Barry Manilow, the beloved singer-songwriter behind hits like “Mandy” and “Copacabana”, has recently opened up about his sexuality and experiences performing in gay bathhouses early in his music career.
Manilow Speaks Candidly About Being Closeted and the “Burden” of Keeping His Sexuality a Secret
In a new interview with People magazine, the 80-year-old music icon discussed his decision to finally publicly come out as gay in 2017, after having kept that part of himself private for decades.
“I thought I would be disappointing [my fans] if they knew I was gay. So I never did anything,” Manilow revealed. He said he struggled under the pressure of remaining closeted for fear of how the revelation would be received: “It was the worst thing I could have done.”
Manilow shared that only close friends and family were aware of his sexuality, under strict privacy. Keeping this secret took an emotional toll over the years: “I didn’t know how much longer I could bear it. I was so unhappy.”
Eventually, after marrying his manager Garry Kief in 2014, Manilow felt able to be open about his identity: “Garry and I have been together for 40 years now, so it was about time!” Still, the singer admits living as a closeted man left scars: “I thought that if the world knew about me, they wouldn’t like my music anymore and I wouldn’t have a career.”
Manilow Performed Early Gigs at New York’s Infamous Continental Baths
Further discussing his early career, Manilow also revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that he used to perform shows at New York City’s Continental Baths in the early 1970s. The Continental Baths was a popular bathhouse and nightclub that catered to gay men.
“Nobody knew who I was,” Manilow recalls of his gigs there. “I just got up onstage and made music.” He said the crowds were very receptive despite his relative anonymity at the time. The bathhouse performances became an important stepping stone, helping Manilow hone his skills as a live performer before breaking through commercially.
“It was a great way to build up my act,” Manilow explains. “The audiences were always very kind to me, even though they had no idea who this guy was.” He credits that positive exposure with bolstering his confidence as he worked to launch his music career.
Manilow’s Breakthrough Album “Barry Manilow I” Released 50 Years Ago
2023 also marks the 50th anniversary of Manilow’s massively successful 1973 debut album, “Barry Manilow I”. The record featured his first big hit “Mandy”, which soared to #1 on the Billboard charts.
In the THR interview, Manilow reflects on creating that breakthrough song. Initially titled “Brandy”, Manilow reworked the tune after friend Clive Davis suggested changing the title to a female name that could resonate more emotionally with listeners. “He was right,” Manilow says now, noting the song’s impact. “’Mandy’ blew the whole thing wide open for me.”
Indeed, that album truly ignited Manilow’s career both commercially and critically. It sold over 500,000 copies within its first year, eventually reaching triple Platinum status in the U.S. “Barry Manilow I” also earned the young singer-songwriter his first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.
Manilow Credits His Long Career to Connecting with Fans Through Timeless Music
Now 50 years after those humble bathhouse performances, Barry Manilow has become a legendary entertainer who has sold over 85 million records globally. He remains one of the top-selling adult contemporary artists ever, and continues touring successfully after over five decades in the spotlight.
In examining the longevity of his fame and impressive track record of hits, Manilow points to his focus on timeless songwriting rather than trends. “My career is based on beautiful melodies and lyrics that still resonate,” he told BNN Breaking. “I never got into trying to be hip or keep up with the latest sounds.”
By connecting so genuinely with audiences through his music for 50 years, Manilow has cemented his status as a cultural icon who now fills large arenas with multi-generational fans. As he continues touring worldwide in 2023 with no signs of slowing down, it seems Barry Manilow’s profound musical legacy will keep growing for years to come.
Upcoming Projects: New Album and Musical Set for Broadway Release
Even as he celebrates a prolific career, Barry Manilow shows no signs of slowing the pace of his creative output. He is currently working on a new album project, which would be his first collection of original songs since 2011’s “15 Minutes”. Though details on that forthcoming record remain scarce, Manilow says he has continued writing new material.
Manilow is also preparing another exciting endeavor – launching a Broadway version of “Harmony”, his original musical which first debuted in 1997. Though that initial staging was short-lived, Manilow has continued perfecting the show over the years. He describes it as “the favorite thing I’ve ever written.” This deeply personal piece focuses on the little-known story of the Comedian Harmonists, a popular German singing troupe in the 1930s who were torn apart by the rise of Nazi rule.
Manilow has invested substantial time and resources getting “Harmony” ready for its second act, including conducting an intensive five-week workshop production in 2022. With Tony-winning director Warren Carlyle now onboard, the musical is slated to open at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan this spring. If well-received, a eventual Broadway staging seems likely, fulfilling Manilow’s long-held dream for the show he calls his “true labor of love.”
|New original album (untitled)
|First collection of new songs since 2011
|“Harmony” musical off-Broadway debut
|Opening at NYC’s Museum of Jewish Heritage
|Potential Broadway transfer
|If successful initial run happens
As Barry Manilow celebrates an astounding 50 years on the public stage in 2023 with no signs of slowing down, he seems primed to continue enthralling fans for years to come with his heartfelt songwriting and charismatic live performances.
After finally opening up about his long-hidden sexuality in recent years as well, Manilow also projects a profound sense of personal relief and freedom to fully embrace all facets of his identity moving forward. Between the new album in the works, the “Harmony” show preparing to launch, and more touring on the horizon, Barry Manilow appears positioned for even greater creativity and authentic self-expression as he opens the next remarkable chapter of his storied career.
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