Written by Marie Williams on January 27, 2020
Barbra Streisand is an American singer, film maker and actress whose career lasted over 60 years. She was born April 24, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York as “Barbara,” but later changed it and dropped the other a in her name because she said she didn’t like her name.
Her parents were Diana (Ida Rosen) and Emanuel Streisand. He mom wanted to have a career in music as a soprano, but ended up being a school secretary instead. Streisand’s dad was a teacher in a high school. Her grandparents on her dad’s side were from Poland and her grandparents on her mom’s side were from Russia. The family is Jewish.
Streisand sadly lost her father only a few months after she was born, and he died in 1943 from epilepsy complications, which caused a lot of poverty in her life. As a child she attended a Jewish Orthodox school in Brooklyn, then on to a public school in Brooklyn for the rest of her school career though high school.
She was known for her singing voice even as a child by everyone in her neighborhood. Her first actual stage debut was when she got to sing at a PTA assembly, and later at weddings or summer camp. She first attempted to become a professional singer at age 9 when she auditioned for MGM records, but was not successful. When she was 13, she made a demo tape to try again with four songs on it, to include “You’ll Never Know” and “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.”
However, she really wanted to act, and as a teen liked to read the biographies of female actresses, as well as read books on acting theory. In 1957 she managed to get a role in a play as a walk-on part at the Playhouse in Malden Bridge in New York. That lead to getting small parts in things like “Picnic” and “Desk Set.” She also got a part in “Driftwood,” where Joan Rivers was her co-star.
When she graduated she wanted to get parts in New York City and moved there, then taking on any sort of stage job she could get as well as going around to various casting offices trying to get a job.
Early Career Years
In the beginning of the 1960s she was working at the Lunt Fontanne Theater as an usher. During this time she auditioned as a singer, but didn’t get the part. But she was still encouraged to keep trying. Later, she got Barry Dennen, her then boyfriend, to tape her and she gave out copies of it to prospective employers.
He told her she should enter a local talent contest, which was a a gay nightclub in Manhattan called the Lion. She won the contest singing two songs, and got asked to sing at the club for a few weeks. By Sept. 1960 she was working at the Bon Soir nightclub as a singer, and the opening act for the famous female comedian Phyllis Diller.
Acting Career Beginnings
She did finally get a break on stage in New York City, when she got a role in “Another Evening,” starring Harry Stoones, in which she sang two solos. While the show was a flop, she later was success in plays in Detroit and St. Louis after she got a new manager, Mr. Marin Erlichman.
She started working at the Blue Angel nightclub in Manhattan around this time, which lead to her getting a part in the musical comedy, “I Can Get It For You Wholesale.,” which was very successful in 1962. She was 20 at the time and it was considered rare for someone that young to be a hit on Broadway. For her role, she was nominated for a Tony Award, as well as a New York Drama Critic award for the Best Supporting Actress.
Elsewise during the 60s, she got many other successes. These included appearing on TV for the first time when she was on The Tonight Show in April 1961, when she sung “A Sleepin Bee.” Plus, that same year she ws in Another Evening with Harry Stoones, as well as appearing several times on PMEast/PMWest, a talk and variety show with hosts Mike Wallace as well as Joyce Davidson.
The following year she recorded “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” with Columbia Records, and also was part of a 25th anniversary recording of classic piece called, “Pins and Needles,” and got to be on the Garry Moore Show to sing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” She appeared on the Tonight Show several times in 1962 and 1963, as well as on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Mike Douglas Show, as well as some of Bob Hope’s specials.
In 1963 she recorded her The Barbra Streisand Album, which got her 3 Grammies and got in the Top 10 on Billboard. The following year she appeared in the Broadway show “Funny Girl,” which spawned two of her top songs, which are “People,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” That year she even made the cover of Time magazine as well as being nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. However, she lost that year because Carol Channing got it for her part in “Hello Dolly.”
Since that time she has been very successful, getting 2 Academy awards, 10 Grammies, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, Grammy Legend Award, as well as 5 Emmy awards, A Tony Award, and an award from the American Film Institute. She also received a Kennedy Center Honors award, as well as a Peabody Award and 9 Golden Globe awards, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. All that shows just how special she was!
Some of her other famous movies were “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “A Star is Born,” and “The Way We Were.” In 1983 she was honored as the first women to produce, direct, write and then star in a major motion picture, with the film, “Yentl.” She also got the Golden Globe for Best Director for that film.
All in all she is considered a best selling artist of all time, and has sold more than 150 million records and over 68 million albums. The Recording Industry Association of America and Billboard show her has achieving the record for having the most albums to hit the top 10 by a woman, at 34 of them. She is also considered the top female of all time on Billboard’s top 200 list. Plus, she had a number 1 album in every decade from the 1960s to the present, with 53 that went gold, 31 that went platinum, and 14 that went multi-platinum.