Gresham College Lectures

Twentieth-Century Divas: Barbra Streisand

November 06, 2023 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
Twentieth-Century Divas: Barbra Streisand
Show Notes Transcript

Uncompromising control of her career and pursuit of a bold vision have made Barbra Streisand a sometimes controversial figure since her debut in Funny Girl, despite her popularity and many awards. She has been stigmatised for being a powerful woman in the entertainment industry: her work as a producer and director have shattered the glass ceiling but not without personal cost. This lecture explores how her insistence on having complete control over her entire artistic output allowed her to recreate the idea of the diva in her own image.

This lecture was recorded by Dominic Broomfield-McHugh on 26 October 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

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Now thinking about divas, I'm going to start in a slightly strange, um, left field place with this. In her speech at the last night of the Proms 2023, the conductor Marin op reminded the audience that the most recent UN report puts gender parity as staggering 134 years away. And as the first woman to conduct the fabled last night, a fit, a feat for which she's now entered. Would you believe the Guinness Book of Records, having done it three times, um, also knows only too well how the professional experiences of women are mediated by gender and how often women in power are critiqued and undermined for seeking that power before they even really do anything. And in the case of women conducting orchestras, or there's also the dilemma of whether using the kinds of gestures that men typically use when conducting will have the same effect and what the audience's response will be. Something that Ssop, um, describes vividly in the 2021 documentary, the Conductor, which I really recommend. She talks about the time when her mentor one, Leonard Bernstein, watched her, uh, conduct a concert and came backstage afterwards and said, you know, I just don't get it. I don't understand when I close my eyes. I can't tell you're a woman. It's clear that women, when women take on roles historically taken by men, they face all kinds of barriers, and that it, it doesn't stop just when they get an opportunity. The experience itself is often rendered more stressful because of preconceptions around gender. This series of lectures on what I'm calling 20th century divas considers the careers of three women in a field in which women have in fact been quite well represented. That along with sport, actually IE um, popular music on record stage and screen, all three of them, Shirley Bassey, Julie Andrews, and Barbara Streisand became internationally popular during the 1960s, which is the period associated with second wave feminism. A time when women fought for and won some more rights. Yet as they exerted their power and their influence, and they became more commercially successful and culturally iconic, each of these singer became gradually more criticized with a particular focus on the relationship between their power as performers and their femininity. And I suggest that this was not just because they were popular and successful. After all, plenty of men become popular and successful and then become more criticized as well. But because powerful women have historically been treated as a threat in quite a particular way, now the word diva, which literally means goddess neatly expresses the bifurcation that successful women in performance often experience. On the one hand, the word is empowering. It connotes a superstar, a queen, an idol, someone of outstanding talent, perhaps a maverick, and certainly someone successful. On the other hand, it's often used pejoratively. It tells us of someone difficult self-important and demanding a bossy prima donna of temperamental dimensions, whether disempowering or empowering the word diva, certainly foregrounds power, which is why these lectures are focused on the topic of women music and power, and don't dist treat singing as a neutral act. Now, although the wider history of the word is not my main concern here, and I'm not gonna go on for hours about history, we should acknowledge that the use of the word diva in the context of women and performance actually goes back several centuries, I think in particular of George Frederick Handel's rival queens, the Italian opera singers Francesca called Sony and Faustina Bordone, whose performances in London in the 1720s inspired quite wildly rival fan bases. And in 1727, their perceived rivalry inspired a minor riot at a performance down the road from Gresham at Lincoln's infield theater, a building later absorbed Martin Mob. Glad to hear into the Royal College of Surgeons, rumors spread that the rival singers had started to pull at each other's hair and attack one another during the performance, thus encouraging the general chaos in the audience. But more recent scholarship has tended to agree, um, that actually this is a fabrication and an exaggeration, and they performed quite happily together on subsequent occasions. It was actually the fans who were rioting, but the gossipy pamphlets, um, that were circulated at the time led to that being caricature for, um, posterity in John Gay's, Beggar's Opera as Polly Peach and Lucy Lockett, which is a good example of how the truth can be forever distorted when the stories of powerful women are told for the ages. So now to Streisand, although 18th century Italian opera in London might seem remote to Broadway, all of this serves as an introduction to thinking about today's subject as a diva because it shows that many of the things with which she has contended are actually part of a long established gendered model. Yet there are other dynamics at play too. Earlier in 2023, Streisand was presented with the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Women of Leadership Award, a prize which is presented annually to women who've distinguished themselves by assuming a leadership role are making a meaningful change in the lives of others. And in 2021, it was awarded to Queen Elizabeth ii, and it was the only time I believe that the late Queen accepted an award that was not from a nation. So you can sort of see the, the prestige and profile of this award that then went to Streisand. The press release proclaimed Streisand's achievements, drawing attention in particular to her roles as producer, director, writer, and actress, all on the same film, IE GenTel in 1983, and her achievement as the first woman to win an Academy Award as composer for the song Evergreen from the film, A Star Is Born, the Citation also celebrated her philanthropy in the realms of climate change, voter rights, and gender and racial equality. In response, Streisand posted a 10 minute video online in which she gave a speech about how the experiences of Justice Ginsburg during her professional rise reflected some of Streisand's own experiences in a very different field. Let's see a clip of the speech in which she talks about a particular incident with a record executive for whom she'd auditioned at the start of her career, Ever a realist. Justice Ginsburg said she started off with several strikes against her. The first strike was being Jewish antisemitism was a barrier. She said, I experienced that too. When I was first auditioning for a record contract. One executive told my representative, she has a nice voice, but she's too ethnic. But I knew what they meant. Clearly the nameless executive couldn't see colossal commercial potential in front of him to date, depending on how One Counts Streisand has released around 117 singles, 36 studio albums, 11 compilations, 11 live albums, and 15 soundtracks with another compilation album and a new 40th anniversary version of the soundtrack of GenTel, both due to be released tomorrow. So it's very current, whether one likes her or not, there's no arguing with the fact that she's sold over 150 million albums in her career with 52 Gold and 31 platinum albums. Second only to Elvis Presley for reference, A gold album, um, has sales of over 500,000, um, copies in America. And the Platinum Album is sales of over a million. She's had 14 multi-platinum albums. Milton on the front row here, the Professor of Music was asking me, why are you reading out? And this is why I'm reading out 'cause I can't remember all these facts. Um, so she's had 14, um, multi-platinum albums, which she sells of over 2 million, and she's the only female artist to have achieved this. She's the second bestselling female album artist in the United States after Taylor Swift, who o only overtook her this year after many decades. And she's the only recording artist who have achieved a number one album in each of the last six decades. It's fair to say she's been both prolific and successful. As for being oh, round of applause for Barbara, I've not done it as for being too ethnic. One of the key dimensions of Streisand's diva Dom is her strong self of self-actualization. IE her vigorous assertion of who she is. And a good example of this is her name as a teenager, she wanted to highlight her individuality and therefore dropped the second a in her first name, thus becoming Barbara. As for her second name, A frequent topic of discussion in her interviews and concerts is the pronunciation of Streisand, like Sand on the Beach. It's not Streisand. She often says, my friend Liza has AZ. And in both of the Broadway roles in which she launched her career, she played explicitly Jewish characters rather than trying to hide or distract from it. For her, it was empowering because it became part of her iconic image. And in Harold Romes, I can get it for your wholesale, she played the Long Suffering Secretary Miss Marmal Steam. And in her solo song, she drew attention to her name, Yetta Tessie Marmal Steam, and even explain how to spell it. Let's hear a bit of that now. Nobody calls me. Hey, baby doll, miss Marstein or Honey Deer, miss Marstein. Oh, sweetie Pie. Even my first name would be prefer preferable, though it's terrible. It might be better. It's, or perhaps my second name that's Tessy spelled T-E-S-S-Y-E. But In her more famous appearance in Funny Girl two repeated reference is also made to her character, um, of Fannie Brice being Jewish. Indeed, in taking on this role, she was underlining her artistic lineage with one of the leading Jewish performers of a previous generation. And this is increasing the film version of Fanny Girl, um, for which some of the specially written songs, um, from the stage show were replaced by numbers performed by the Real life Bryce, in particular, her signature tune, my Man, which is memorably sung at the end of the film. Um, funny Girl, but not in the stage version. And for her debut role in the film, Streisand won the Academy Award for best actress in a remarkable tie with the veteran star Catherine Hepburn, who'd also won it the year before, I think. And this was only the second of the very few times that there had been an exact tie at the Oscars. Both, um, actresses received exactly 3030 votes, which is an impressive feat. I dunno how you managed to get exactly 3030 people to vote for you. Anyway. This strand of Streisand's career came to a climax in 1983 with the release of her film, um, Yentl, which she worked on for over a decade against considerable adversity. The film recounts the tale of a young Jewish woman in Poland who disguises herself as a man in order to get an education after the death of her father. Streisand's own father was an intellectual who died when the singer was just 15 months old. And it's clear why the storyline of Yel appealed to her. The semi autobiographical element was underlined in the score by Michelle LaGrand and, um, lyricists Michelle, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, in particular, the the song Papa, can You Hear Me? Streisand won the Golden Globe for best director for the film in 1984, the first woman to do so, and it took until 2021 for another woman to win the same award. Streisand has often spoken about her decision not to have any work done on her nose, despite pressure to modify her appearance to look less Jewish. And in many of her public appearances, she has actively drawn attention to her nose. When comedian Phyllis Dilla opened an American Film Institute tribute to her in 2001, Dilla made a joke about herself and plastic surgery. And in the audience, Streisand vigorously tapped her own nose in response. And for the second number of her 1994 tour, Streisand asked Steven Sondheim to change the lyrics to his song. I'm still here proclaiming in one line, I kept my nose to spite my face. Let's take a look at what the audience thinks about that Top of the building. I'm here Wednesday. You are phony Thursday, y'all over the hill, but I'm here now. I've kept my clothes and kept my space. Yes, I've kept my nose to spike my face. In short, one of the key ways in which Streisand has exerted her power to achieve diva status is by proudly embracing her Jewishness, both in and beyond her work in defiance against all pressure to the contrary. Now, as I noted earlier, the word diva is often used to describe someone's self-important, arrogant, and difficult. But the evidence of Streisand's career is that she loves to work with other people in order to achieve her professional goals. It's true she admits to being a control freak, but it's surely quite reasonable that she would want to be able to control her work. And this is not something that would conventionally be criticized in a man. It would be seen as a strength, but even this control is achieved through collaboration. For example, she's been with the same agent Martin Ehrlichman for over 60 years now. I believe that he's 94 and she's 81. Um, and she favored him because from the very beginning he negotiated that she would be able to make her own choices from song lists to costumes. The reason for this preference, I believe, is because from being a teenager, she, um, recognized that being unique or unusual was going to be the key to her stardom. Yet in the realm of popular culture, performers are typically pressurized to conform to the latest trends, something that Streisand has not done very often. But she couldn't achieve success without working with other people. And the single most striking source I've found in preparation for this lecture reveals the collaborative atmosphere behind the scenes of Funny Girl, um, her first and only starring role, um, in a Broadway musical. In 1964, the papers of Bob Merrill, who was the lyricist of the show, are at the Library of Congress, and they show a series of typed lyric sheets on which Meryl made notes during rehearsals and early previews of the show. On each of them, there is a sense that here was the most exciting young talent with whom the distinguished creative team had worked in years, and they wanted her to succeed. But the devil was in the details. The show was in great trouble before it reached Broadway. And Meryl's meticulous comments identify areas in which the songs could be improved to support the strongest possible presentation of streisand's performance. For example, on the lyrics of the famous Don't Reign On My Parade, we see an unfamiliar verse for the song, which Meryl has marked kilo. And then out noting that Barbara runs out of gas. And this was not a criticism in my view. Um, the refrain of the song is hugely demanding. It's a really difficult song, especially if you're gonna sing it most nights of the week. Um, Meryl proposed to drop the verse so that she had more stamina left to thrive in the refrain. And at the bottom of the page, um, Meryl underlines the words rose and nose again, um, presumably to encourage Streisand to bring out the rhyme scheme. So let's quickly hear how that couplet works. On the original car album, Perfection, life's Complexion, the Cinder, She sort of emphasizes the word nose Don't Reign on my parade, became one of the signature songs of her career. And these few annotations show that its success was the result of a level of refinement created through collaboration with the people around her. And the same goes for the other songs on the Reprise of Don't Rain On my parade. At the end of the show, Meryl notes twice that the key is too low and needs to be raised to suit her vocal range, which was higher than they realized. And the reference at the top to Jss is to Julie Stein, who was the composer of this show. And, um, we can see how Meryl is deferring to him for those decisions around the music. Again, revealing the general atmosphere to be collaborative for the satirical song. His love makes me beautiful. Um, Meryl notes here that Streisand needs to avoid turning upstage, which is something she does quite a lot in her concert appearances because the audience can't see her. So this is helpful feedback on how to present her performance. And in a separate note down here, and he encourages her not to try too hard because the costume will help her to get the laughs. He's also drawn rings, if you look around the top, around the words illustration and adoration. So again, he's kind of interested in bringing out the rhyme scheme or at least having it understood by her for a hit Ballad people, Meryl again notes her inclination to turn upstage something that would disconnect her from the audience. Now, why does all this matter? This is quite nerdy musicology stuff, but because no musical performer of this type could possibly achieve high standards without support and advice, but divas in general and Streisand specifically, have been critiqued for being lone figures who are unwilling to work with other people. Yet, if anything, it seems to me that she's gone outta her way to create quite strong collaborations that have endured, whether it's with her regular team, so her manager, her collaborators, Richard J. Alexander and Jay Landers, who've worked on a lot of her concerts, her arrangers and conductors, William Ross, Marvin Hamish, Peter Mattson, many others or with songwriters like Harold Arlan, Steven Sondheim, and Mic Michelle LaGrand, all of whom wrote multiple songs and projects for her. In 1985, she returned to her home repertoire and recorded the Broadway album in which she sings a range of musical theater standards. The project went ahead much to the objection of record label executives who incorrectly felt it would be uncommercial to release an album of show tunes. Streisand satirize the situation in the opening track of the album, Steven Sondheim, putting it together, singing, every time I start to feel defensive, I remember Vinyl is expensive. When she came to record another Sometimes song sending the clowns from a Little Night Music, she asked the songwriter whether he would be willing to revisit the material and expand it for her album. Specifically, she wanted to address the fact that a piece of dialogue in the middle of the song needed to be emitted from the recording, and she wanted something to replace it. On one level, it seems like an audacious move asking probably the most distinguished and revered composer on Broadway to rewrite possibly his most famous song just for her. But in the documentary on the making of this album, and in several interviews since Streisand has explained both why she felt the need for an expansion of the material, because she wanted to return to the bridge section of the song, which is the Middle, because she loved it so much, and also why Sondheim was willing to do it. So let's see a clip of that. Um, it sounds as though the song has, has been rewritten by sand heim. Well, what happened is that, um, I really didn't understand the lyric at first. I I wanted to understand it, uh, better. So I called him up and I asked him to explain it to me and exactly how it worked in the show. I had seen the show, but I, I wanted to hear it from him because this was written for an English woman in a show. That's why there are certain phrases that sound very fancy, you know, like, sorry, my dear or my fault, I fear. And I didn't quite know how to approach this. Um, I also, uh, thought that the bridge was absolutely exquisite and I had wanted musically to return to the bridge, but I didn't wanna sing the same lyric again. So I asked him how would he feel about writing a new lyric? And what is so extraordinary about him is that, that he said he would try. I mean, that he, that he believes as, as I do, that art is a very living process In print sometimes. Specifically comments actually on how he felt about this request. Without the dialogue, he says there is indeed an emotional gap. So when Streisand asked me to write something that would accomplish this transition in the middle, it seemed like a logical request rather than the whim of a diva. Here we can see then that although Streisand is kind of exerting her power as a diva, she's also doing so respectfully and collaboratively because she knows the results will be better. And indeed, sometime is keen to defend her from any pejorative association with the word diva because of this request to rewrite the song just for her. Lastly, we should observe her embrace of another form of collaboration, two, which is the duet. One of the performances that first solidified her national reputation was in 1963 when she appeared with Judy Garland on the Judy Garland Show. Um, she duetted with the legendary MGM star with whom she sang a special arrangement of. The songs Get Happy and Happy Days are here. Again, each of which was associated with one of them, the duet became iconic and has been reproducing concert by other singers as well as in the TV series Glee. And in that episode of the Garland Show, um, Streisand also sang briefly with Garland and Broadway veteran Ethel Merman, who kind of all just wanders in for a couple of minutes. A trio that placed her in the lineage of great musical belters, a topic they even discuss in the dialogue leading up to the song, there's no business like show business. Working in her early twenties with more established stars was a clear boost to her reputation. Subsequently, duets approved a route to maintaining or reviving her commercial success. In 1978 and 79, she recorded hit singles with Neil Diamond and Donna Summer, contemporary stars from very different areas of popular music. And in both cases, those collaborations led to number one singers singles. In 1996, she co-wrote and recorded the song. I finally found someone a duet with Brian Adams for her film. That Mirror has two faces, which of course she also directed and starred in, and it became her first top 10 hit single since 1981. A more recently two duets albums released in 2014 and 16, proved her commercial clout once again when both went to number one. She's also Duetted with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Barry Mano, Josh Gro, and Ray Charles and many others. It's not rocket science. Of course, if two or more popular artists record together, they bring together two different audiences, and therefore there's great potential for more sales. But the point here is that she has apparently enjoyed working with other singers enough to record several dozen duets over her career. She's done quite a lot. Thus showing again that this classic image of the diva who will only do work that's only about them is perhaps exaggerated. Now, although her name appears at or near the top of any list of contemporary divas, it's only right to acknowledge that Streisand herself seems sometimes irritated by the tag. And in an interview on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, she discussed the topic directly appearing to reject the label diva for two reasons. Let's have a look. I Was afraid that, uh, that you were coming here today and I was afraid that you were going to be like a more of a nightmare. Like what? I gotta be, I gotta be honest. I gotta be honest. I thought it was like a diva was gonna come in and started. I swear to God, that's why I wrote a song with John Mellencamp called Don't Believe What you Read. Yeah, please, guys. No, I mean, I I wasn't you, but you're, you, you came on time. You, you were very polite to my crew. You came to rehearsal, you're nice to everybody. Uh, what, what have you done with Barbara Streisand?<laugh>? Is she okay? No, you're allowed, you're, you're the one person who's allowed to be the diva of all divas. No, no, no. We can change the temperature in the room and the lights. You and, and we still will love you. No Divas were opera singers, first of all. Oh, okay. And how come they never call men divas? So she says, number one, that she's not an opera singer. And number two, she dislikes the pejoratively gendered use of the word. And in another interview on the topic, she says, I'm not a diva. I don't think so. Despite these objections, I believe that while her ambivalence towards the word is understandable, Streisand has in fact consciously constructed aspects of the diva persona through her performances. At least she might reject it in interview, but she invites it in performance. Now, Streisand is not, of course, an opera singer. And even her perfectly respectable if Unexciting album of classical music called Classical Barbara proves that she doesn't come from that musical world. But she is a soprano. And while she mainly avoids singing in head voice, which is the principle sound that we associate with an operatic soprano, her ability to sing in that higher place perhaps explains her capacity to float her voice in her many ballads eeg the way we were. Let's look at how this ability to sing in the soprano head voice has always been hiding in plain sight. Because in her early career especially, she would use that sound for comic effect. We're going to look at three short clips from performances from the late 1960s, all of which show us that she can really, um, get up there. First of all, observe a few notes in the song. His Love Makes Me Beautiful from the movie. Funny Girl, the character is making a joke about her femininity during a performance at the Zig Feld Follies. And lets out some unexpected high notes. Then in the verse of So Long Theory from Hello Dolly, she comes out with another one, and finally in an impressive mock operatic number from her television special, the Bell of 14th Street. She shows that the top of her voice works pretty well since otherwise she couldn't possibly come out with these sounds. Here are all three clips. Oh, oh, so beautiful, so beautiful. Streisand is no Maria callas and doesn't want to be. But these moments reveal the tantalizing potential of her voice For much of her career. She could go much further and higher than she chose to a soprano in hiding, so to speak. What could be more divas then? Two, the way her performances have been presented have frequently invoked exactly the kind of grandeur that we associate with the diva. Let's look at an example of how this has been consistently constructed throughout her career, namely in climactic notes, in significant numbers in her film musicals. Typically, she belts a high note for a long time and the camera zooms out amplifying her musical performance by giving the impression that the entire universe is temporarily emanating from her voice. We'll see this in Before the parade passes by, which is the lu song before the intermission of Hello Dolly in the title song of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which is the lu song of that film, um, in a piece of Sky from GenTel, which concludes that film, and in Dope Rain on my Parade from Funny Girl, which is the last song before the intermission of that film. And all four of these films are directed by different people, GenTel by Streisand herself, but use the same kind of visual strategy to similar effect. IE the camera zooms out as Streisand sings a climactic note at high intensity. You can, I can't hear you, Papa. I can see you Papa, I can You papa Love, because I'm, I gotta match my heart Is This technique kind of evokes the operatic soprano in the concert hall. It seems to me a small body standing on the stage and reaching and overwhelming the whole audience with the power of their voice. Although of course it's just an illusion in the film. But there is some deliberate attempt to, um, manipulate the emotion of the audience response. And given Streisand's unprecedented control of her work, it's clear that she's at least partly responsible for re representing power through her performances in this way. This visual framing also matches her clever and sensitive use of the microphone throughout her career. One of the ingredients of Streisand's success is her ability to tell a story often in an introverted and softly floating performance. Yet the power of her vocal resources and the longevity of that power is the voice related reason why she's a diva. She's kept working successfully over an impressive stretch of time. She had number one albums, I think in both 1964 and 2016, and a number of times in between, which is a record breaking stretch of over 50 years that proved she could still deliver the goods well into her seventies, which incidentally is much longer than most operatic Sopranos. Perhaps it helped that she didn't perform too often. She gave no public concerts between 1967 and 1994, a 27 year stretch explained by stage fright caused by memory lapses in that 1967 concert, which was delivered to over 135,000 people in New York Central Park. When she did return, it tended to be at roughly six year interval. So 1994, 2000, 2006, um, 2012 plus a few concerts in between. And subsequently, and maybe focusing on recordings and making films meant that she could conserve her energy and avoid the wear and tear that some other singers experienced, especially from lots of live performance in the theater. On the other hand, from her interviews, it's clear that not only does she not really enjoy performing live, but she has a fairly limited understanding of and interest in the mechanics of the voice. She's invested in spontaneity and has just believed that the sounds that she wants to make will come out. If anything, while her vocal power has inevitably diminished over time, the increased finesse of some of the later performances makes them more exciting and satisfying. And the fact that she's willing to sort of do them again when they're clearly demanding is impressive. So let's consider, um, some examples of her performing the same song at different points in her career. And I should preface this activity by making it very clear. I'm not claiming that there's been no change at all in her voice over a 40 year stretch, which would be impossible, but rather that she's remained vocally credible and expressive over an unusually long period of time. We'll begin with the song He Touched Me, originally written for a flop musical called Drop the Cat. It was a murder mystery that closed very quickly and it's, it starred, um, on Broadway Streisand's first husband Elliot Gould. The, um, show itself didn't receive, um, a studio cast album at the time because it closed on Broadway so quickly. So it's unusual that the song gained any traction at all, and it was all down to Streisand's recording. So we're going to hear two live performances, one from 1967 out in Central Park in front of hundreds of thousands of people, or tens of thousands of people. And we'll see, um, a second one from 1994. And although she does sing the song in the second clip slightly lower, in a slightly lower key, the preservation of her voice and effectiveness 27 years apart is at the heart of why she's such a high ranking diva Me. Yes, he Feeling like we should all applaud every time she sings in the 1967 performance. She seems to want to get through the climax of the song more quickly, which is kind of interesting to me because she has amazing vocal powers at that point. But she uses a kind of growl to give the moment energy, but it seems a bit too aggressive a gesture for what she's singing about that at that moment, which is the sudden feeling of falling in love. Whereas in 1994, there's a bit more warmth and energy in the way that she sort of belts on the same word suddenly. Um, and that seems to me a bit more effective. And as well, it seems a bit closer to what she does in the original studio recording of the song from 30 years earlier. Now, let's look at a really challenging and potentially unfair comparison. In 1966, aged to 24, she recorded the song starting here, starting now as the closing number of her television special Colory Barbara, in my opinion, it's one of her most vocally impressive performances of her entire career. The voice is unstoppably fresh in condition, and her commitment is full on 40 years later. She sang the song Live in Concert in 2006, now 64 years old. As with he touched Me, the key of the song was Lowered a Little, and there's no doubt that the musical director is helping her out a bit by moving through the passage a bit more quickly, um, when you hear it. Um, but we're gonna hear this, um, passage in which there's a long belt note in the middle of the song under which the orchestra plays this, um, dramatically rising scale to transition to a new place in the song. It's a really difficult, big ballad and a really risky choice to open a concert at this point in her career, age 64, when she could have fallen back on more comfortable repertoire. But ever the diva as she rises to the challenge and the audience goes wild in the middle of the song Starting here, starting The audience loves it. Finally, let's compare two live performances at the end of one of her signature tunes. Don't Ring on my parade from concert appearances in 1994 and 2006, the later performance, again, obviously delivered at the age of 64, still finds her in good voice as well as dele delivering this ish Coda te Ra as she disappears through the floor while belting the final note.<laugh>, it's slightly annoyingly edited because it goes to the audience at one point, as you'll see anyway, the constructed use of the staging, it seems to me, indicates that she knows that what she's doing is exciting and presents her work visually in a way that am amplifies its power On, because I'm, I, my I, But of course, she's not a diva. The final dimension of Streisand's career as a diva that merits examination is her active participation in politics and her generous philanthropy. She's been a staunch Democrat for a very long time, fundraising for Obama, for both of the Clintons and for Biden, and answering the call from the DNC on various other occasions too, nor does she just raise money for them. Um, on various occasions, she's written open letters to the Democrats to try to galvanize them into action. And in April, 2001, for example, she wrote a three page memo entitled, nice Guys Finished Lus, or Where Do We Go From Here? A Case for the Democrats in which she asked, what has happened to the Democrats since the November election? Some of you seem paralyzed, demoralized, and depressed. She called for a strong strategic targeted defense against the Republican Revolution. And these are blunt words, it seems to me, from am mere Pop singer. Now, Streisand is of course not the only popular artist to hold strong political views, but her assertive participation and dialogue, whether one agrees with her or not, is another reason why she's a powerful figure. And for me, clinches her diva status because she's fiery and unusually, this is something that she has frequently brought into her live concert appearances, sometimes getting her into a lot of trouble. Her ruthless declaration of her political views has totally ignored whether they're welcomed or not. In her first concert of her 2006 tour, she even brought on stage an impersonator of George W. Bush, who was then president, whom she proceeded to interview. And the New York Times relayed one of the exchanges, thus Streisand as the actor, how would the president erase the national debt? And he replied, sell Canada. They don't use half of it.<laugh>, she was heckled even though she was in her left-leaning hometown of New York and then swore at the heckler. It may have gone a bit too far, but she insisted on being heard. Later in that tour, she toned things down somewhat, but she still told a political joke, an explanation of how she hates being the subject of ridiculous rumors. This is a good one. Streisand said. She walked into a room full of musicians and fired everyone on the left. Now anyone who knows anything about me knows that if I were ever to fire people, which is crazy, it would be everyone on the right <laugh>. She cheered up somewhat during the Obama years, but during Donald Trump's presidency, she released an album of music in response to what she perceived was happening around her released in 2018. The album was called Walls, referencing Trump's Promise to build a wall at the Mexican border and included new songs including Don't Lie to Me, the Rain Will Fall and What's On My Mind. She also included an exquisite, uh, cover version of Leonard Bernstein's song, take Care of This House from their flop musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which is a history of the White House. And she even revisited her first commercial single Happy Days are here again, um, which has a song, which is a song with called, uh, considerable Political History. It was adopted as the Democrats campaign song in 1932 and Streisand's 1962 release, and was already sung a little wistfully as an unconventional kind of midt tempo upon its original release. But in 2018, it became an allergy with some re harmonization and a new arrangement. The late career Streisand brought a deliberate fragility to a song that was originally used to express the optimism of FDRs new Deal. The album was Streisand's first studio album, not to um, enter the top 10 in America since 1984. Perhaps not surprising since it was presenting drastic criticism of the person that the majority of the country had voted for. But after the terrific sales of her 2014 and 16 duets albums, perhaps she could afford to indulge. Streisand has also given serious talks on leadership and politics at Harvard University. In 1995, she gave a speech and entitled The Artist A Citizen, petitioning for the Importance of Funding for the Arts at, um, which at this point as almost always was facing Cuts in America. She talked about the work of artists and how they have to inhabit other people's psyches, understand other people's problems, adding that this does tend to make us more sympathetic to politics that are more tolerant in our work, in our preparation and in our research, we are continuously trying to educate ourselves. It's hard to hate someone you truly understand. She concludes, she's also tried to put her money where her mouth is again, one might not agree with her views, but she's given over $25 million to over 800 organizations through her foundation, including nearly 16 million from her 2007 tour alone, donating money to environmental causes, education and women's health. In June, 2012, she staged a huge fundraiser at her own home in California, raising over $20 million for women for research into women's heart disease. Half of it donated by herself through matched funding. I can't stand inequality of any form she told the Holli Hollywood Reporter, whether it's about civil rights issues, women gaze, whatever gender inequality really gets me much. Earlier in, uh, 1986, she gave a concert at her home to a gathering of celebrities not only raising millions for her foundation through record and DVD sales of the concert, but also boldly drawing attention to the impacts of climate change were being reckless with the whole miraculous balance of nature. She said, but I have great faith in people. The first payments from her foundation were to the Environmental Protection Agency, and she has remained active in verbally and financially supporting work related to climate change. What then will be Streisand's legacy? The great classical pianist Glenn Gould waxed lyrical about her interpretive abilities, declaring that when she performs no phrase is left solely to its own devices, and that her voice is one of the natural wonders of the age. She's had many admirers and also many detractors. She talks in interviews about a desire to establish the truth. And in 1977, she gave an extensive interview with Playboy magazine, promising to answer back almost 40 years later, she gave another major interview with the New York Times that the article titled Barbara Streisand sets the record straight. The imagery showed her in serious and reflective mood, and the subtitle explained the megastar is intent on correcting the tiniest errors and on defining her own legacy. Ironically, just four days later, the Times had to issue a correction, putting the record straight on four facts from the article itself. She's perennially burdened not only with gossip, but also with inaccuracies. Even when working with the most well-intentioned reporters for Streisand, it has not just been a case of finding her voice, but learning how to use it as an artist and as a citizen. That has made her one of the great divas of our time. And it may be that on the 7th of November at the age of 81, she will complete this journey as a diva with the biggest gesture of all the publication of her 992 page autobiography for by finally telling her own story in her own words, she asserts that her story belongs to herself. Thank you. Thank you very much. I get questions from abroad as well as in here. So, oh, um, the, um, I'm struck by your statement of her legacy or summing her up as her legacy and her own vision for her legacy. Mm-Hmm.<affirmative> and I, I suspect you're a bit of a fan, uh, of course, but who do you think has inherited that legacy? I mean, there's so many female sort of big voiced women who followed her. Yes. Um, is there anyone who you would identify as that person? Many actually, and I was going to play a load of clips about that, but you know, I am a big fan, but really not an uncritical one. And when I set out to do this, I was going to have whole sections of being quite negative about various aspects of a work. And then I thought, I'm just joining the same bandwagon of just being a man standing at the front of the room, rubbishing various attempts. We bold, when you look at the, the overall attempts to do serious work here, which are life's work is I don't really want to do that. So I think that this just general empowering of herself and acknowledging what she's tried to do and her many achievements seems more interesting to me. So looking then at the, um, I was thinking about the Kennedy Center Awards, which I think she won hers in 2008. People like Beyonce were performing in there, and Beyonce, um, performs the way we were in the least Beyonce performance ever. It's pretty, it's a pretty straight performance of it, which shows a kind of respect. And almost everyone that, all of the women that sing songs in this tribute, they all acknowledge what she's done and actually try to sort of bring Streisand to the performances of the songs rather than themselves. So I wouldn't say anyone, I don't think there's any single figure there. The fan base is huge, but I think that her, the point of Streisand is herself. And about the idea of empowering yourself, that was a very wishy-washy answer, wasn't it? But I think it's about self-actualization and empowerment and that being the model rather than other people trying to be Barbara Streisand. That's what I'm trying to say. Some, someone has sent in a question which sort of follows on from that Mm-Hmm.<affirmative> she gives the impression, or certainly throughout this clips that you've done, is making singing seem effortless. Mm-Hmm.<affirmative> at the same time as generating massive power. Yeah. Was that AUSP, if you like, was it, was it that that made her separate from the others? Or, or was there something more complicated? I don't think it's AUSP and I think to say something negative about her, I don't think her voice in itself is actually that large. And I think that what she managed to do was transition away from live performance quite quickly on purpose and focus on the studio where she could create work in, audition, in, in conditions that she could manipulate and control. And so I think the, and those film clips I was showing where the film is giving the impression that the voice is huge. I think the point is the illusion of the, the ease rather than the ease itself. You know, I, I think that actually on some level she's quite limited, but within her limited sphere, she's extremely expressive and knows and has known what to do. She seems like a very instinctive person. You know, she instinctively stopped performing live for a very long time and went and made movies, which was such a maverick kind of thing to do. So for me, um, I don't think it's AUSP. So I'm going to take the next question from the floor, but just as we, before we do that, what's your favorite song out of all of this repertoire? What Of, of the Streisand? Yeah. I really dunno. I don't operate on favorites. I'm sorry, <laugh>, but I, I think because the subject seems so, so much more interesting than that. And if you listen to the same song over and over and over, then it doesn't necessarily remain your favorite song. I like listening to the whole body of her work, including when it's not. Great. So let's take some questions from the floor. There's one in the middle over here. Hello. Um, just had a question of is there any modern artist that you could really closely relate to her? My mum says Lady Gaga <laugh>. I think Lady Gaga relates to her in the sense that she's a one-off, you know, again, I'm tentative to say this later woman, this younger woman or this woman of a later generation is sort of Barbara Mark too.'cause it seems to take away from both of them and missed the point with both of them. So I would, I think Gaga would be on a level with her because similarly she can make her version of A Star is Born and she can go on the Oscars and sing. I think she did the Sound of Music and she does all the, the stuff with Tony Bennett. She does all these things that you don't expect her to do, which seems very Streisand and there's something about inheriting the idea that women in the arts can do what they want to do and should be able to do what they want to do at least. So I think that there are plenty of contemporary women that have inherited that. But in terms of the actual artistic qualities, I think it takes away from both Streisand and other women too to make those comparisons because they're all, they're either one-offs or generic or in between, you know? And I think it's the idea of being empowered to be a one-off that seems the quality that she's put into the industry or the many industries. Did. Has she influenced the way songs are written? I mean, it's quite interesting all of them. Well, yeah, of suppose of course. But I mean, the way in which that dialogue between the, the writer and the singer, I mean, we've seen other examples of it I'm sure, but there's a sort of style of singing which Mm-Hmm.<affirmative> we sort of recognize as Streisand ask Yes. As though it links the lyrics and the, and the music together really closely. And, and a lot of people just turn up and sing a tune. It doesn't seem quite the same. Yeah, She's big into feedback. You know, when I talked about collaboration and I was trying to do so positively on purpose, but, you know, she gives a lot of feedback to whoever she's working with. The way we were written by Marvin Hamish, who'd been the, the rehearsal pianist on Funny Girl on Broadway. So they'd known each other for a number of years by that point. They worked together to make that song work for her, and then it becomes a big hit for her. So when she works with people, she tends to make it work for her. But then she still has, she has this other strand of, of doing a lot of standards, of doing cover versions of already famous songs and then having them completely rearranged. Or in the case of the sometimes songs, please rewrite this for me along the lines of my agenda. Well, thank You Very much.