Barbra Streisand – Becoming an Icon 1942-1984: A look at Barbra Streisand’s rise to stardom and the remarkable achievements of her early career.
Barbra Streisand grew up in working-class Brooklyn, dreaming of escape from her tough childhood. A stellar student, she resisted the pressure to go to college as her sights were firmly set on Broadway. She was determined to become an actress and landed her first role aged 16, but it was two years later, when she started to sing, that her career took off.
Subverting stereotypes and breaking glass ceilings, this programme looks at her rise to stardom and the remarkable achievements of her early career.
Barbra Streisand – Becoming an Icon 1942-1984
Barbara Joan “Barbra” Streisand (/ˈstraɪsænd/; born April 24, 1942) is an American singer, actress, and filmmaker. With a career spanning seven decades, she has achieved success in multiple fields of entertainment and is one of the few entertainers who have been awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award (EGOT).
Streisand began her career by performing in nightclubs and Broadway theaters in the early 1960s. Following her guest appearances on various television shows, she signed to Columbia Records and released her debut album, The Barbra Streisand Album (1963). It won two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Throughout her recording career, Streisand has topped the US Billboard 200 chart with 11 albums—a record for a woman—including People (1964), The Way We Were (1974), Guilty (1980), and Higher Ground (1997). She has attained five number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart: “The Way We Were”, “Evergreen”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, and “Woman in Love”.
After becoming an established recording artist in the 1960s, Streisand ventured into film by the end of that decade. She starred in the critically acclaimed Funny Girl (1968), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her other films include Hello, Dolly! (1969), The Way We Were (1973), Nuts (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991) and A Star Is Born (1976), for which she won her second Academy Award, composing music for the love theme “Evergreen”, the first woman to be honored as a composer. With the release of Yentl (1983), Streisand became the first woman to write, produce, direct, and star in a major studio film. The film won an Oscar for Best Score and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Musical. Streisand also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Director, becoming the first and only woman to win that award.
Barbra Streisand – Education
Streisand began her education at the Jewish Orthodox Yeshiva of Brooklyn when she was five. She was considered bright and inquisitive about everything; however, she lacked discipline, often shouting answers to questions out of turn. She next entered Public School 89 in Brooklyn, and during those early school years began watching television and going to movies. “I always wanted to be somebody, to be famous …You know, get out of Brooklyn.”
Streisand became known by others in the neighborhood for her voice. With the other kids she remembers sitting on the stoop in front of their apartment building and singing: “I was considered the girl on the block with the good voice.” That talent became a way for her to gain attention. She would often practice her singing in the hallway of her apartment building which gave her voice an echoing quality.
She made her singing debut at a PTA assembly, where she became a hit to everyone but her mother, who was mostly critical of her daughter. Streisand was invited to sing at weddings and summer camp, along with having an unsuccessful audition at MGM records when she was nine. By the time she was thirteen, her mother began supporting her talent, helping her make a four-song demo tape, including “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”, and “You’ll Never Know”.
Streisand has recorded 50 studio albums, almost all with Columbia Records. Her early works in the 1960s (her debut The Barbra Streisand Album, The Second Barbra Streisand Album, The Third Album, My Name Is Barbra, etc.) are considered classic renditions of theatre and cabaret standards, including her pensive version of the normally uptempo “Happy Days Are Here Again”. She performed this in a duet with Judy Garland on The Judy Garland Show. Garland referred to her on the air as one of the last great belters. They also sang “There’s No Business Like Show Business” with Ethel Merman joining them.
Beginning with My Name Is Barbra, her early albums were often medley-filled keepsakes of her television specials. Starting in 1969, she began attempting more contemporary material, but like many talented singers of the day, she found herself out of her element with rock. Her vocal talents prevailed, and she gained newfound success with the pop and ballad-oriented Richard Perry-produced album Stoney End in 1971. The title track, written by Laura Nyro, was a major hit for Streisand.
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