CNN’s #WeLoveNYCConcert was supposed to be epic, and it started out living up to all its promise kicking off at 5 pm. Though the threat of a tropical storm was looming, the show went on, and some of the biggest names in music took to the stage and wowed the audience; among those performers were Carlos Santana, Jennifer Hudson, LL Cool J, and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Other big-name artists were still to come, such as The Killers, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and Elvis Costello, to name a few. And then there was the legendary Barry Manilow, one of my all-time musical heroes among those who first inspired me to sing as a child. The iconic maestro took to the stage to perform a set of his biggest hits — and there are many: Copacabana, Mandy, Could This Be The Magic At Last, and I Can’t Smile Without You are among my favorites.
The concert was about halfway through when Manilow enthusiastically greeted the New York crowd, beaming like a beacon of light, with his perfectly coiffed signature hair and gorgeous waist-tapered white blazer. He was in the middle of performing I Can’t Smile Without You when the skies opened up, dumping a severe rainstorm onto the stage and roughly 60,000 concert-goers.
Sadly, a decision was made to stop the concert, but it was the right choice given there were also reports of lightning over the city. Ironically, Manilow’s next song to perform in his set was going to be “I Made It Through The Rain.” However, once the show abruptly stopped, concert-goers were asked to evacuate and seek shelter. There were talks that the show might resume, but it never did. That doesn’t mean Barry Manilow still did not deliver one of the most epic moments on TV in a long time. And I lived for it!
As Anderson Cooper hosted live on-air coverage of the concert, giving home viewers a minute-by-minute update, he learned that Manilow’s performance had been stopped due to the weather. Totally bummed by the news, Anderson — a big Barry fan, put out a plea over the air, “Someone, please, have Barry Manilow call in.”
After a few moments, Barry was on the phone with Anderson, live on the air. Then, within seconds, with the brilliant fervor of the true seasoned pro that he is, he accepted Anderson’s request to sing live over the phone!
As Anderson swayed from side to side, with his hand in the air to Manilow’s serenade of “I Made It Through The Rain,” it was magical, fun, joyous, and precisely what the world needed at such a stressful time. At that moment, we all were Anderson and all was well in the world.
— 𝗷𝗼𝘀𝗵-𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝘃𝗮𝗫𝗫𝗫𝗲𝗱-𝗶𝗸𝘂 🇺🇸🏳️🌈 (@joshiku) August 22, 2021
An unexpected and well-deserved result of Barry Manilow calling in to Anderson’s show was the social media response. Celebrity gossip columnist Rob Shuter of the Naughty But Nice podcast, who just so happens to be married to Manilow’s longtime songwriting partner Bruce Sussman, shared a post last night on Instagram showing that “Barry Manilow” was among the top trending topics on Twitter. I went over to Twitter to check out the conversations and discovered many youngins, as I call them, just discovering Barry Manilow for the first time. That’s awesome!
I did have to laugh, though, when one young Twitter user asked, “Oh, is that the guy that sang Danke Schoen? I love him!” He was quickly admonished and I had to set him straight, letting him know, “Girl please, Wayne Newton could NEVAH!”
Most notably, though, Barry Manilow being able to brilliantly break into song, on piano, over the phone at the drop of a dime, says so much about the power of his musicianship. That is a skill, of course, anchored in not only his years of selling out stadiums as a megastar but the survivor skills of a performer who put in the work, from being a music student at Julliard to once singing commercial jingles before the world knew his name.
Barry’s call into Anderson Cooper is a valuable lesson in longevity for many musical artists today. Many of our modern pop stars are created based on how many social media followers they have accumulated. Add minimal music skills and a recorded product with so many studio tricks on their vocals that they sound impossibly perfect. It makes a great processed commodity. But what happens when those artists have to perform live and have no skill to survive an unexpected performance debacle? (No shade, but just think of Ashley Simpson’s performance on SNL.)
Now, back to Barry though. He’s already got millions of fans worldwide, but I hope he gained even more last night. And to all the up and coming, aspiring music artists out there, let Barry Manilow be your example; if you want survival and staying power in the music industry, then baby, put in that work, or else you will NOT make it through the rain.