For Barry Manilow, it all started when he decided to pursue his dream of being part of the entertainment industry. He got involved with music ever since his mother Edna and his stepfather Willie Murphy bought him a piano for $800, which took them five years to pay off. It turned out it was money well invested, as Barry would eventually make a name for himself and a career which spans decades.
Before entering the New York College of Music, Barry enrolled at the City College of New York. Later, he attended the Juilliard School, studying musical theater, and moved on to work as a log clerk at CBS.
At that period of his life, he fell in love with Susan Deixler, his high-school sweetheart whom he married when he was just 21 years old. The marriage only lasted for around two years as he felt he wasn’t ready to settle down just yet and was too busy doing music. “I just was not ready for marriage, I was out making music every night, sowing my wild oats. I was too young, I wasn’t ready to settle down,” the singer said.
For years, before his big breakthrough, Barry wrote songs for commercials. He was lucky enough to feature in a Dr. Pepper commercial which, according to the man himself, “paid the rent for years.”
“When I lucked into writing commercials, the only way you can go up against other songwriters when you’re going for a commercial is to write the catchiest melody you can write in fifteen seconds, and if you don’t write the best one, then another songwriter will get the commercial,” Barry told WHRB.
“And my instinct is always to write catchy melodies. I just like doing it. And so when I started to do jingles, I won a lot of them because my melodies were catchier than the other guys’ melodies.”
He then added: “But it was very helpful because when I found myself in the pop music world writing pop songs, which like I say I never really thought about doing, pop music is all about catchy melodies and hooks and choruses…Well, learning how to do that while I was writing commercials was very helpful when i wound up writing pop songs.”
In 1973, he released his first album titled Barry Manilow, but it didn’t turn into an instant hit. It wasn’t until a year later that he reached heights in the industry with his single Mandy. What followed were songs which topped the charts, among which the iconic I Write the Songs, Could It Be Magic, and Copacabana (At the Copa).
Just five years after releasing his first album, Barry had five albums on the best-selling charts simultaneously, as well as ten No. 1 singles. His fan base grew bigger with each passing day and it became so huge that they were termed “Fanilows.”
For a great part of his life, Barry kept a secret which burdened him, but then, at the age of 73, he decided to share it with the world. Barry Manilow came out as gay and revealed that he and his partner, Garry Kief, had been together for nearly 40 years. He confessed that the two got married back in 2014 at their Palm Springs estate.
The couple first met in 1978 and started a relationship some years later. Today, they are still together and Garry works as Barry’s manager and is the president of Barry Manilow Productions.
“I knew that this was it,” Barry recalled of meeting Garry for the first time. “I was one of the lucky ones, I was pretty lonely before that.”
Back in the day, being gay wasn’t as accepted as it is today. Barry said he didn’t wan’t to reveal the secret about his sexuality in the past because he didn’t know how people would react and feared for his career. Today, he’s happy he opened up about being gay because nothing changed, except that his fans are happy for him.
The two raised Garry’s biological daughter Kristen together.
“That’s the miracle of this relationship. It’s a relationship built on respect, and we’ve never bumped heads about anything,” Barry told Chicago Sun-Times.
“Garry’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met. He’s a great manager. He takes care of my career on the business level, and I take care of the music, and we plan out what we want to do together. It’s about two guys who made it through 40 years.
“Maybe [coming out] will make people feel good. Maybe it will inspire some young people that they can do it, too. [Ours] has been a very positive love story. We’re still talking to each other!”
Another thing the famous singer opened about are his many plastic surgeries. He’s not afraid to confess he had gone under the knife but doesn’t want to be seen as the “Joan Rivers of the guys.”
Asked how he manages to stay youthful, Barry said on the British morning show This Morning: “It’s luck, it’s just blind luck. I’m really very old, please let’s not talk about it. It’s really depressing.”
It took a lot of courage for Barry Manilow to come out as gay at such age, but at least he’s happy he finally did it.
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