Today was a red-letter day for Barbra Streisand fans around the world. Not only did Columbia Records announce that Barbra Streisand has inked a new contract to extend her deal with the label for many years to come, but the announcement also came with the news that Columbia will release a 12-DVD set of Streisand through the years, a set that will be “giving unprecedented access into her professional and personal life.”
The DVD set will feature “never-before-seen footage directly from Barbra’s archives, as well as milestones from her illustrious career.” With assurance, some rarities likely to be included are Barbra’s never-aired interview and performance on “The David Frost Show” – taped on February 5, 1971.
There have also been rumors of other rare Streisand performances, like the “Funny Girl to Funny Lady” TV special, as well as her concert for the “Stars Salute Israel at 30” celebration, not to mention all the music videos – from “Memory” through “Stranger In A Strange Land” (“Guilty Pleasures”) and more. None of those vides have ever been released and fans have been waiting for them for years. No doubt filling 12 DVDs, there are going to be surprises, too. It is going to be a treasure trove of great performances to enjoy, Barbra through her amazing career.
But what is just as exciting as the announcement of the DVD set is this fact: Barbra Streisand is remaining with Columbia Records. The talks that commenced last summer reached a successful conclusion.
As The Examiner reported at the time, “Columbia, cold-hearted business folk that they may be, have to know that their brand has been glorified thanks to the 50-year legacy Barbra Streisand has created with her magnificent voice, dynamic personality, impeccable taste, and deep connection with her fans. For what she’s done for Columbia, they’d be crazy to let her walk away over money.”
In today’s announcement, Barbra stated, “From the day Goddard Lieberson signed me almost 50 years ago, Columbia Records has been my recording home, and I am thrilled to continue that partnership for many years to come.”
Steve Barnett, chairman and COO of Columbia Records, said in a statement, “There are stars and there are superstars, and there’s Barbra Streisand. Home to Barbra’s recordings since the first release in 1963, Columbia Records is proud to play a vital role in her extraordinary career. We’re looking forward to the next chapter in our long and fruitful relationship.”
Barbra’s relationship with Columbia Records has been more than fruitful; it’s legendary. Since Lieberson deigned to sign Barbra in October 1962, feeling that she would only appeal to a niche audience, Streisand has been phenomenally successful.
She defied the modest expectations of that original contract, the one in which Marty Erlichman — Barbra’s personal manager — wisely negotiated for artistic control instead of big money. Erlichman realized that even though Barbra had yet to become a star, she was a star.
Erlichman told Billboard in 1983, “I always treated Barbra like a star not by giving her limousines, but by making decisions for her as if she were a star, not settling, but demanding the best treatment for her by everyone.”
That decision ensured that Barbra Streisand would decide what songs she sang and how she would be presented to the public. She was self-confident in her ability and trusted that audiences would notice her and care about her music. This was even as she competed with The Beatles, the Beach Boys and Motown’s supreme hit machine that included The Supremes!
Almost immediately, Streisand proved herself with “The Barbra Streisand Album.” She went on to win the Grammy Award as Best Female Vocalist three years in a row, 1963-65, and never fell off the Billboard charts. In October 1964, just two years after signing that initial contract, Barbra had five albums on the Billboard Top 100 Albums chart!
She’s been the most successful female recording star in a number of categories, with 51 gold albums, 30 platinum and 18 multi-platinum, each of which, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, exceeds all other female singers. Only one artist has had more Gold albums than Barbra — Elvis Presley. According to Streisand’s official biography, her 71.5 million albums sales tops the RIAA list of album sales by a female singer.
She has also had number one albums — “People,” “The Way We Were,” “A Star Is Born,” “Barbra Streisand’s Greatest Hits, Volume 2,” “Guilty,” “The Broadway Album,” “Back To Broadway,” “Higher Ground” and “Love Is the Answer” — covering five decades, a feat unmatched by any artist.
While today’s news is not a surprise — it would have been nuts for Columbia Records to let her get away — it is heartening. Barbra Streisand is now assured that she will be singing for years to come on America’s premiere label. Her product, old and new, will continue to be available for mass appreciation. And since Barbra has said that she does not envision a time when she’s not making music, that’s damn good news for everyone who admires America’s First Voice.