In terms of both record sales and career longevity, Barry Manilow is one of themost successful adult contemporary singers ever. That success hasn't necessarilytranslated to respect (or even ironic hipster appreciation) in most quarters;Manilow's music has been much maligned by critics and listeners alike, particularlythe romantic ballads that made his career, which were derided as maudlin schlockeven during his heyday. It's true that Manilow's taste for swelling choruses andlush arrangements often bordered on bombastic, but unlike many of his MOR peers,Manilow wasn't aiming to make smooth, restrained background music -- he conceivedof himself as a pop entertainer and all-around showman in the classic mold, and hisperformances and stage shows were accordingly theatrical. Manilow dominated pop music during the latter half of the '70s like few otherperformers, spinning off a long series of hit singles (including 13 number one hitson the adult contemporary charts) and platinum albums that essentially made theArista label. The well began to run dry by the early '80s; no longer a superstarexpected to deliver blockbuster hits, Manilow was free to explore his long-heldtaste for swing, pop standards, and Broadway show tunes, which dominated his albumsfrom the mid-'80s on. He has continued to record steadily, and his popularity nevercompletely eroded, as evidenced by the number three chart debut of his 2002greatest-hits package, Ultimate Manilow, and the number one peak of his 2006 coversalbum, Greatest Songs of the Fifties. Barry Manilow was born Barry Alan Pincus on June 17, 1943, in Brooklyn, and grew upin its low-income Williamsburg section. His father left the family when Barry wastwo, and he eventually adopted his mother's maiden name of Manilow. He began playingpiano and accordion at age seven, and following high school, he was accepted to theprestigious Juilliard School of Music, which he paid for by working in the CBS mailroom. From there, he became musical director of the CBS show Callback, and supportedhimself for the next few years by writing, producing, and performing advertisingjingles (including high-profile campaigns for State Farm, Dr. Pepper, McDonald's,Kentucky Fried Chicken, and more). In 1971, he met Bette Midler, who hired him as her pianist, arranger, and musicaldirector; he served as her accompanist on her legendary pre-fame tour of New YorkCity's gay bathhouses, masterminded her first two albums (1972's The Divine Miss Mand its self-titled follow-up), and debuted some of his original material at herCarnegie Hall show in the summer of 1972. Thanks to his gig with Midler, Manilow wasable to land a record deal of his own with the fledgling Bell label, and his debutalbum, Barry Manilow I, was released in 1973. It didn't sell very well, and whenBell became Arista, label head Clive Davis asked Manilow to record a pop tune called"Brandy," which had been a U.K. hit for its co-writer, Scott English. Manilowchanged the song into a ballad and changed the title to "Mandy" (to avoid confusionwith the Looking Glass hit "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)"); released on 1974's BarryManilow II, "Mandy" became a number one hit early the next year. The Broadway-esquefollow-up, "It's a Miracle," hit the Top 20, and a re-release of the Chopin-adaptedballad "Could It Be Magic" (from the first album) hit the Top Ten. With his career thus established, Manilow recorded an even stronger follow-up albumin 1975's Tryin' to Get the Feeling. "I Write the Songs" (ironically, written byBeach Boys sideman Bruce Johnston) became his second number one pop hit in early1976, and with the title track also hitting the Top Ten, the album went tripleplatinum. Manilow consolidated his emerging stardom with This One's for You,released toward the end of the year; it produced hits in the title track, the TopTen "Weekend in New England," and the number one "Looks Like We Made It." In 1977,Manilow released the concert double-LP Live, which became his first and only numberone album, as well as his biggest hit with sales of over four million copies. Thesame year, he won an Emmy for his first prime-time special on ABC (aptly titled TheBarry Manilow Special); the network would air Manilow specials for the next severalyears. Even Now was another triple-platinum success in 1978; "Can't Smile WithoutYou," the disco-tinged "Copacabana," and "Somewhere in the Night" all hit the TopTen, with the first two marking a departure from Manilow's typical reliance onballads for his hits. The first signs that Manilow's run of success was in jeopardy came on 1979's OneVoice, which -- although it sold well and produced a Top Ten hit in an unlikelycover of former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter's "Ships" -- didn't have thesame consistency of craftsmanship as its predecessors. Released in 1980, Barryspawned Manilow's last Top Ten hit, "I Made It Through the Rain"; though he remaineda massively popular international touring act, and continued to place hits on theadult contemporary charts for a few more years, the prime of his pop success wasover. In 1984, Manilow officially changed direction, recording an album of swinging,jazzy originals called 2:00 A.M. Paradise Caf?; it featured jazz greats like MelTorm?, Sarah Vaughan, Shelly Manne, and Gerry Mulligan. Subsequent ventures like1987's Swing Street, 1991's Showstoppers, 1994's Singin' with the Big Bands, and1998's Manilow Sings Sinatra all explored various facets of swing, vocal jazz, andtraditional pop. In addition, Manilow's stage musical +Barry Manilow's Copacabana:The Musical premiered in 1994, and continued to tour the U.S. and U.K.; anothermusical, +Harmony, was premiered in 1999. Manilow's long relationship with Arista ended when he signed to the jazz-orientedConcord label, for which he debuted in late 2001 with the concept album Here at theMayflower, which continued his evolution into a pre-rock pop stylist. Manilow beganto reenter the wider public eye in 2002, performing "Let Freedom Ring" at the SuperBowl pre-game show; aided by television advertising, Ultimate Manilow entered thealbum charts at a stunning number three position that March. A DVD release of thecollection followed, as well as a two-disc set of live music called 2 Nights Livethat had been culled from a weekend in New Jersey. Manilow went back to the studioin 2005 to record a diverse collection of tracks from the 1950s with producer andmusic mogul Clive Davis. The resulting Greatest Songs of the Fifties, a labor oflove, became a surprise hit and topped the charts in early 2006. A sequel, TheGreatest Songs of the Sixties, arrived at the end of that year and reached numbertwo, which paved the inevitable way for The Greatest Songs of the Seventies inSeptember 2007.