The first album I recall owning was Donny Osmond: Portrait of Donny. As a young girl, I was wowed by Donny’s looks and voice. But this post is not about him. (Sorry, Donny.)
You see, as I matured, I discovered a man who not only sang beautiful songs but wrote them! And that brilliant composer was a Jewish guy with a large nose and a large piano named Barry Manilow. At the time that I started listening to Barry, he wasn’t that popular yet. But I purchased the Barry Manilow Live two-album set and listened over and over. One of my favorites on the album was a medley of jingles:
This was the guy who co-wrote and sang the Bandstand Boogie for American Bandstand which we watched and danced with in our living rooms every Saturday morning! From Could It Be Magic to Looks Like We Made It to Copa Cabana, his tunes were catchy and his lyrics were engaging. He kept releasing albums, and I kept buying. Even after I discovered disco, then rock, and even heavy metal, I still loved Barry Manilow. I owned more records of his than of anyone else.
When I was a teenager, I attended a concert with Barry Manilow at the Summit in Houston, where I sat in the nosebleed section but my attention was rapt the whole time. I remember thinking how cool it would be to write songs or to be up on stage singing with Barry. Mind you, I never thought Barry Manilow was particularly cool, but his music was.
It was GREAT! Even after all those years, Manilow entertained wonderfully with amazing energy and fun. There were women in boas everywhere, and we all knew the lyrics to Copa Cabana and were dang proud of it!
So why on earth am I confessing that I’m a Fanilow now? Well, in my quest now to be a writer, I realize that it may have started with the likes of Barry Manilow. Here are a few tips I learned from this songwriter:
Start Somewhere. Barry Manilow started as a composer and singer in the jingle business, as an arranger for other talents, and as a piano player in gay bathhouses for Bette Midler’s wild show. Sometimes, we want our debut on the writing scene to be earth-shattering, but before we get too caught up in our presumed brilliance, we should remember that most successful people start small and work their way up to the string of best-sellers.
Give It Your All. If you watched that VSM (Very Strange Medley) video, you can see that Manilow is singing his heart out on those jingles. Many of his songs build up to a big finish, in which he gives it everything he has to get his point across. I still like that. Whether you are writing a fiction trilogy or your next blog post, you should give it your all in that moment.
Remember Who You Are. Throughout his career, Barry Manilow has remembered who he is, what he uniquely qualified to offer. There is a Manilow signature sound, and that’s a good thing. He doesn’t try to be something he isn’t. I hope I do the same in my writing. Authenticity is an important trait for authors to have.
Have Fun. If you aren’t having fun at this, maybe you should do something else. I love watching music artists who revel in what they do. Some of my favorite concerts include Manhattan Transfer, Yes (reunion tour), and Huey Lewis and the News. They all seemed to love being on stage and performing music. That energy was contagious. I am absolutely blessed to be able to stay home and write, write, write! And while it is hard work, it’s also a blast! In fact, at this point, maybe I’d rather be writing than singing on stage with Barry.
In case you think we Fanilows are just “uncool,” I submit the awesome episode from Will & Grace appropriate entitled “Fanilow.” Here’s a short clip:
And by the way, Barry Manilow’s autobiography, The Sweet Life, is a great read.
Who did you grow up listening to? Are you a closet fan of someone? What is your favorite Barry Manilow song? What have you learned from your childhood favorites?