Matt Howe writes this guest article announcing his new book: Barbra Streisand: The Albums, The Singles, The Music.
Happy Birthday to Barbra Streisand, who turns 80 today. Singer. Actor. Director. Producer. Songwriter. I created the Barbra Archives website back in 2003 as a tribute to her, before there was Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. Back then, I went to Amazon’s website only if I wanted to order a book or DVD online (whereas the other day I ordered cat food and a firepit!). In 2003, I didn’t even have a cell phone.
After I saw the movie Yentl, I became a fan of Barbra Streisand, and my obsession with her iconic career continued after that. My enthusiastic devotion to Barbra was cemented in 1994 when I finally saw her live in concert—she did not disappoint; in fact, she was extraordinary.
Somehow—was I in an AOL chat room? A Yahoo chat group?—I began connecting with other fans, even several of whom lived in my area. I mailed a few bucks to Allison Waldman, who distributed the BarbraFile newsletter (printed on paper!), which reported all the latest news about Miss Streisand. I also began collecting the UK All About Barbra magazines, which I was able to buy as an import at Tower Records (remember record stores?).
What really appealed to me, though, were all the tantalizing rare things that were circulating among the Streisand fans. Bootlegs are bad for the record companies’ business, but Barbra Archives wouldn’t exist unless I could write about all the unreleased recordings she made. In the 1990s and 2000s, I was able to pick tracks or entire CDs from a list, and the seller would mail them to me. Did I send them a money order? This was before PayPal, I think. Later, in the Yahoo groups, we would trade downloads with each other. I heard Barbra’s 1962 nightclub act at the Bon Soir, her 1966 concerts, and even rare singles that I could never find at my local record stores.
Here we are, 19 years later, and Barbra Archives is a passion project that I’ve curated for all this time. My motivation is purely the love I have for Barbra Streisand’s talent and career, and the joy that I receive by cataloging all things Barbra. Yes, I often squeal with delight if I discover a rare photo or a juicy recording that we never knew about before.
The magic around this entire enterprise is that my little website transcended being an homage to “the Greatest Star” and a celebration spot for fans. After a few years, I gradually began assisting Barbra’s team when they had questions or needed photographs. When Barbra began touring more often, I was even able to meet the woman herself. I became a fact-checker, research assistant, and photo supplier. Suddenly, when I opened the liner notes of a Streisand CD or thumbed through a concert program, I saw my name in the credits! I still pinch myself. I assist in a small way, and not all the time, but I am always excited and amazed that I’m involved in such a capacity.
I’ve met Barbra several times, and the experience is always sweet and, frankly, head spinning. Her eyes are really that brightly colored blue. Once, I told her how much it meant to me to meet her and how happy I was that the website I created about her amazing career was of some use. Now, Streisand has admitted several times that she doesn’t look herself up on the Internet, so I don’t want to give the impression that she’s clicking around Barbra Archives—she has assistants who do that.
Barbra celebrates her 80th birthday today, which is hard to believe. This fall she also celebrates her 60th year in show business (if you count her debut on Broadway in 1962, which was the same year she signed a recording contract with Columbia Records). These are momentous milestones. I am inspired when I reflect on Barbra’s long life and accomplishments. Think about the millions of people (who need people) she has touched around the world with her voice and acting over the years—all the weddings that played “Evergreen”…all the drag queens who lip-synched to “Don’t Rain on My Parade”…all the singers who have admired her and the female film directors who have benefited from Barbra’s trailblazing directing debut, Yentl.
Today I am sending love and best wishes to Barbra on this momentous day. L’chaim, Barbra!
For the last year I have been writing a book about Barbra Streisand’s recording career, so it’s an appropriate time to announce that Barbra Streisand: The Albums, The Singles, The Music will be released one year from today, on April 24, 2023. The book will focus on Barbra’s albums and singles. Fans will see album covers, tracks, and catalog numbers that explain all the different versions of albums that have been released in the US. I’ve peppered the book with rare photos that hopefully will surprise and delight. I’ve expounded on each album, giving interesting background information on the songs, including unreleased songs; stories about recording sessions; and more.
There are special sections about Barbra’s close associates, the talented musicians, composers, and arrangers she has collaborated with over the years who are essential to her recording legacy. Other sections spotlight Streisand’s signature songs, with interesting particulars about those tunes. In the book, I give my opinion on Barbra’s recording projects, with the hope that I can inspire longtime fans (or new ones) to listen to tracks they may not have considered for a while. After all, Streisand has recorded over 60 albums—there are even some tracks I don’t like, and I share that too.
Fayetteville Mafia Press will be publishing Barbra Streisand: The Albums, The Singles, The Music in hardcover and digitally; it’s full color, with oversized pages and photo-quality paper. This book has been created with care, and the quality will not disappoint.
I’m happy to report that the book is up for pre-order now:
Over the years, some of Barbra Streisand’s best songs have expressed her ambition and inspired us all. First, she sang “Nobody is gonna rain on my parade,” then “The world will know that I’ve been here.” Still later she sang “Everybody says don’t, but I say do” and “You’re gonna hear from me.” After 80 years on the planet and over 60 albums, 19 movies, the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai, the Streisand Foundation, and her many philanthropic contributions to women’s rights and the environment…Barbra has made her mark and marched her band out, beaten her drum. She taught me back in 1983 that “with all there is, why settle for a piece of sky?”
Matt Howe created Barbra Archives, an unofficial website he maintains that is all about Barbra Streisand’s decades-long career, in 2003. Barbra Archives has become the go-to site for the Streisand fan community wishing to learn more about her albums, movies, and concerts. Matt’s encyclopedic knowledge of Miss Streisand’s accomplishments even prompted her to joke that he knows more about her career than she does! Since 2006, Matt has assisted her team with photo research and fact-checking for concerts and appearances.