60s; during this time, the Juilliard-trained musician honed his pop instincts, as evidenced by the sheer number of successful advertisements he wrote. In 1971, he began accompanying Bette Midler on piano as she performed in New York City's gay bathhouses. Manilow arranged her first two albums, which helped him earn a record contract with Bell. His self-titled first album was a flop, yet his second featured the number one ballad "Mandy."

"Mandy" began a decade's worth of polished MOR hits for Manilow, which included the number one singles "I Write the Songs" and "Looks Like We Made It," as well as Top Tens "Could It Be Magic," "Copacabana (At the Copa)" and "I Made It Through the Rain." Manilow also became a popular live act during this time. By the mid-'80s, he decided to broaden his musical horizons by making records of jazz and pop standards. At the end of the decade, the widow of Johnny Mercer invited him to set music to a number of the great songwriter's unpublished lyrics. Manilow continued in a similar vein on the records Singin' with the Big Bands (1994) and Another Life (1995), before he made the nostalgia-drenched Summer of '78 in 1996. Sings Sinatra followed two years later.

In addition, Manilow's stage musical Barry Manilow's Copacabana: The Musical premiered in 1994, and continued to tour the U.S. and U.K.; another musical, Harmony, was premiered in 1999. Manilow's long relationship with Arista ended when he signed to the jazz-oriented Concord label, for which he debuted in late 2001 with the concept album Here at the Mayflower, which continued his evolution into a pre-rock pop stylist. Manilow began to re-enter the wider public eye in 2002, performing "Let Freedom Ring" at the Super Bowl pre-game show; aided by television advertising, his first (incredibly) single-disc hits compilation, Ultimate Manilow, entered the album charts at a stunning number three position that March. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide