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November 3: I Write the Songs

Lawrence Bush
November 2, 2016
The internationally adored and much-mocked Barry Manilow (Barry Pincus) released “I Write the Songs” on this date in 1975. The song (written by Bruce Johnston) reached #1 on the Billboard chart by January and won a Grammy Award for “Song of the Year.” Manilow would have five bestselling albums in 1978 alone; he has by now sold more than 80 million albums and is an enduring fixture in Las Vegas and on “Adult Contemporary” concert stages around the world. Manilow grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and attended the Juilliard performing arts school. His career has included advertising jingle-writing, songwriting, producing for many well-known musicians, and starring in eponymous Broadway shows and television specials. The winner of Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Awards, he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2002. That same year, he was outed as gay in a biography; thirteen years later, he married his business manager, Garry Kief. To see him singing “I Write the Songs” in the 1970s, look below. To read an interesting Rolling Stone article about his grace in the face of mockery, click here. “The problem with the song was that if you didn’t listen carefully to the lyric, you would think that the singer was singing about himself [the “I” in the song is God, according to Johnston]. It could be misinterpreted as a monumental ego trip.” --Barry Manilow

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.