WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: I like Barry Manilow

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

Ok! I like Barry Manilow! There; I said it—“I LIKE Barry Manilow!”

Wow! That feels good; I have needed to say that for 40 years—at least! I have noticed that people are doing the same thing as the singer/performer is finally getting his due. It’s too bad that it is after his performing days as he announced his retirement from touring last year. But I am glad there are more and more people publicly giving in to their inner feelings about the man, the singer, the myth.

I guess it was easy to make light of the slight man sitting at a piano; I mean, he was no rugged Bruce Springsteen, but boy, could he play that piano! I always admired his musical ability. He’s not the greatest singer in the world, but he is good. During his early career on the charts, he became the target of purists of many genres who like to put down anyone not in their ‘sect.’ Making fun of Barry Manilow was just as popular as his music; and this went on for years-decades even. I just kept my head low and put in one of his cassettes when no one was watching…

Just dissecting his persona, you couldn’t deny his passion for music and performing. Just listen to “Weekend in New England” and tell me he didn’t believe every word he sang in that song! Remember, “Mandy” – his first hit, “It’s a Miracle” and “Even Now?” Yeah, the next time you hear those songs, think about the depth of the singing and power of his performance. You will understand why he is one of the best, whether people choose to make fun of him or not.

I will admit that I didn’t go out of my way to declare my love of the man or his music. I simply enjoyed the incredible run of songs he had for about 10 years even into my adulthood. I bought all the records and cassettes and CDs. He carved out a following of fan clubs – yes, plural – that thrive today. (Just look it up on Google and you will be surprised!)

Not bad for a singer who was ‘Barely Man Enough’ as the play on his name went for years…

Of course, I like all his hits – yes, even ‘Copacabana’ – but my favorite Barry Manilow song is a little known one on an early album titled, “Read ‘Em and Weap.” I haven’t gotten to hear this song in a very long time because my cassette is packed away somewhere; and even if I could put my hands on it, I don’t have a cassette player (and haven’t had one since the 1980s!). There is just something special about that song that encompasses the essence of Barry and his career.

I’m sure I could call it up on the Internet and listen, but that takes away all the nuances of an old song, much less a special old song to the listener. I’ll wait, thank you; until I can do it myself and savor a memory as well as a great song by a great performer.

The man is 77 years old and has a Las Vegas show, which will continue beginning in June. There is a television network (BarryTV) devoted to him; and he does specialty albums to show his diversity and sheer command of music in general. I remember the story he told of walking around his childhood town (Brooklyn) with his grandfather dreaming of singing and performing. He made his dream come true.

We should all be so lucky…even enduring the hate and jabs at our personality when it’s impossible to ignore it as ‘not personal.’ Whatever you think of him, Barry Manilow is an icon in our recent history. There was a time when you couldn’t turn on a radio and not hear one of his songs. Not bad for a guy with a piano and a song in his heart.

For me, Barry is ‘man enough’…and you can quote me on that! 

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.