Barry Manilow had one of the most impressive hit streaks of the 1970s and early ’80s. Of his 26 commercially-released singles between “Mandy” in late 1974 and “Read ‘Em and Weep” in late 1983, 25 made the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
If you’re a young pop fan, 25 top 40 hits may not sound all that impressive to you. Artists can amass that many top 40 hits with just a couple of albums these days, thanks to big, streaming-sparked debut weeks. But, back in the day, artists had to earn every hit one by one, single by single. If fans or radio didn’t care for a song, your streak was interrupted. (That happened to Manilow just once in his heyday, when “Lonely Together” stalled at No. 45 in April 1980.)
For those of us who were Manilow fans from the first time we heard “Mandy” on the radio in the fall of 1974, it’s hard to imagine that he is turning 80 on Saturday (June 17). (This doesn’t mean we’re aging too, does it?!).
Just as impressive as Manilow’s hit streak is the fact that he has sustained his stardom and drawing power decades after his last top 40 hit. Part of the reason for that is that he gained a reputation as a strong live performer.
Surviving in this business is a feat to celebrate. So, whether you’re a Fanilow from way back or you just want to understand why your mom always tears up when she hears “Mandy,” here are Manilow’s 25 top 40 hits on the Hot 100 – ranked from worst to best.
Hot 100 peak: No. 38 (Sept. 18, 1982)
Songwriters: Shakin’ Stevens
Notes: Shakin’ Stevens had a No. 1 hit on the Official U.K. Singles Chart in January 1982 with this rockabilly-infused song. Manilow’s four singles preceding this release had missed the top 10, so the idea here was to try something completely different. This didn’t really help. Just two of Manilow’s top 40 hits were left off his 2005 two-CD collection, The Essential Barry Manilow. “Oh Julie” was one of them. This was the second of Manilow’s top 40 hits to include a person’s name in the title. Let’s just say “Oh Julie” was no “Mandy.”
True Fanilows Know: Three months after Shakin’ Stevens’ rendition of this song hit No. 1 in the U.K., Manilow had his only No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart with Barry Live in Britain.
“Some Kind of Friend”
Hot 100 peak: No. 26 (April 30, 1983)
Songwriters: Adrienne Anderson/Barry Manilow
Notes: Manilow’s friend and Arista labelmate Melissa Manchester scored her highest-charting Hot 100 hit in late 1982 with the atypically up-tempo “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” so it’s easy to see how people in Manilow’s camp may have thought an up-tempo track might revive his pop fortunes, too. And this trendy pop/dance synth track did indeed get Manilow back on pop radio, but the record is generic – it could have been by anybody. Both “Oh Julie” and “Some Kind of Friend” first appeared on a four-song EP, Oh, Julie!, in 1982.
True Fanilows Know: Anderson and Manilow also co-wrote “Could It Be Magic,” “Daybreak” and Lady Flash’s “Street Singin’,” a 1976 hit (No. 27 on the Hot 100) that Manilow co-produced.
“Read ’Em and Weep”
Hot 100 peak: No. 18 (Jan. 7, 1984)
Songwriter: Jim Steinman
Notes: Steinman wrote and produced this song, which was first recorded by Meat Loaf on his 1981 album Dead Ringer. Manilow’s version was released in November 1983, one month after Steinman reached his commercial zenith, writing and producing the top two songs on the Hot 100 for three weeks running: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.”
Bob Giraldi directed the big-budget “Read ’Em and Weep” video, in which Manilow played the dual roles of Barry Manilow and a sad clown. (He was more convincing as Barry Manilow.) Giraldi was among the hottest video directors at the time, with credits that include Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” and Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” This was Manilow’s final top 40 hit. Perhaps his later singles were too anonymous. Perhaps his time at top 40 had simply passed.
True Fanilows Know: The success of this song, which Manilow had little creative involvement in, brought him little satisfaction. One year after the release of this song, Manilow returned with a passion project, 2 AM Paradise Café. The album featured such jazz greats as Gerry Mulligan, Sarah Vaughan, Mel Torme, Mundell Lowe and Shelly Manne. The album was warmly received, and brought Manilow his first Grammy nomination in six years – best jazz vocal performance, duo or group for “Blue,” a duet with Vaughan.
Hot 100 peak: No. 39 (Jan. 15, 1983)
Songwriters: Andrew Lloyd Webber/T. S. Eliot/Trevor Nunn
Notes: This was the highest-charting version of this standout ballad from the Broadway musical Cats. (Barbra Streisand had the second-highest charting version of the song. Her rendition reached No. 52 in 1982.)
True Fanilows Know: The two Brooklyn-born superstars finally collaborated on “I Won’t Be the One to Let Go,” which was featured on her 2002 album Duets.
“Could It Be Magic”
Hot 100 peak: No. 6 (Sept. 20, 1975)
Songwriters: Barry Manilow, Adrienne Anderson
Notes: Manilow wrote and first recorded this song in 1971 as an up-tempo bop when he was in the studio group Featherbed featuring Barry Manilow. Two years later, a ballad version of the song, which was inspired by Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, appeared on his eponymous debut album. The ballad was re-released in 1975, reaching No. 6 on the Hot 100, which made it the highest-charting song Manilow had a hand in writing. He co-wrote two other top 10 hits – “Copacabana (at the Copa),” which peaked at No. 8 (lower than you probably imagined) and “I Made It Through the Rain” (which peaked at No. 10).
True Fanilows Know: Tony Orlando produced the original Featherbed version of this song in 1971 — the same year his Dawn group topped the Hot 100 for the first time with “Knock Three Times.” Donna Summer released a disco treatment of the song, which reached No. 52 on the Hot 100 in 1976. (Perhaps Summer and Manilow discussed their two versions of the song backstage at the Oscars in April 1979, when they both performed best original song nominees. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)
“I Don’t Want to Walk Without You”
Hot 100 peak: No. 36 (May 24, 1980)
Songwriters: Frank Loesser/Jule Styne
Notes: This was a curious choice for a single – a remake of a 1942 hit by big band leader Harry James (with a lead vocal by Helen Forrest). “Clive suggested ‘I Don’t Want to Walk Without You’ and when he did, I jumped at it,” Manilow wrote in The Complete Collection and Then Some… “My mother used to sing this song to put me to sleep when I was a baby. When we were done recording it, I presented it to her as a thank you.”
True Fanilows Know: Manilow had produced and arranged Bette Midler’s hit revival of The Andrews Sisters’ 1941 smash “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” But Midler’s recording was a hoot, a wink. Manilow’s rendition of “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You” was pretty straightforward. The outro echoes Gene Kelly’s 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain.”
“I Write the Songs”
Hot 100 peak: No. 1 (Jan. 17, 1976)
Songwriters: Bruce Johnston
Notes: Manilow didn’t want to record this song when Arista president Clive Davis presented it to him. He thought the opening lyrics, “I’ve been alive forever and I wrote the very first song,” would make him sound like an egomaniac. (He was right on that one.) Davis was sure it would be not only a hit record, but a signature song.
After resisting the song for many weeks, Manilow finally worked up an arrangement they were both happy with. Manilow’s tender vocal warmed the song up a bit, but the “I am music” line is still grandiose. Manilow’s best arrangement idea: The Beatlesque piccolo trumpet line right before the lyric “I wrote some rock and roll, so you can move.”
Davis was right about the song’s potential: The song became Manilow’s second No. 1 on the Hot 100, won a Grammy for song of the year (for Johnston) and brought Manilow his second nod for record of the year in as many years. And, as Davis predicted, it has become a lifelong signature song. This was the play-on music when Manilow and Melissa Etheridge took the stage at the Tony Awards on Sunday to present an award.
True Fanilows Know: “Songs” was also the closing track on Captain & Tennille’s Love Will Keep Us Together album, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in August 1975. They didn’t release it as a single. C&T were probably kicking themselves when Manilow turned the song into such a smash. They evened the score in February 1976, when “Love Will Keep Us Together” won the Grammy for record of the year, beating “Mandy.”
“Weekend in New England”
Hot 100 peak: No. 10 (Feb. 26, 1977)
Songwriters: Randy Edelman
Notes: “Weekend in New England” was hardly an obvious hit – for one thing, it’s a waltz. Also, the title never appears in the song, a detriment in the era of “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty.” Despite the lack of commerciality, the song made the top 10 in February 1977. But it didn’t come easily: The song took 14 weeks to climb into the top 10, longer than any other Manilow hit.
True Fanilows Know: This song was a hit around the same time as Olivia Newton-John’s similarly elegant ballad “Sam.” In The Complete Collection and Then Some… Manilow wrote, “‘Weekend in New England’ was a ballad that started out very tiny and ended very tiny.”
“Can’t Smile Without You”
Hot 100 peak: No. 3 (April 22, 1978)
Songwriters: David Martin/Chris Arnold/Geoff Morrow
Notes: The Carpenters recorded a mellow version of this song on their 1976 album A Kind of Hush, but Manilow couldn’t imagine recording a straightforward version. So when he recorded a demo of the song, “I decided that I would treat it with a big smile; like a vaudeville piece, with lots of key changes, a whistle in the intro and a real take-home ending,” he wrote in the liner notes for A Complete Collection and Then Some… “After hearing the playback, I realized that the song was absolutely irresistible and decided to treat it with the same smile, but less silly and we made a record of it that I’m still proud of to this day.”
“Can’t Smile Without You” nearly became Manilow’s fourth No. 1 hit on the Hot 100. Instead, it got stuck at No. 3 for three weeks behind a pair of hits from Saturday Night Fever: Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You.” It wasn’t the last time Saturday Night Fever would best Manilow — in February 1979, the soundtrack won the Grammy for album of the year, beating his Even Now.
True Fanilows Know: This cracked the top 10 on the Hot 100 in just six weeks, which puts it in a tie with “I Write the Songs” for Manilow’s quickest sprint to the top 10.
“Let’s Hang On”
Hot 100 peak: No. 32 (May 8, 1982)
Songwriters: Bob Crewe, Sandy Linzer, Denny Randell
Notes: More than 20 years before Jersey Boys became a theatrical sensation, Manilow staged a one-man Four Seasons revival with this smartly-arranged cover of the group’s 1965 hit. It’s the second of Manilow’s top 40 hits that doesn’t appear on the 2005 compilation The Essential Barry Manilow. It’s probably not essential, but it sure is fun.
True Fanilows Know: This song would have been perfect for Manilow’s 2006 album The Greatest Songs of the Sixties, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. But since he’d already done it, he instead included Frankie Valli’s solo smash “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
“Somewhere in the Night”
Hot 100 peak: No. 9 (Feb. 17, 1979)
Songwriters: Richard Kerr/Will Jennings
Notes: Helen Reddy had a top 20 hit on the Hot 100 in early 1976 with this song. Manilow opened for Reddy on her No Way to Treat a Lady tour in 1975, one of his last opening stints before he became a headliner. Manilow’s version did even better, reaching the top 10.
True Fanilows Know: Manilow had a wickedly funny joke about Reddy in his act in the ‘70s. He introduced a member of his backup trio Lady Flash by saying “Her biggest credit before this was saying ‘I love you, mommy’ at the end of Helen Reddy records.” (The record in question is “You and Me Against the World,” a lovely Kenny Ascher/Paul Williams ballad which Reddy had a hit with in 1974. Manilow was right: the “mommy” bit on Reddy’s record was a little corny.)
Hot 100 peak: No. 23 (Nov. 19, 1977)
Songwriters: Barry Manilow/Adrienne Anderson
Notes: Having a bad day? Put “Daybreak” on. Manilow is such a cheerleader on this song he could bring anybody out of a funk. The song’s irrepressible cheer, with a hint of underlying melancholy, echoes Sammy Davis Jr.’s “The Candy Man,” a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 in 1972. Near the end of the recording, Manilow channels Judy Garland and says “Somebody yell ‘One More Time,’ and then we’ll go all the way!”
True Fanilows Know: This live recording was taken from Barry Manilow Live, which was Manilow’s first No. 1 album. It interrupted Fleetwood Mac’s long reign at No. 1 with Rumours. This was the third highest-charting live single of 1977, trailing Wings’ “Maybe I’m Amazed” (No. 10, from Wings Over America) and Elvis Presley’s “My Way” (No. 22, from Elvis in Concert). The studio version of this song appeared on Manilow’s This One’s for You album.
“The Old Songs”
Hot 100 peak: No. 15 (Nov. 28, 1981)
Songwriters: David Pomeranz/Buddy Kaye
Notes: This distinctly old-fashioned ballad (co-penned by the writer of “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again”) has all of the hallmarks of earlier Manilow smashes. But times and tastes were changing. Two months before this record hit the Hot 100, MTV went on the air.
True Fanilows Know: If this sounds like an old, vintage song, there’s a reason for that: Co-writer Buddy Kaye had hits dating back to the 1940s, including Perry Como’s “Till the End of Time” and “‘A’ – You’re Adorable,” on which the crooner collaborated with The Fontane Sisters.
Hot 100 peak: No. 9 (Dec. 1, 1979)
Songwriters: Ian Hunter
Notes: “Ships” represented a promising new direction for Manilow – leaner, edgier and less schmaltzy, and pushing him closer to mainstream pop/rock. The inspiration for the song was Hunter’s strained relationship with his father. “Ships,” Hunter has said, “was a coming to terms with, and an appreciation of my dad.”
True Fanilows Know: Hunter was the lead singer of the glam rock band Mott the Hoople, which had a top 40 hit on the Hot 100 in 1972 with the David Bowie-penned “All the Young Dudes.”
“When I Wanted You”
Hot 100 peak: No. 20 (March 1, 1980)
Songwriters: Gino Cunico
Notes: Manilow followed “Ships” with “When I Wanted You,” which doubled down on his new direction – leaner and less sweet. It’s a great record, but the song had a bitter undertone (“Now you’re on your own /How does it feel?/ To feel the way I used to feel”), that wasn’t what Manilow’s fans were used to or seemed to prefer from him.
True Fanilows Know: Cunico, an Australian guitarist and singer, recorded this song on his own Arista album, Gino Cunico, in 1976. Vini Poncia produced the album.
“Somewhere Down the Road”
Hot 100 peak: No. 21 (Feb. 20, 1982)
Songwriters: Tom Snow/Cynthia Weil
Notes: “Somewhere Down the Road” was co-written by two songwriting pros, who had earlier teamed to write The Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy,” and who would go on to co-write Peabo Bryson’s “If Ever You’re in My Heart Again” (with Michael Masser joining them on that one). Both of those songs were top 10 hits on the Hot 100. This one, for all its excellence, fell a little short.
True Fanilows Know: Manilow and Weil (who died on June 1 at age 82) have both been voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame – Weil in tandem with her husband and usual collaborator, Barry Mann.
“Ready to Take a Chance Again”
Hot 100 peak: No. 11 (Nov. 18, 1978)
Songwriters: Norman Gimbel/Charles Fox
Notes: Manilow sang this song over the opening credits of the Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn film Foul Play. The song’s beautiful melodic sweep was matched by the gorgeous scenery as Hawn drove along the California coastline. Manilow performed the Oscar-nominated song on the Academy Awards telecast in April 1979. The show also included performances by two other A-list superstars: Donna Summer (“Last Dance”) and Olivia Newton-John (“Hopelessly Devoted to You”). (“Last Dance” won, though I would have been happy with any of the three winning.)
True Fanilows Know: This was Manilow’s fourth top 20 hit on the Hot 100 in 1978, making this his peak year.
“It’s a Miracle”
Hot 100 peak: No. 12 (May 10, 1975)
Songwriters: Barry Manilow/Marty Panzer
Notes: Manilow followed his breakthrough hit “Mandy” with this dynamic, disco-accented pop smash. The stylistic range of these two singles showed his versatility and got his career off to a great start. Manilow repeats the title phrase from Martha & the Vandellas’ 1964 classic “Dancing in the Street.”
True Fanilows Know: Manilow covered another Martha & the Vandellas hit, “My Baby Loves Me,” on Barry Manilow II, the same album that included “It’s a Miracle.”
Hot 100 peak: No. 1 (Jan. 18, 1975)
Songwriters: Scott English/Richard Kerr
Notes: This graceful ballad reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 and later received a Grammy nomination for record of the year. That Grammy nod was fateful: Looking for a way to celebrate it and draw attention to it, Clive Davis threw a post-Grammys party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Davis’ annual Grammy party (which has shifted to being a pre-Grammys affair) has long since become legendary.
True Fanilows Know: English’s recording of “Brandy” (as the song was originally titled) reached No. 91 on the Hot 100 in March 1972. The name of Manilow’s single was changed to avoid confusion with Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” a terrific pop single that reached No. 1 in the summer of ’72.
“I Made It Through the Rain”
Hot 100 peak: No. 10 (Jan. 31, 1981)
Songwriters: Gerard Kenny/Drey Shepperd/Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman/Jack Feldman
Notes: Manilow’s two singles before this one – “When I Wanted You” and “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You” – both missed the top 10, the first time since he became a star that Manilow had missed the top 10 with back-to-back singles. This survivor’s anthem put him back in the top 10 for what turned out to be the last time. The song has some great lines, none better than this excellent piece of advice: “Start your own parade.”
True Fanilows Know: Kenny and Shepperd wrote the original song, which Feldman, Manilow and Sussman doctored. In the end, all five writers shared the songwriter credit. Like the protagonist in the song, Manilow “found [himself] respected/by the others who/got rained on too/and made it through.” In 2006, he won his second Primetime Emmy – 29 years after his first – at least in part because his fellow professionals respected the way he had outlasted his critics and weathered countless changes in musical fashion.
“Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again”
Hot 100 peak: No. 10 (May 22, 1976)
Songwriters: David Pomeranz
Notes: This plaintive ballad was Manilow’s third consecutive single to make the top 10 on the Hot 100, following “Could It Be Magic” and “I Write the Songs.” That was his longest streak of consecutive top 10 hits.
True Fanilows Know: The Carpenters also cut this song, but their version wasn’t released until 1995, a dozen years after Karen’s death. The Carpenters were the top adult contemporary/pop crossover artist of the first half of the 1970s, just as Manilow was for the decade’s second half. Trivia note: Their “Please Mr. Postman” bumped “Mandy” from the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100.
“This One’s for You”
Hot 100 peak: No. 29 (Oct. 30, 1976)
Songwriters: Barry Manilow/Marty Panzer
Notes: “This One’s for You” has a great opening line, “This one’ll never sell/ They’ll never understand.” This is one of Manilow’s finest songs, but it inexplicably was his lowest-charting Hot 100 hit in his streak from “Mandy” through the end of the ‘70s.
True Fanilows Know: This was the second of three title songs to Manilow albums to become a hit, following “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again” and preceding “Even Now.” “One Voice” might have joined them, but it was never released as an A-side. It was, however, the B-side of two of Manilow’s top 40 hits – “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You” and “Read ’Em and Weep.”
Hot 100 peak: No. 19 (June 24, 1978)
Songwriters: Barry Manilow/Marty Panzer
Notes: This sublime song speaks to how someone’s feelings for someone can last long after the relationship has ended. Manilow’s album of the same name received a Grammy nod for album of the year. It was Manilow’s only nod in that marquee category as an artist, though he had been nominated in that category five years earlier as a co-producer of Bette Midler’s smash debut album The Divine Miss M.
True Fanilows Know: You’ll notice that a lot of Manilow/Panzer songs are high on this list. Panzer was born and raised just blocks away from Manilow in Brooklyn. They first met while working together in the CBS-TV mailroom in New York. Panzer had one big hit that Manilow didn’t record. He teamed with Steve Dorff to write “Through the Years,” a big hit for Kenny Rogers in 1982. (Rogers’ record is pretty, but bland. Manilow would have found a way to liven it up.)
“Looks Like We Made It”
Hot 100 peak: No. 1 (July 23, 1977)
Songwriters: Richard Kerr/Will Jennings
Notes: “Looks Like We Made It” is more modest in scale than many of Manilow’s Big Ballads – and is all the more appealing for that reason. If you don’t listen to the lyrics and just react to the title, you might think this is a song about a couple celebrating their relationship. Actually, as Jennings has said, “It is a rather sad and ironic lyric about making it apart and not together.”
Manilow’s first two No. 1 singles, “Mandy” and “I Write the Songs,” were both the first singles from those albums. This was the third single from This One’s for You, which suggests that its success was a surprise. Manilow was one of just three artists to top the Hot 100 in 1975, 1976 and 1977. The others: Bee Gees and KC and the Sunshine Band. (Bee Gees extended their chart-topping streak in 1978 and 1979.)
The exhilarating “New York City Rhythm” was on the B side, making this quite possibly Manilow’s strongest double-sided single.
True Fanilows Know: Kerr and Jennings also co-wrote “Somewhere in the Night” and Dionne Warwick’s smash “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” which Manilow produced and arranged. The song brought Warwick a Grammy for best female pop vocal performance. Manilow was nominated for his arrangement of the song – his only Grammy nod as an arranger. Though Manilow never won a Grammy as an arranger, he did win “a Clive.” In his liner notes for Manilow’s 1978 greatest hits album, Davis called Manilow “the unquestioned best arranger of songs in America today.”
“Copacabana (at the Copa)”
Hot 100 peak: No. 8 (Aug, 12, 1978)
Songwriters: Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman, Jack Feldman
Notes: Clive Davis and Manilow were effective partners, for the most part, but they disagreed on something fundamental. Manilow saw himself as a singer-songwriter, and wanted to focus on his own songs. Davis saw him first and foremost as an interpreter and an entertainer and wanted him to be open to outside material. They worked out a deal where Davis would bring him two songs per album (many of which became singles) and Manilow would write the rest. Of his 25 top 40 hits, eight were songs he had co-written.
Given the way his own songs often took a back seat in singles selection to outside songs, there’s a certain poetic justice that one of Manilow’s own compositions became his most famous song. “Copacabana (At the Copa)” brought him his only Grammy win (best male pop vocal performance).
“We thought we were writing the novelty cut for Barry’s Even Now album,” Sussman wrote in The Complete Collection and Then Some… “‘Copacabana’ surprised everyone – certainly us, and especially Arista Records, for they were faced with the first of Barry’s hits that was forced off an album.”
True Fanilows Know: Just about everybody, from Broadway legend Ethel Merman to The Rolling Stones, cut a disco record. This was one of the best. The song inspired a television movie that Manilow wrote and starred in, which aired on CBS in 1985.