‘15 Minutes’ with Barry ManilowWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Most singers are used to taking requests. Barry Manilow isn’t most entertainers. He’s got a request for you.
“I ask the public, just give me one shot, put [‘15 Minutes’] in your car and listen to it from the beginning to the end. Just give me one full listen and, after that, it’s up to you,” he said.
The songwriter is talking about “15 Minutes,” his disc released in June. It’s been 10 years since he recorded a CD of original material. The thematic work is named after Andy Warhol’s notion that everybody will be famous for a short time.
“My collaborator, [lyricist] Enoch Anderson, who I’ve worked with many years, and I looked around and what we saw in the world of entertainment was a lot of reality shows — ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor’ and this one and that one, and young people becoming household names overnight,” Manilow said during a call from California. “I did ‘American Idol’ for three years, and it was young, talented people being thrown into the spotlight and I thought, wow, that’s kind of dangerous.
“And then we watched as Britney Spears, during that year before we began writing, we saw Britney, the press was driving her crazy; she couldn’t even go to Starbucks without them following her,” he said. “Here’s this talented girl trying to just live her life, and they kept following her and driving her nuts.
“And Enoch and I said, ‘Wow, is that the price of fame?’
“So that’s what started us off with this ‘15 Minutes’ album; is this the price of fame? And that felt like an interesting thing to write about.”
The legendary showman knows about superstardom. Between 1975 and 1983, Manilow had 25 consecutive Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The pianist has sold more than 80 million records around the globe. Hits by the Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winner include “It’s a Miracle,” “Could It Be Magic,” “I Write the Songs,” “Copacabana,” “This One’s For You,” “Weekend in New England” and “Looks Like We Made It.”
“These days if you’re famous, you can’t get out of your house without everybody knowing what you’re doing. That wasn’t the way it was with me,” he said. “It was complicated and pressured, but there was no Internet, no paparazzi.”
Working in the business eight years before his career skyrocketed helped ground him, Manilow said.
“I was a conductor, songwriter, I did commercials, I was a producer of other people’s work, you know, I was a solid musician by the time ‘Mandy’ hit, and even then it knocked me over,” he said.
Manilow’s 15 minutes has lasted more than three decades.
“I’ve just been a very fortunate guy. I’ve had great people around me that have helped guide me,” the 68-year-old said. “Most of all I’ve had the public who have always been on my side, always, even at the very beginning when I didn’t know what I was doing, they somehow liked what they were hearing, liked what they were seeing, and I just kept going.”
Last year, the Brooklyn native received a Grammy nomination for “The Greatest Love Songs of All Time.” “The Greatest Songs of the Fifties” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart in 2006. Collections from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s proved equally successful.
“The whole run of these cover albums was tremendously successful. But personally, I felt that I was really missing writing my own material. Most of all, it felt like I was playing it safe,” Manilow said. “I needed to shake it up; I needed to get out of my safety zone.”
“15 Minutes” debuted at No. 7 on Billboard 200 and was his sixth Top 10 debut in the past 10 years.
He talked about a follow-up.
“Last month, we did four unbelievable shows in Britain at a place called the O2. We sold out four nights of 20,000 people a night and we recorded it. I played there with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” he said. “I’ve never been through anything quite like it — thrilling beyond words — and we recorded it. And we’re mixing it right now. I think that is going to be the next album.”
Fans can catch that Manilow magic at 8 p.m. Aug. 28 at Caesars Windsor, Ontario. Tickets range from $65 to $210.
“The power of music has changed the world. And if you do it the wrong way, it could change the world for the worst,” he said. “Angry music, nasty music does not do it, but beautiful, inspiring, uplifting music can help make a better world; that’s what I’m here for.”