Two years ago, Barbra Streisand celebrated becoming the only artist to score #1 albums in six consecutive decades with a rare concert tour. The video version of that, “Barbra: The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic!,” streamed on Netflix last fall and is a strong contender at the upcoming Emmys. Over the years, Streisand has headlined two Emmy-winning variety specials (as did Bob Hope) and she’d set a new record with another victory.
Among the highlights of the concert, which was filmed in Miami, is her soaring duet with fellow Oscar winner Jamie Foxx on “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.” There is a certain irony that Streisand chose to record this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic for her chart-topping 2016 album “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway.” As a teenager, she’d auditioned to play eldest daughter Liesl in the national company of this Tony winner but couldn’t get past the casting director. She ended up working as a usher at the theater housing this hit 1959 musical and says she kept her head down so that patrons wouldn’t remember her face when she became famous.
A mere three years later, Streisand was stopping the show with a comic number in her first Broadway musical, “I Can Get It For You Wholesale.” While she lost the Tony Awards race to Phyllis Newman (“Subways are for Sleeping”), this tuner brought her to the attention of Columbia Record execs, who signed her to an unprecedented deal in which she kept creative control. Her debut disc, “The Barbra Streisand Album,” won Album of the Year at the 1964 Grammys.
Twenty-three years later, she picked up her eighth Grammy for returning to her roots with “The Broadway Album.” She won in the now-defunct Pop Female Vocal Performance category having claimed that prize previously in 1964 (“The Barbra Streisand Album”), 1965 (“People”), 1966 (“My Name is Barbra”) and 1977 (“Evergreen”). That last tune won her Song of the Year at the Grammys and made her the first female composer to win an Oscar. She also shared the Best Pop Duo/Group Grammy with Barry Gibb for “Guilty” in 1980.
“The Broadway Album” paid tribute to her 1962 debut on the rialto with a cover photo in which she posed atop a rolling office chair much like the one that she’d wheeled about the stage as she belted out “Miss Marmelstein.” When Columbia had balked at releasing this collection of standards in 1985, Streisand had to agree that it would not count as part of her contract. She was rewarded for her belief in the material with her sixth #1 album.
She’d first topped the Billboard charts with her fourth album, “People,” back on Oct. 31, 1964. The title track featured in her smash musical “Funny Girl,” which had opened on Broadway to rave reviews that spring. While Streisand reaped a Tony bid for her heartbreaking portrayal of comedienne Fanny Brice, she lost to “Hello, Dolly!” star Carol Channing. Her consolation prize turned out well: not only did she win an Oscar for her screen debut in the 1968 film version of “Funny Girl” but she got to make the movie of “Hello, Dolly!” in 1969. Both those blockbuster films reaped Best Picture bids.
While “People” was her only album in the 1960s to hit #1, she scored three more chart-toppers in the 1970s (“The Way We Were,” 1974; “A Star is Born,” 1976; “Greatest Hits: Volume 2,” 1978); a pair in both the 1980s (“Guilty,” 1980; “The Broadway Album,” 1985) and 1990s (“Back to Broadway,” 1993; “Higher Ground,” 1997), one in the 2000s (“Love is the Answer,” 2009) and two more (so far) this decade (“Partners,” 2014; “Encore,” 2016).
Surprisingly, only three of these — “People,” “Guilty” and “The Broadway Album” — number among Streisand’s six bids for Album of the Year at the Grammys. And she has won that top prize just once: in 1964 for her self-titled debut (which reached only #8 on the charts). Her other nominations came for “My Name Is Barbra” (1966) and “Color Me Barbra” (1967).
Those latter two discs were soundtracks to her first two TV specials. As with her record deal, she got to make these free of interference from CBS and chose to fly solo, eschewing the usual guest stars. Ironically, she had reaped her first Emmy bid in 1964 for guesting on “The Judy Garland Show.” Both she and Garland lost to Danny Kaye for his self-titled series.
“My Name is Barbra” won five Emmys in 1965, including one for Streisand. She won the now-defunct individual variety performance three decades later for “Barbra: The Concert,” the TV recording of her long-awaited return to performing live. And she picked it up again in 2001 for “Timeless: Live in Concert.”
While the TV academy scrapped this award in 2008, Streisand will be contending in several Emmy categories for “Barbra: The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic!.” She is a producer of this special (she won in that capacity in 1995 for “Barbra: The Concert”) and a co-director (she was nominated for helming in 1995 as well).
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