Grammy preview: MusiCares to honor Barbra Streisand Friday
By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder and the cast of 'Glee' are among the stars who will perform the singer's hits at the benefit, where Streisand will be lauded for her 'creative accomplishments and philanthropy.'
She's recording a new album and getting ready to star in a remake of the musical "Gypsy," but Barbra Streisand isn't too busy to be honored this week by MusiCares, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences foundation that aids musicians in crisis.
"I love musicians," she explains. "I love people who create music, play music, sing music — whatever. It is a very unified profession. We admire each other's work."
Tony Bennett, Jeff Beck, LeAnn Rimes, Seal, BeBe Winans, Stevie Wonder, Diana Krull, Barry Manilow and the cast of "Glee" are among the performers who will be offering their interpretations of Streisand's classic recordings at the benefit Friday evening at the L.A. Convention Center, two nights before the Grammy Awards. The annual MusiCares person of the year event honors an artist for his or her "creative accomplishments and philanthropy."
An eight-time Grammy winner who is nominated again this year for best traditional pop vocal album for "Love Is the Answer," Streisand, 68, will be performing at the conclusion of the tribute. "I am singing and talking for about 12 to 15 minutes," she said over the phone from her Malibu home, which she wrote about in her bestselling coffee-table book, "My Passion for Design." A portion of the book's proceeds go to the Barbra Streisand Women's Cardiovascular Research and Education program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
But that is all she will reveal about her appearance. "I want it to be a surprise!"
What isn't a surprise is that two of the tribute's co-chairs are Streisand's longtime friends, the Oscar-winning lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who penned the lyrics to "The Way We Were" and the songs from Streisand's 1983 directorial debut, "Yentl," among numerous other renowned tunes ("The Windmills of Your Mind," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "I Believe in Love").
"I have sung 52 of their songs," Streisand says.
But there are others she hasn't yet sung, so she's recording an album of them. "I had the most wonderful session a few weeks ago," Streisand recalled. "It was lovely to walk into the Sony scoring stage, which is now called the Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage. It was great."
Ever the designer, Streisand had Sony redesign and redecorate the stage. "It is such a beautiful space — the height of the ceiling and the size of the room," said Streisand.
"The artist's booth used to be way across the orchestra. So every time you want to go into the booth, you would have to run across all of these people and the instruments. The bathroom was outside in the street! So I remember saying it would be fabulous if the artists who recorded there have their booth right by the control booth and a separate bathroom. It was such a treat to work in the room. I worked with so many people I loved — the incredible arranger William Ross; Jay Landers, my longtime A&R man; Marty Erlichman [her manager, who discovered her] and Marilyn and Alan Bergman, who I have known since I was 18. We have a third of an album done."
Streisand said she was singing at the Bon Soir night club when she was 18 when she met the Bergmans.
"I guess they were in the audience," she said. "Marilyn told me this later, that she was crying through my set. I remember the door opening to this tiny little dressing room that I shared with Phyllis Diller. You could hardly turn around to change your dress. The door opened and she said to me, 'Do you know how wonderful you are?' And I didn't. I was always very uncomfortable with compliments for many, many years."
The following year, the couple were present with her at the apartment of composer Jule Styne, who, with Bob Merrill, would write the legendary 1964 Broadway musical "Funny Girl," which made Streisand a superstar as Fanny Brice and for which she won the lead actress Oscar for the 1968 film version.
"I had come there because he wanted to play a song for me," Streisand said. "I was 19 and I was in 'I Can Get It For You Wholesale.' Marilyn tells the story in great detail. I always forget these stories and she reminds me. I was designing clothes then and so I designed myself a black mink cape lined with the paisley that was on my couch — the leftover fabric — a black Russian Cossack-like hat and boots. She remembers I had long, dark fingernails. I asked for a sandwich. She said when they were playing the music for me I never looked up. I was just eating my sandwich."
But Streisand did look up when they finished. "I said, 'You know, that is not right for me. It's right for Carol Burnett.' She said what was amazing to them was that Julie had told them this [musical] was originally written for Carol Burnett. She said I proceeded to describe the kind of musical I would like to do. She said it was like describing 'Funny Girl,' which wasn't around at that time."
Though she has appeared in "Meet the Fockers" and the recent sequel, "Little Fockers," Streisand hasn't done a major film since starring in and directing 1996's "The Mirror Has Two Faces," and she hasn't done a movie musical since "Yentl." But last month, news broke that she would be starring in a new version of the Styne-Stephen Sondheim 1959 Broadway classic "Gypsy," playing the ultimate stage mother, Mama Rose.
Rosalind Russell had the role in the 1962 film version; Bette Midler played it in the 1993 CBS-TV adaptation.
The news leaked "a little early, because the deal wasn't finished," Streisand said. "I am not sure about directing it. It may just be too much. I know I will be playing the part. It's like a bookend starting with 'Funny Girl.'"
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