ALBUM (1981)
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LIFE

Barbra Streisand's Memories hasn't aged well, for all that it was a big seller

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 December, 2014, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 December, 2014, 12:51pm

Memories

Barbra Streisand

Sony

This nostalgia-laced musical throwback seems on the verge of oblivion. But in its day, Memories, which featured previously released material and three freshly recorded songs, achieved what appeared to be indelible success.

The album hosting two of Streisand's biggest hits - You Don't Bring Me Flowers and No More Tears (Enough is Enough) - went platinum five times. In the US charts, Memories reached number 10. In Britain, it hovered in the top spot on the album chart for nine weeks and became the country's bestseller of 1982.

It was certified platinum in Britain before multi-platinum prizes that it would have probably won existed, and was six times platinum in Australia. In 1981, it sold more than 10 million, making it the first compilation album to achieve that benchmark. Plus, it won best album at the 1983 Brit Awards. Not bad for a retread - imagine shifting that many copies of an album now. Heady, halcyon days.

Barbra Streisand - original name Barbara Joan Streisand - was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942. Because her first love was acting, she joined a summer theatre group in Malden Bridge, New York, and studied acting while still at high school. After graduation she headed to Manhattan, where her first break came in 1960 when she sang at a nightclub and won an amateur talent contest and dropped her first name's second "a", because she hated the name Barbara.

After pursuing Greenwich Village cabaret singing engagements, Streisand snared a minor role as Miss Marmelstein in the Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962), and shone.

Cue a succession of television gigs, including The Judy Garland Show. By now, Streisand's career had achieved irresistible momentum - a string of wildly popular, award-winning albums peppered with gutsy renditions of popular songs followed.

Ever the high achiever, Streisand then established herself as a Broadway star, riffing on her Jewish roots and rising from ugly duckling to supreme diva - one of the most powerful women in show business. After a break from the limelight, in the 1990s she gave live concerts that rewrote box office records.

The highest-selling female recording artist of all time, Streisand places second in the all-time rock charts, ahead of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, beaten only by Elvis Presley.

Also an actor and director, she has leveraged her fame to bolster Democrat causes and candidates, including Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Doubtless, she will back the party's 2016 bid to win three successive elections.

Her resumé is all the more remarkable because of the headwinds she has faced, not least stage fright, which she overcame by aping drag queens' flamboyance. Another challenge she conquered was the suspicion that her offbeat looks would hold her back. In hindsight, her image boosted her cause, making her more "relatable".

Her accolades include an award from the Recording Academy for lifetime achievement (1995). She has sold more than 70 million records globally, and is the only artist to have earned honours from all the top award institutions, including two Academy Awards.