How Barbra Streisand Got the Broadway Album Made: “I Basically Had to Sell Myself Again” a special passage from her autobiography.

Editor’s note: Barbra Streisand started work on The Broadway Album in 1985, following the success of Yentl and more than ten years of primarily rock and pop recordings. The Great American Songbook was only beginning to rekindle interest at the time, and Broadway-style music was seen as outmoded and unlikely to be successful as record sales. This exclusive passage from Streisand’s memoir My Name Is Barbra, which was released by Viking today, describes her difficult struggle to get the record made with her record company and her partnership with songwriter and composer Stephen Sondheim on the album’s title track.

Her goal for her next album was to return to my origins. And that meant Broadway, the stage on which she made her acting debut. Many of the greatest songs ever composed were originally intended for Broadway musicals, which are today acknowledged as an exclusively American cultural contribution. I first heard this music when I was a teenager, riding the subway to Manhattan to see them perform live after seeing the film versions at the Loew’s Kings in Brooklyn. I adore the music that this is.

She pitched her idea to Columbia, and Walter Yetnikoff and the other executives were infuriated. “Are you serious?” they exclaimed. Broadway songs don’t appeal to anyone. It’s outdated. It’s not for sale. Please perform pop songs for us. Record another album in the modern style.

“Contemporary music will always be great!” She stated.

She had spent twenty-three years with Columbia. For them, she had created twenty-three albums (plus ten soundtrack or compilation albums). She essentially had to sell her self again after five No. 1 albums, seven Grammy awards, and millions of dollars in record sales. It was rather embarrassing, to be honest.

This is also the reason she is so appreciative of her manager, Marty Erlichman, since he granted her the creative control she requested prior to signing her first recording contract. That implied she was free to create any album she desired. However, the record label told her that unless the album sold 2.5 million copies—which they obviously believed it wouldn’t—they wouldn’t pay her advance and wouldn’t count it toward her contract fulfillment.

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