Legendary singer-songwriter Barry Manilow will perform at the Bryce Jordan Center on March 12 as the music icon embarks on the final tour of a career that has spanned more than four decades.
Appearing with Manilow on the “One Last Time” tour will be nine-time Grammy nominated saxophonist Dave Koz. The two recently shared stages across the U.S. during the first leg of Manilow’s tour earlier this year.
As a singer-songwriter, musician, arranger and producer, Manilow has struck gold with hits such as “Mandy,” “I Write the Songs,” “Looks Like We Made It,” “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Copacabana (At the Copa).” Between 1974 and 1983, Manilow had three No. 1 singles and 25 that reached the top 40. To date, he has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling recording artists of all time.
Manilow’s earliest memory of music was listening to the Andrews Sisters on the radio when he was just 3 years old. Born in 1943 in a very rough section of Brooklyn, N.Y., where there was no money and nobody who cared about getting into music or show business, Manilow knew he was musical, and so did his family.
“These people that I was raised by were struggling to put food on the table, give me some sort of an education, and raise me as a gentleman — which they did,” he said. “But they knew I was musical, and somehow they put together enough money to rent an accordion for me. I was good at it, and I picked up music right away.”
Manilow said he knew his calling in life when his stepfather took him to see a concert by Gerry Mulligan, one of the great jazz saxophone players of his time.
“He took me to Birdland, when it was really a jazz club,” he said. “I saw the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, and it changed my life. That was the moment I knew that I wanted to be around this.”
Manilow, 72, has collaborated and performed with many artists throughout his career and has made quite a few friends in the business. For most artists it may be very difficult to pick an absolute favorite, but for Manilow the choice is very simple.
“On my bucket list and when people asked me that question it was always Barbara Streisand,” he said. “But I actually got a chance to do a duet with a song that I wrote with her, and it was just as beautiful as I was hoping it would be. It was a wonderful experience, and we’re still friends. She’s a great, great artist and a terrific person.”
These days if you asked Manilow who he’d like to work with, his answer would be Lady Gaga.
“I’ve been a fan of hers from the very first note I heard from her five years ago,” he said. “The Academy Award song she did just knocked the whole world out. She is one of the greats.”
In 2008, Manilow created the Manilow Music Project, where he collects instruments and donates them to the schools in every area where his tour stops. Last week, he announced he’d donate a Yamaha piano to the Bald Eagle Area School District. He also provides music scholarships at 10 leading universities.
“I just believe that kids should learn how to play an instrument, even if they don’t turn out to be professional musicians — it makes a big difference to their education,” he said. “I speak to the principals and the teachers in the schools that we deal with and they always tell me that the kids’ grades go up, they become better students, and they become better people. And it will change a young person’s life.”
“For people who have instruments that are just collecting dust or that they don’t need anymore, they can bring them down to the auditorium that we’re going to be in, and they get two free tickets,” Manilow said. “We collect them all and we fix them up, and then we give them to the school district and the school district gives them to the schools. I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s working.”
While Manilow said he always wanted to be a musician, producer and songwriter, it never dawned on him that he would wind up where he has. But his audiences and fans have supported him from the very beginning, and he summed up just how much it has meant to him and to his career as he winds down his final tour.
“At this point it’s huge gratitude,” he said. “They liked what they saw and they liked what they heard, and they’ve been in my corner since the very first show. I’m very grateful that they were able to connect with it, and I’m very proud of the impact that my music has had on people for all these years.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Barry Manilow
- When: 7:30 p.m. March 12
- Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
- Info: www.bjc.psu.edu