Last night, CNN aired a one-hour, in-depth interview with Barry Manilow, the 78-year-old pop sensation who has garnered countless hits and millions of fans over the span of nearly 60 years. So, did this profile about “The Showman of Our Generation,” the man who Frank Sinatra said, “He’s next!” when referencing, live up to the iconic star’s blinding luminescence? Read on for my thoughts.
CNN journalist Dana Bash was granted the amazing opportunity to interview Barry Manilow. I’ve been in her position, and I still say that, of the numerous pop culture legends I’ve interviewed, Barry is the best! He’s kind, humble, attentive, humorous, and charming. Naturally, Barry exuded all of these traits, and more, in Being Barry Manilow.
Because of COVID, it felt like forever since I’ve seen Barry in this kind of environment, not to mention at a live concert. This interview satiated my interview itch, and I plan to see Barry when he comes to Philly in August, so I should be a very happy Fanilow by then. But Being Barry Manilow felt like a cup of sumptuous hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night: it made me feel warm, comforted, and brought a smile to my face. Why? Because it reminded me of the reason I became a fan in the first place — the voice, the music, the man. If you’re one of the tribe, a Manilow misfit, then you understand.
Garry Kief, Barry’s husband and longtime manager, is a wonderful human being. Seeing the love in Barry’s eyes when he talked about him and watching how he got choked up over Garry sending him flowers on Valentine’s Day after being together for so many years, was moving.
The part dedicated to Harmony, a musical Barry has been trying to bring to life — and finally has — for 25 years, made me proud for him and his collaborator Bruce Sussman. Manilow and Sussman have written more than 200 songs together, and seeing them beam with pride as they watched the rehearsal for their show made me feel the same way. The music is fabulous, the story timely, and the passion is in abundance. I wish them nothing but success, and I hope to see the show down the line.
This interview also documented Barry’s history-making moment of exceeding the number of shows performed in Vegas by Elvis Presley. I was at one of those shows, so hearing Barry say, “It’s not about me. It’s about the fans.” made perfect sense. Despite his superstar status, he’s always maintained a deep connection with his fans, long before the days of social media. It’s one of the many reasons why we love him.
Hearing from Barry’s dedicated band and musical director, all of whom have been with him for decades, fortified my respect and admiration for his artistry, professionalism, and loyalty. Barry Manilow is just as brilliant as Prince and other similar artists. However, he doesn’t always get credit for it, probably because the fans come first, not him.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Being Barry Manilow, and I intend to do so again. It was a love letter to fans, a celebration of a glorious career, and a testament to his magnificent gift. To paraphrase a song from Harmony, when the chill winds wail and clouds assail the sky, Barry is the hope that’s gleaming in the distance. This star in the night continues to shine bright — may he do so for many years to come!