Actress/singer/director/writer/composer/producer/designer/author/photographer/activist Barbra Streisand is the only artist ever to receive Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Directors Guild of America, Golden Globe, National Medal of Arts and Peabody Awards and France’s Légion d'honneur as well as the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also the first female film director to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.
She won Oscars for both Best Actress (“Funny Girl”) and Best Original Song (for her composition of “Evergreen” which has since become a standard.) She also was nominated for Best Actress for “The Way We Were.” The three films she directed received 14 Oscar nominations.
An eight-time Grammy Award winner, she is the only performer to have number one albums in five consecutive decades. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, her 51 gold albums, 30 platinum and 18 multi-platinum exceed all other female singers. The RIAA also notes that her 72.5 million albums sales tops its list of album sales by a female singer. The debut at #1 of her “Love Is The Answer” album became her 9th record to reach that top spot.. Her most two most recent albums, “What Matters Most” and “Release Me,” became her 31st and 32nd to reach the Top Ten in the ratings charts. With that, she passed The Beatles (with whom she had been tied at 30) to become the third highest achiever in that significant statistic, exceeded only by the Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra. She is the only female among the top ten album-selling recording artists. Her six most recent albums have all charted in the Top Ten on the Billboard chart.
Her civil rights activism and philanthropic pursuits are just as impressive. The Streisand Foundation has given millions of dollars in 2100 grants to non-profit organizations and she has raised many millions more through her performances.
The career of Barbra Streisand has been paved with bold, creative achievements and highlighted by a series of firsts.
For her first motion picture, "Funny Girl," she won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actress, the first of two Oscars.
With “Yentl” (1983,”) her first film as a director, she became the first woman ever to produce, direct, write and star in a major motion picture. “Yentl,” earned five Oscar nominations and also brought her Golden Globes for both Best Director and Best Picture.
"The Prince of Tides," her next directorial feature, was the first motion picture directed by its female star ever to receive a Best Director nomination from the Directors Guild of America as well as seven Academy Award nominations. Barbra Streisand produced the heralded drama in addition to directing and starring in it.
She won the DGA award (Best Director Music/Variety Television Program) in 1994 for her television special, “Barbra Streisand: The Concert,” which she co-directed with Dwight Hemion.
For her very first Broadway appearance in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," she won the New York Drama Critics Award and received a Tony nomination.
For her very first solo recording, “The Barbra Streisand Album," she won two 1963 Grammy Awards. One of these was for Best Female Vocal Performance. The other, Album of the Year; made her the youngest artist to have received that award.
She is the first female composer ever to win an Academy Award, this for her song, "Evergreen," the love theme from her 1976 hit film, "A Star Is Born." She was nominated again in 1997 as co-composer of "I Finally Found Someone," based on her love theme for her 1996 film as director/producer/star, "The Mirror Has Two Faces." The film achieved two Oscar nominations and the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for Lauren Bacall.
She is the recipient of five personal Emmy awards. Her first television special, “My Name Is Barbra” (1965,) received five Emmy Awards, including one for her for best performance,. as well as the distinguished Peabody Award, the first of two. This achievement was repeated 30 years later by "Barbra Streisand: The Concert" which won two additional Emmy awards for Ms. Streisand among the five for the production. That show also was accorded the Peabody Award, the Directors Guild of America award and three CableACE awards and it became the highest-rated musical event in HBO’s history. Her 2001 television concert special, “Barbra Streisand: Timeless. Live in Concert,” also co-directed by its star, won four more Emmys, including one for Ms. Streisand’s performance. She is also an Emmy recipient in 2001 for her Barwood Films’ documentary on pioneering women directors in the early decades of motion pictures, “Reel Models: The First Women of Film.”
DVD releases of her concerts have achieved notable recent firsts. In 2009 her three-disc offering, “Streisand The Concerts,” reigned in the #1 position on the Music DVD Billboard charts for three weeks. A year later, “One Night Only,” capturing her heralded performance at the Village Vanguard before an audience of one hundred lottery-picked fans and some of her notable friends, opened at #1 as well. Her 10 city, 12 performance North American concert tour rapidly was SRO and played to unmatched critical acclaim.
Her first book (as both author and photographer,) “My Passion For Design,” was critically acclaimed and debuted at Number Two on the New York Times bestseller lists. Recipient in 1995 of an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis University and an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2013, she has also received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton, was accorded The Humanitarian Award from the Human Rights Campaign and was honored by France when French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented her with his country’s Légion d'honneur.
The "actress who sings," as Streisand once termed herself, has repeatedly been at the top of the record sales charts. A detailed review of her achievements as a recording artist is provided at the end of this biography.
Ms. Streisand’s Barwood Films, through its TV arm, Barwood Television (in which she was partnered with Cis Corman,), has had award-winning success as well. In 1995, the same year as her “Barbra Streisand: The Concert" Emmy successes, “Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story," Barwood’s first television dramatic production, had six nominations and earned an additional three Emmy trophies, a total of eight Emmys for Ms. Streisand's company that year, and another Peabody Award in the process. The drama investigated military harassment of and repression of the civil rights of gays. It was acknowledged that the critically praised "Serving In Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story," would never have been realized on network television had not Barbra Streisand put her executive producing talents and considerable artistic and social-issue influence behind it.
Her Barwood Films has continued to place great emphasis on bringing to television dramatic explorations of pressing social, historic and political issues which would not otherwise be addressed in more widely viewed television movies. "Rescuers: Stories of Courage," a series of six two-part dramas on Showtime in 1997 and 1998 with great acclaim and wide viewership, pays tribute to non-Jews who heroically saved Jews from the Holocaust. The company’s 2001 telefilm, “Varian’s War,” told the story of an American Christian who got Jewish intellectuals out of occupied France. Barwood's "The Long Island Incident," which aired on NBC in May 1998, inspired a national debate on gun control with its true story of Carolyn McCarthy, a wife and mother who surmounted tragedy to win a seat in Congress after initiating a crusade to achieve sensible controls on guns.
Since resuming paid concert performance on December 31, 1993, Barbra Streisand has set a long list of records in that area as well. Following her sold-out 20 concert tour in the U.S. and Canada in 2006 and the follow-up nine concert 2007 tour of Europe, Ms. Streisand holds the house records in all 27 venues in which she has appeared in that period.
Virtually every aspect of Barbra Streisand's 1994 concert tour was record setting. Those twenty-six appearances were her first paid concerts in nearly three decades, all intervening concerts since 1966 having been fund-raisers for various social or political causes. The tour initiated with the celebrated 1994 New Year's performances at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas and continued to set attendance and box-office records with immediate sellouts in London, Washington D.C., Southern California, Detroit, San Jose, and New York's Madison Square Garden. Over 5 million phone requests were recorded in the first hour when tickets for the first American leg of the tour went on sale. The tour also generated over $10.25 million for charities the artist supports, channeling money to significant causes in each locale. Reflecting Streisand's social concerns, over $3 million went to AIDS organizations, with other gifts addressing such urgencies as women and children in jeopardy, Jewish/Arab relations and agencies working to ameliorate relations between African-Americans and Jews.
Ms. Streisand's Millennium New Year's Eve concert, "Timeless," at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, December 31, 1999, set an all-time Ticket Master record for one-day sales of a single event, virtually selling out in the first few hours of sale eight months before the performance. The New Year's concert was widely covered as one of the key events of the worldwide millennium celebration.
Her two-night Madison Square Garden engagement in September 2000, and two preceding Los Angeles live appearances at Staples Center, also were record-setting successes. Similarly her second national concert tour in the Fall of 2006, received rave reviews and broke the house records in all 16 of the cities in which she had not already set the venue record. The tour, “Streisand – Live In Concert 2006”, was recorded in three sites, becoming the top-selling album of the same name. In the Spring and Summer of 2007, that show then became Barbra Streisand’s first ever concert tour of the Continent of Europe, with performances in Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland, a designated portion of the proceeds again being directed to charities through The Streisand Foundation.
Barbra Streisand’s home video releases have created records of their own, nine having been certified gold, six platinum and three multi-platinum. “Barbra Streisand: The Concert," became a quadruple-platinum home video as well as a triple-platinum double album (exceptionally rare for a multi-disc set). Most recently, in 2009 her three-disc offering, “Streisand The Concerts,” reigned in the #1 position on the Music DVD Billboard charts for three weeks, with her 2010 DVD “One Night Only – Barbra Streisand And Quartet At The Village Vanguard – September 26, 2009” again brought her a #1 winner in its opening week. The home video/DVD of the “Timeless” concert was gold and platinum as well, with six other home videos also being certified gold. . In 2004, "Barbra Streisand - Live at the MGM Grand" was released on DVD, and was quickly certified Platinum. In November 2005, 'Barbra Streisand- The Television Specials' was released as a five-DVD box set which went quintuple (5x) platinum, within six weeks. The recent DVD release of her 1986 “One Voice” concert has joined the list of her successes in that market.
She most recently starred in Paramount’s “The Guilt Trip,” with Seth Rogen.
The filmmaker/entertainer was born April 24th in Brooklyn to Diana and Emanuel Streisand. Her father, who passed away when Barbra was 15 months old, was a highly respected teacher and scholar.
An honor student at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, the teenage Streisand plunged, unassisted and without encouragement, into show business by winning a singing contest at a small Manhattan club. She developed a devout and growing following at the clubs which began hiring her, and soon she was attracting music industry attention at such spots as the Bon Soir and the Blue Angel.
Streisand signed a contract with Columbia Records in 1962, and her debut album quickly became the nation's top-selling record by a female vocalist.
Following her award-winning stage debut performance in "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," she was signed to play the great comedienne Fanny Brice in the Broadway production of "Funny Girl." When the curtain came down at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 26, 1964, the star and the show were major hits. Her distinctly original musical-comedy performance won her a second Tony nomination.
Her star on the ascent, she signed a 10-year contract with CBS Television to produce and star in TV specials. The contract gave her complete artistic control, an unheard of concession to an artist so young and inexperienced. The first special, "My Name Is Barbra," earned five Emmy Awards, and the following four shows, including the memorable "Color Me Barbra," earned the highest critical praise and audience ratings.
In 1966, Streisand repeated her "Funny Girl" triumph in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre. London critics voted her the best female lead in a musical for that season.
Few movie debuts have been as auspicious as Streisand's in Columbia Pictures' "Funny Girl.” In addition to winning the 1968 Academy Award for this performance, she won the Golden Globe and was named Star of the Year by the National Association of Theatre Owners.
After appearing in the films "Hello, Dolly!" and "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," she starred in the non-musical comedy "The Owl and the Pussycat," released in 1970. 1972 brought another resounding comedy hit, "What's Up Doc?," followed by "Up the Sandbox," one of the first American films to deal with the growing women's movement. It was the premiere picture for her own production company, Barwood Films.
The memorable motion picture "The Way We Were" brought her a 1973 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The very successful "A Star Is Born," released in 1976, was the first movie to benefit from her energy and insight as a producer and won six Golden Globes. The soundtrack album topped the charts and has been certified quadruple-platinum.
Shortly after Streisand had completed her first movie, she read a short story titled "Yentl, The Yeshiva Boy" and hoped to make it her second film. However, it took 15 years of development and persistence before the dream came true.
"Yentl," a romantic drama with music, is about a courageous woman who discovers that nothing is impossible in matters of the heart and mind. It is a movie that celebrates women trying to fulfill their capabilities, not allowing traditional restrictions to deter them. The film also was the first big budget project ($15 million) which was instrumental in opening doors to women in film on a higher professional level. Streisand's directorial debut film received five 1983 Academy Award nominations, and she received Golden Globe Awards both as Best Director and as producer of the Best Picture (musical or comedy) of 1983. The 10 Golden Globes she has received throughout her career are the most achieved by any entertainment artist. In January 2000 she received that organization's coveted Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.
Her follow-up film to "Yentl" was "Nuts," the unusual story of a smart woman shaped into an angry, anti-social character because of her childhood experiences. In addition to starring, Streisand produced and wrote the music for the powerful drama released in 1987.
Her second creation as a film director, "The Prince of Tides," concerning the consequences of childhood traumas and exploring family relationships, achieved seven Academy Award nominations and a nomination for her direction from the Directors Guild of America, making her only the third woman ever so honored. She brought this book to the screens because, "It's about how love and compassion can heal and liberate the soul. I'm interested in telling stories about positive transformations and the potential for human growth."
After working with her for two weeks, the book's author, Pat Conroy, gave Streisand a copy of his novel with the inscription: "To Barbra Streisand: The Queen of Tides...you are many things, Barbra, but you're also a great teacher...one of the greatest to come into my life. I honor the great teachers and they live in my work and they dance invisibly in the margins of my prose. You've honored me by taking care of it with such great seriousness and love. Great thanks, and I'll never forget that you gave 'The Prince of Tides' back to me as a gift. Pat Conroy."
In 2004, Barbra Streisand returned to film acting (her first performance on film since “The Mirror Has Two Faces”) in “Meet The Fockers,” a comedy which teamed her with Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. It quickly became the highest grossing live-action comedy film ever, the first to earn more that a half billion dollars. The DVD had similar success, selling three million copies in its first 24 hours.
Like the true Renaissance woman Barbra Streisand is, her life and her art are dedicated to the humanities as reflected by The Streisand Foundation, which is committed to gaining women's equality, the protection of both human rights and civil rights, the needs of children at risk in society, women's health and the preservation of the environment. Through The Streisand Foundation, she directly funded the United States Environmental Defense Fund's research for and participation in the recent Global Warming world summit conference in Kyoto. Her environmental dedication is reflected, also in her donation to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy of the five-home, 24-acre Malibu estate on which her "One Voice" concert had been performed. The site has been dedicated as a center for ecological studies.
Her fall 2006 20 concert, 16 city tour was undertaken in large part to enable her to direct many millions of dollars to The Streisand Foundation to fund urgent efforts in three areas, environmental (with special emphasis on addressing global warming,) education and women’s health issues. Eleven million dollars from the US and Canada tour were directed to The Streisand Foundation for charitable distribution. The first million dollar donation from these funds was a contribution to the William Jefferson Clinton Climate Change initiative, the lead contribution to that cause. Bringing to nearly $16,000,000 her charitable contributions from the tours. She contributed $10,000,000 and raised an additional $12,000,000 for the Women’s Heart Center at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center. In recognition for her efforts the Center was renamed in her honor, The Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.
Ms. Streisand is a leading spokesperson and fund-raiser for social causes close to her heart, including AIDS. During the twenty-seven years, which preceded her limited 1994 tour and the Las Vegas New Year's appearances, she had devoted her live concert performances exclusively to the benefit of those causes she supports. Her concern with social issues is reflected not only in the dedications of her personal life, but in the subject matter of the films she has initiated, each of which has addressed some social consideration.
Recent honors reflecting the range of her involvement in charitable and social causes include the 1992 Commitment to Life Award from AIDS Project Los Angeles for her dedication to help people living with that disease, the ACLU Bill of Rights Award for her ongoing defense of constitutional rights and the Humanitarian Award from The Human Rights Campaign.
Ms. Streisand's feelings about the rights and obligations of artists to participate in the political process were brought into sharp focus by her early 1995 speech at Harvard University under the sponsorship of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. The address won unprecedented reportage and reproduction in such print media as the New York Times and the Washington Post. It was carried a record number of times on C-SPAN and is included in Senator Robert Torricelli's book, "In Our Words: The American Century," a collection of important speeches of the 20th century.
Prior to the 1986 elections, she performed her first full-length concert in 20 years, raising money for the Hollywood Women's Political Committee to disburse to liberal candidates. Taped on Sept. 6, 1986, before 500 invited guests at her California home, the concert was called "Barbra Streisand: One Voice" and aired on HBO on Dec. 27, 1986 to enormous acclaim. The money raised that night helped elect five Democratic Senators, which restored a Democratic majority in the Senate. Additionally, she headlined concerts which raised millions of dollars for each of the successful presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton.
To date, over $20 million including $7 million in profits from "Barbra Streisand: One Voice," have been channeled to charities through the Streisand Foundation, which continues to occupy much of the star's energy and resources. A concert at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, headlined by Ms. Streisand in support of the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign, raised over $5 million, the Democratic Party's largest "hard money" intake ever. Her celebrated speech in support of the Gore candidacy later was played in substantial excerpts on several national television broadcasts. $6 million was brought to the presidential campaign of John Kerry by her 2004 performance at Los Angeles’ Disney Hall. She repeated her fund-raising effort on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential candidacy.
Barbra Streisand’s passionate political activism continues. Convinced that 1998 national general election was one of the most crucial in recent history, she applied herself to the election of candidates and issues she felt essential. She was one of the first and most outspoken critics of the Republican Congress' use of the impeachment issue as a means of blocking or undoing the social achievements of the Clinton administration. Ms. Streisand contributed financially to support the campaigns of 35 candidates in the general election, 27 of whom won. Similarly, she also supported specified candidates by endorsing 194 of them on her web site and then recommending consideration of this list when she did her AOL get-out-the-vote chat on election eve. Of the candidates she endorsed, 155 were elected and 39 were not. In both instances, that is a won/lost ratio of nearly 80%.
On July 1, 1998, Ms. Streisand married director/actor James Brolin.
* * * *
REVIEW OF BARBRA STREISAND RECORDING ACHIEVEMENTS:
The statistics of Barbra Streisand’s achievements as a recording sales leader are clearly drawn in platinum and gold. She has achieved sales unequaled by any other female recording artist. With fifty-one gold albums, she is second in the all-time charts, ahead of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, exceeded only by Elvis. Thus, she is the only artist among the top four all-time gold record sellers who was not part of the rock & roll revolution which has dominated the record business for four decades. Her 51 gold and thirty platinum albums, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, exceed all other female singers. In fact, it exceeds any recording artist or act other than Elvis Presley.
The RIAA also noted that with 71 million albums sold she is the only female artists to have achieved thirteen multi-platinum albums (including the soundtrack for her motion picture "A Star Is Born.") Her recordings have earned her eight Grammy Awards and Grammy's Lifetime Achievement and Legend Awards in the process. She has had number one albums in each of the last five decades, a record not even approached by any individual or group. Her number one albums span a period of nearly 45 years, also the greatest longevity in that statistic for any recording entity in any category of music. A millennium poll by the Reuters news agency identified her as the favorite female singer of the 20th Century and Frank Sinatra as the favorite male singer.
Her most recent Columbia Records album “Love Is The Answer,” with its debut in the #1 position on the charts, established her having had number one albums in five consecutive decades, became her ninth #1 album. Her prior release, “Streisand – Live In Concert 2006,” opened its sales as #7 on the Billboard Top 200 best-selling albums chart, a rare achievement for a double album. “Love Is The Answer” became the 8th Barbra Streisand album to debut in the Top 10. With a total of 30 Top 10 albums to her credit since 1963, Ms. Streisand has the widest span (46 years) between first and latest Top 10 albums of any female recording artists or act and she holds the record for most Top 10 albums by female performers. Her first solo album, “The Barbra Streisand Album,” reached #8 in 1963, while her follow-up, “The Second Barbra Streisand Album” achieved #2 the same year.
Her "A Love Like Ours" (1999), the double album, "Timeless - Live In Concert" (2000) and "The Movie Album" (2003) were all quickly certified as gold and then platinum. Her prior "Higher Ground" (1997) and earlier "Back To Broadway" (1993) albums are among only a handful of recordings ever to become Number One on the sales charts in their initial week of release (Ms. Streisand now has three) and to go platinum through their first shipping orders. The previous "The Broadway Album" (1985) similarly enjoyed great praise and sales, became #1 and brought her three Grammy nominations and her eighth Grammy for Best Pop Female Vocalist. The double-album "Barbra Streisand: The Concert" (1994) was another recent effort in her parade of hits. "Higher Ground" occasioned two additional Grammy nominations. "Timeless: Live In Concert" (2000), "Christmas Memories" (2001) and "The Movie Album" (2003), all earned a nomination too. At home in pop, show tunes, rock and ballads, she even made a classical album titled "Classical Barbra" (1976) which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the classical division. Of all her releases, 1980's "Guilty," Barbra's collaboration with Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, achieved the greatest success worldwide, selling over 20 million units and spawning several smash hit singles. The pair teamed up again, 25 years later, to create "Guilty Pleasures". The album was certified Gold -- a month later.
Another of Ms. Streisand's recent albums, “Guilty Pleasures,” quickly became her 50th gold. Among other notable recent albums, "Christmas Memories," released in October 2001, was her first full-length studio album since 1999's "A Love Like Ours.” "Christmas Memories" was Streisand's first seasonal collection since "A Christmas Album," which has been certified quintuple- platinum by the RIAA and has re-entered the charts each year since its 1967 release. An album of inspirational music for all seasons, "Christmas Memories" was "lovingly dedicated" to Stephan Weiss, the husband of designer Donna Karan and a close friend of Streisand's, who passed away in June 2001. Her recent 3 disc video set, “Streisand The Concerts” became her eighth gold DVD or video and fifth platinum within two months after being number one in sales for three weeks. On September 26, 2009 she returned to the site of her start as a singer, Greenwich Village, for a performance at the Village Vanguard for an audience of lucky fans selected at random. The event preceded the release of her 63rd album, “Love Is The Answer.”
51 Gold Albums
30 Platinum Albums
13 Multi-platinum Albums
9 Gold Singles
5 Platinum Singles
9 Gold Videos
6 Platinum Videos
3 Multi-platinum Videos