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Barry Manilow singing the old songs and writing new ones

Barry Manilow released his first concept album last year, "15 Minutes." Photo: Courtesy Stiletto Entertainment

Barry Manilow released his first concept album last year, "15 Minutes." Photo: Courtesy Stiletto Entertainment

For the past seven years, Barry Manilow’s life revolved around his Las Vegas residency, first at the former Las Vegas Hilton, and then for nearly two years at Paris Las Vegas.

In December, a day after wrapping his tenure on the Strip, he underwent hip surgery, a painful, complicated procedure from which he has recovered “about 90 percent.”

Now, the mega-selling Manilow (80 million records worldwide and counting) is back on the road playing three dates every other weekend — enough, he says to keep his band together and keep him fresh without sending him back to the operating room.

One of those stops will be Sunday, when he visits Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

As for those Vegas years, Manilow paused briefly when asked if he misses his regular gig.

“It was great. But do I miss it? It was fun and I don’t remember one bad show or moment. We would come off the stage and celebrate every night,” he said in a phone interview earlier this week. “They had warned me that Vegas audiences would be different, but I never had one of them. We had beautiful shows in both casinos.”

Any chance of a return?

“When we were done at Paris, that was as good as I could do. We had put together a beautiful production. If I had gone to another [casino], I don’t think I could have topped that, so no…I don’t think so at this point,” Manilow said.

The singer behind many of pop music’s timeless lite-pop classics – do we really need to name “Could it Be Magic,” “Mandy,” “Copacabana,” “I Write the Songs,” “Looks Like We Made It” or his other 42 Top 40 hits? – has an unusually robust catalog to draw from. But while those swoony gems are the core of his concerts, he’s still eager to write and create.

Last summer Manilow, 69, released “15 Minutes,” a concept album about a young musician who wants to be a star, finds that fame and then experiences the crests and indulgences that inevitably lead to a free fall.

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It’s a sharp musical commentary on stardom and saturation in our media-obsessed times.

“Nick [Enoch] Anderson, my lyricist for many years, is a great storyteller and he looked around and saw all of these entertainment shows going on, making stars out of young people overnight and you just count the moments until they wind up on TMZ,” Manilow said. “I thought it would be an interesting thing to write about because I’ve been down that road. No matter how mature you think you are, when this thing hits, it knocks you over. I was 29 [when I got famous]. These kids are 15, 16, 19. How are they handling it? How is it not blowing them over?”

The closing song on “15 Minutes” called “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” became a buzzed-about track on the U.K. version of his “Live in London” CD released here and overseas a few months ago. So the song has now been remixed and released as a U.S. single.

Manilow, though, is nothing if not a realist.

“How do you get a record on the radio these days? I don’t know. But it’s a wonderful single and I think it says something that people need to hear,” he said.

Manilow also hasn’t given up on his musical “Harmony,” which was birthed in 1997 and went through a series of financial and legal headaches for the next few years. Manilow and co-writer Bruce Sussman hold the rights to the musical, of which Manilow said there is “some big news coming…but I can’t release it yet.”

He plans to spend the rest of the summer sporadically touring and then working with “Harmony.” After that, “I don’t know. Probably another album,” he said.

Manilow is often confronted with a problem that he’s learned to manage over the years, because now he knows better.

“There are so many offers out there all the time, but I say no to them because if I say yes, I dive in so deeply,” he said. “I learned commitment from Bette [Midler, his most famous boss from the ‘70s], so I say no to most things because otherwise it’s going to consume me 24 hours a day until the project is over.”

Barry Manilow

8 p.m. Sunday. $9.99-$85. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive, Atlanta. Non-table setup (no coolers or carry-ins allowed). 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.

(Are you a Fanilow? Take our AJC quiz to test your Barry knowledge.)

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

26 comments Add your comment

Looks Like We Made It?

July 26th, 2012
8:51 am

Gary

July 26th, 2012
9:21 am

As a little kid I vividly remember going on long road trips with may parents in the mid 70’s. We would drive to Vermont, Texas, Colorado for vacations. That was a lot of time to be stuck in a subruban with your family. Mom and dad would swap between the music they listened to. With dad I would get Johnny Mathis, John Denver, the four tops, etc. WIth mom it was the Carpenters and Manilow. I do not know how, but after years of listening to it you can’t help but love it. Manilow is still my favorite of the family music. We did not have a walkman until I was 8, they did not exist yet. So from then on it was listening to your own music on the trips. Going on Sunday. Last saw him in Jacksonville Florida in the early 80’s when I was 12. I notice some of my friends who have kids today playing the Pixies, Janes Addiction, The Cure, the Smiths and the music they loved as teens during the family road trips. But most just let them watch videos in the car. Shame, the video kids are missing something. I can remember looking out the window at the huge world going by listening to Manilow. How much they miss today.

Sluggo

July 26th, 2012
9:30 am

To be 69 years old the guy has aged pretty well. Especially, if you compare him to someone like Mick Jagger who look death sucking on a lifesaver.

Midtown Mikey

July 26th, 2012
12:39 pm

I hope Barry knows about the boycott of Chick-Fil-A !

Walter Valentino

July 26th, 2012
12:56 pm

gay as Liberace

Gwinnett Fred

July 26th, 2012
1:29 pm

Chick-Fil-A boycott or Liberace reference – if you are a fan, what the heck does that stuff matter? if you aren’t a fan, why are you posting on this blog? I’m a Republican and know full well Manilow is a staunch vocal Democrat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy seeing him perform because it doesn’t matter, same as your “observations”.

Some folks need to get a life (a.k.a. – Mikey & Walter) – as for me, looking forward to taking my wife to go have an enjoyable evening celebrating our 29th anniversary, just like we did for some anniversaries back in the 80’s & 90’s!

Terri Mello Ruthruff

July 26th, 2012
1:33 pm

Does it really matter. This man has dedicated himself to making beautiful music and making people happy. He is one of the most talented, hardest working and generous people in the business today. I think he is adorable and I hope I get to meet him someday so I can hug the stuffins out of him.

Victoria

July 26th, 2012
2:37 pm

I can’t wait to see Barry this Saturday in Nashville. I don’t care what he boycots, his sexual preference (which is NONE of our business), what he eats, who he hangs out with, his political affiliation or anything else! What I care about is that his music comforted me throughout my tumultuous childhood and I will love him forever! See you Saturday, Barry!

Truett Cathey

July 26th, 2012
2:37 pm

Liberace, Little Richard, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Barry Manilow.

What is it about the piano and gay men ?

Midtown Mikey

July 26th, 2012
2:48 pm

Barry needs to take a stand and voice his opposition to those Bible thumping, chicken-eating, intolerant, Republican, Romney supporters !

And maybe compose a song about it !

tbone

July 26th, 2012
3:16 pm

Some people are so judgemental!! Get a life people and stop worrying about everyone elses!!!

gloria

July 26th, 2012
3:24 pm

Barry Manilow is the best
who cares about his sexual preference
he is a great entertainer anything else is his business
I will always love Barry Manilow

Midtown Mikey

July 26th, 2012
4:02 pm

Imagine Barry, Elton John, Mayor Reed & Anderson Cooper on stage together @ Chastain on Sunday night, in a show of solidarity against the Republican homophobes
who use their chicken profits to promote their hate, intolerance and insensitivity.

John Travolta

July 26th, 2012
5:46 pm

Christine, you are so true !

Looks Like We Made It?

July 26th, 2012
5:58 pm

Wow, Christine. Hope you aren’t sitting behind me at the concert. Whew.

KCQ

July 26th, 2012
6:26 pm

Ms. Ruggieri’s article on Barry Manilow was both informative and well written. Among other things, it was nice to see signs that he has not abandoned his dream of bringing the musical “Harmony” to Broadway. The story this musical tells is historically significant, and it features some beautiful songs.
I was disappointed, but unsurprised to see that some readers find it impossible to follow “The Golden Rule” in writing their responses to this article about Mr. Manilow. No matter what impressions you have of him or of his music, he is a fellow human being who deserves to know “the kindness of strangers.” No wonder he refuses to share much information about his personal life with the public any longer.

Amy Brown

July 26th, 2012
6:32 pm

Straight or not, does not matter. Furthermore, it is none of our business and it is not right to judge. Why can’t people just take a minute to say “thank you” for giving us such wonderful and peaceful music to listen to for the past 35+ years. My husband and I have seen him in our 11 years of marriage, 3 different times and he is unreal and amazing! We are going to Chastain Park this weekend’ and I cannot wait! I am a pianist myself and grew up loving Barry at 16 and I am 42 now. I’m hoping he will continue to tour, and come back and visit Atlanta again in the future. We love you Barry!

Doug

July 26th, 2012
7:27 pm

Why is everyone soooo worried that Barry say/do/sing something about the Chick-Fil-A saga. BTW Gwinnett Fred, he may be a democrat, but he has contributed to Ron Paul’s campaign. I saw him in St.Paul, Mn. a few months ago…..as well in the same city some 30years ago….and while his voice may not be quite as strong as it was then, he is more entertaining now than he ever was.!! His show is FABULOUS! Leave the damn politics out of it, and just go enjoy one of the premier entertainers of our time.

Melissa Ruggieri

July 26th, 2012
11:42 pm

Hey folks – can we please stay on point with the comments? Not sure what Barry’s sexuality has to do with anything or why we need to argue about Chick-fil-A in a post about the guy who sings “Weekend in New England.” Let’s be cool, OK?

Thanks,
Melissa

Barney Frank

July 27th, 2012
9:06 am

I love “Weekend in New England” !

Go Barry !

Cheryl

July 29th, 2012
12:40 pm

Hey “Midtown Mikey”, I’m a Bible Thumping, Chicken-Eating Republican and I still love Barry! It shouldn’t matter what your sexual preffereance, religion, politcal party is… if you love music and great writers/singers, that’s all that matters. Barry is an awesome composer and all this other stuff you people are posting shouldn’t matter one bit!!!
I’ll be seeing Barry this coming Friday in Indianapolis…CANNOT WAIT!!

Lori

July 29th, 2012
3:13 pm

Why did the show just get cancelled?

Julie

July 29th, 2012
7:18 pm

So sad the concert is cancelled. Both me and my husband love to see him live. Always such a great show!

Linda Steele

July 29th, 2012
11:03 pm

I have followed Barry all of my adult life. I want to see him in Pittsburgh, PA in Sept. I have tickets and I hope he is physically able to perform. I frankly don’t think he is gay but if he is so be it. I don’t know if my neighbors are gay and I’ve lived by them for 41 yrs. He is very talented and one of 3 musical artists I love and enjoy. They all put on very great shows and I’ll be there to see Barry come hell or high water. He has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, like having serious surgery. I would give anything to actually meet him. I don’t give a rats ass if he’s gay as long as he is happy and has a significant other to grow old with as I plan to do with my husband of 42 yrs. I don’t feel the need to defend Barry to others although they try to piss me off by constantly telling me he is gay. They don’t know anymore than I do if he is gay. They are just jealous because he is famous and rich and these are supposed to be my friends. I will love him until the day I die and then I will mourn him like family if he goes first. My grandchildren even love him. Miss you until I see you again,

Susan Whitlock

July 31st, 2012
11:57 am

I love Barry Manilow. He took my hand at one of the concerts in Las Vegas and held it for several seconds reaching over my daughter’s hand ( she’s much younger and better looking). It was so memorable. I’ve seen Barry live 4 times now. He’s always allowed cameras and I have some great photos. His shows are very high energy. We are the same age and I’ve always loved his music and have many many cd’s. I hope I have the opportunity to see him live in concert again.

Sandy Heptinstall

August 1st, 2012
7:58 am

“Weekend in New England”, was not mention and I love that song. I love all of his songs, but that one is my favorite. Barry did a song at the start of his career that saved my life literally. I had been married to my first husband for seven years and I wanted a divorce. I told my folks and they went balistic. They kept going on and on about why I could not get a divorce. Even told me how there had never been a divorce in their families. The song was not one that most people will ever remember. It was either Sandy or Sandra and it was about a women caught up in a relationship who wanted out. She was thinking about suicide. Well I was in the same place in my life. I don’t live close enough to see Barry in person but maybe someone will tell him thank you for me. My second marriage has lasted for 34 years and no matter how corney it sounds he is my hero. Thanks Berry and I hope to someday be able to make a show of yours. It is the first thing on my bucket book.