Sunday, February 13, 2011

Barbra Streisand Honored By Music Industry Peers At Gala Concert

Some of the biggest names in the music industry gathered in Hollywood Friday night to pay tribute to Barbra Streisand at the MusiCares Person of the Year annual dinner, an event connected to the Grammy awards.

As Edna Gundersen wrote in USA Today,
The honor is bestowed annually by the Recording Academy charity to outstanding musicians for their artistic and philanthropic achievements. Proceeds from the fundraiser provide financial, medical and personal assistance for musicians in need.

Streisand, 68, sat with hubby James Brolin as a glittery parade of impressive singers took the stage in the Los Angeles Convention Center to tackle songs she made famous over the past half century.

Seal turned in a smooth version of the title track from her 1980 Guilty album. British warbler Leona Lewis revived Somewhere. Pianist Herbie Hancock and Canadian jazz-popster Nikki Yanofsky, 17, teamed for On a Clear Day. And Tony Bennett charmed the packed house with a moving rendition of Smile.

By the time Streisand took her turn at the mike to close the evening with a medley of hits, she joked, "I'm stuck with the leftovers." Yet with the opening lines of Happy Days Are Here Again, the cultural icon quickly reminded the crowd why she reigns supreme in the singing universe. She segued into The Way We Were, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?, Evergreen and I Finally Found Someone before circling back to Happy Days. The consensus? Like buttah.

Wearing an elaborate diamond necklace and a black gown with a plunging neckline and sheer sleeves, Streisand praised MusiCares as a "wonderful organization that takes care of its own." She thanked a variety of colleagues, including her manager of 50 years, Martin Erlichman, joking, "Marty discovered me in the neonatal unit of Brooklyn Hospital."
Streisand turned serious on her love for music.

"I love music for what it does for the soul," she said. "It let me express myself when I had no other outlet."

She quoted Hans Christian Andersen: "When words fail, music speaks."
Her niece recently watched Funny Girl, Streisand noted, "and asked me why I was singing songs from Glee."

The Glee cast was in full force. Darren Criss and the show's a capella Warblers did What Kind of Fool. Lea Michele turned in a strapping My Man. And Matthew Morrison joined Kristen Chenoweth for a rousing One Less Bell to Answer

Still, they had trouble keeping up with the grown-ups. Faith Hill's Send in the Clowns was emotionally wrenching. Diana Krall, playing piano with a jazz combo, set fire to Down With Love. Jeff Beck's stinging guitar solos matched the passion of BeBe Winans and LeAnn Rimes trading verses on Come Rain or Come Shine.

Streisand "is one of the greatest talents we've ever had," said Barry Manilow, who sang Memory from the musical Cats. Her impact on pop culture is immeasurable. "I'm still reeling from you, Barbra."

While most lauded Streisand's artistry and generosity, comedian Bill Maher commended her left-leaning politics and the fact that she's always been, well, a classy lady.

"There was never a picture of her getting out of a car without her underwear on," he said.
Here's a video news report summarizing the gala evening, and, for you nostalgia buffs, a video of Barbra singing Happy Days are Here Again from her first television special in 1965. Enjoy! 

P.S.  The song Happy Days are Here Again has become the unofficial theme song of the Democratic Party, after its use as the theme song of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's successful presidential campaign in 1932.  

What's not as well known is that it was composed in 1929 by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, Jewish composers and lyricists, for the film Chasing Rainbows.
So what was there to be so happy about?  The song was the film's finale, celebrating the imminent repeal of prohibition.

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