Today is Barbra Streisand’s birthday. She is SEVENTY. As a friend of mine said earlier this week, she makes being 70 cool…ish. She is, without a doubt, the oldest artist whose career I have followed down to its minutiae. She’s also the one whose twilight of their career has interested me least. The last album of hers that I truly liked was 2005’s Guilty Pleasures. Not coincidentally, it was also the last full-on pop album she did. Pairing her up with Barry Gibb again was sheer brilliance, as she had made the inevitable descent into standards, show tunes and otherwise languid ballads that really are only good for trying to go to sleep. Guilty Pleasures even saw her trying to cut loose on a disco track. Whether or not she succeeded depended on who you asked. Personally, I gave her the benefit of the doubt just for trying.
My friend Jeff told me once that, ten years ago, one of the tabloids had a headline that went something like this: “BARBRA: I HATE BEING SIXTY!” Whether or not Barbra ever actually said that is anyone’s guess, but it has been an ongoing joke for many years now. Of all the divas that Jeff and I seem to gravitate toward, none causes us to descend into hysterics more frequently that Streisand. We have an odd obsession with imagining her in everyday situations, whether it be showing up to the Malibu Municipal Pool (“Jim! Make sure we get the senior discount!”) to ordering calzones at the Detroit airport (“Calzone for Barb!”), or running out of toilet paper while taking a crap (“Jim! Bring me the Charmin. And for God’s sake, don’t squeeze it!”) Nobody’s humanity cracks us up as much as hers. Perhaps it’s because she’s made a career out of being untouchable. If she hated being sixty, God only knows how she probably feels about seventy.
Love her or hate her, she’s a legend. Although the 70s Ogilvie home perm was a really bad idea, she’s had a great career. Between acting, singing, directing, producing and God only knows what else, you have to respect her for having the cojones to succeed in Hollywood when it really was a man’s world.
The following clip is one of my favorite live performances she’s done. Taken from her 1994 concert tour, it’s a medley of “I’m Still Here”, “Everybody Says Don’t” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” I’m especially fond of her altered lyrics – most notably “one day you’re hailed for blazing trails/the next day you’re nailed for…fingernails” and “I’ve kept my nose to spite my face!” which always got cheers from the audience. For me, this concert is what I think of when I think of her live performance.
Her voice has deepened with age but I still don’t think it sounds like my grandmother singing in church. A staunch advocate for everything from LGBT issues to microphones that match the carpet, she’s a class act.