Today’s popular music is heading towards belting: the production of very loud sounds in the middle range. Loudness now seems prized on its own, a viable substitute for technique. One example is the execrable star of Glee, Lea Michele, wildly popular and widely praised. (I predict that Glee will result in the debasement of all Broadway-style singing.) But all Michele has is volume, and to me her voice is intensely unpleasant (for an example, see this video, where she fails miserably to reprise the Streisand classic from Funny Girl, “Don’t rain on my parade”; the horror show starts at 3:30).
Which brings us to Barbra Streisand. Yes, she can sing loud, but, more important, her voice is beautiful, and she has style and technique. And her voice is absolutely unique.
Any singer wishing to make his/her mark has to have a voice that’s instantly recognizable on the radio: Bing Crosby had that, and Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, and so too the other singers I’ll highlight this week. Can anybody hear a Streisand song and not know immediately who’s singing?
Many of us were first introduced to Babs through the movie Funny Girl, made in 1968 when she was 26. Her performance nabbed her a best-actress Oscar. To me, the best song in that movie is not “People,” but “My Man,” in which Streisand, playing comedienne Fanny Brice, sings through tears right after she’s dumped by her gangster boyfriend (Omar Sharif). You can see the original here—don’t miss it! But here’s a great concert version from 1975.
“He touched me,” from a 1965 concert in Central Park:
And the Sig Roberg/Oscar Hammerstein classic, “Lover come back to me”, from the 1965 television special, “My name is Barbra.” I watched it live!
Streisand is a fabulous singer and stylist, a good actress, and a talented producer and director (Yentl, The Prince of Tides)—and a drop-dead gorgeous Jewish girl, too! I would have married her in a minute, but I was too young, and Eliott Gould (née Goldstein) got to her first . . .