Barbra Streisand (born April 24, 1942) is an iconic Jewish American singer, theatre and film actress, composer, and film producer and director.
She has won multiple Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, and Emmy Awards. Including a special Tony Award, she is one of the few people to have won all four awards.
She is also a liberal Democratic Party political activist.
She was born Barbara Joan Streisand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York then moved to another area in Brooklyn. Her father died when she was only 15 months old, and she had a lifelong turbulent relationship with her stepfather. Her well-intentioned mother did not encourage her daughter to pursue a show business career, opining that Barbara was not attractive enough. This criticism, many speculate, led to a lifelong insecurity about her appearance, despite enormous success in every facet of show business.
She was educated at Beis Yakov School and then famed Erasmus Hall High School, where she graduated fourth in her class, and overlapped by a year future collaborator Neil Diamond.
Following a music competition, she became a nightclub singer in her teens. She originally had wanted to be an actress, and appeared in a number of Off-Off-Broadway productions, including one with then-aspiring actress Joan Rivers, but when her boyfriend Barry Dennen helped her shape a club act first performed in a gay bar in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in 1960 she became a big success as a singer. It was also at this time that she shortened her first name to Barbra to make it more distinctive.
She signed her first recording contract with Columbia Records in 1962 and her first album, The Barbra Streisand Album, won two Grammy Awards in 1963. Her recording success continued, and at one time, Streisand's first three albums appeared simultaneously on Billboard's pop albums Top Ten - an amazing feat considering it was at a time when rock and roll and The Beatles dominated the charts.
Starting in 1962 Streisand also appeared on Broadway, first in a small but star-making role in the musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962) when she was still a teenager, and then as lead role Fanny Brice in Jule Styne's and Bob Merrill's Funny Girl (1964). After some notable television guest appearances, Streisand built on her success with a number of television specials for CBS. The first special, My Name Is Barbra (1965), is considered by many to be the best, and has been praised by critics and fans.
Barbra Streisand has recorded more than 60 albums, almost all with the Columbia Records label. Her early works in the 1960s (her debut, The Second Barbra Streisand Album, The Third Album, My Name Is Barbra, etc.) are considered classic renditions of theatre and nightclub standards, including her famously ironic version of "Happy Days Are Here Again". Beginning with My Name Is Barbra her albums were often medley-filled keepsakes of her television specials.
Starting in 1967, Streisand tackled contemporary songwriters; she foundered on attempts to tackle rock, but finally found success with the pop and ballad-oriented, Richard Perry-produced Stoney End in 1971, whose Laura Nyro-written title track was a big hit.
During the 1970s she was also highly prominent in the pop charts, with number-one records like "The Way We Were", "Evergreen", "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and "Woman In Love"; some of these came from soundtrack records to her films.
When the 1970s ended, Streisand was named the most successful female singer in the US, with only Elvis Presley and The Beatles having sold more albums. In 1982, music critic Stephen Holden wrote that Streisand was "The most influential mainstream American pop singer since Frank Sinatra."
Streisand returned to her musical theater roots with 1985's The Broadway Album. This was an unexpected commercial success, and featured some songs reworked by Stephen Sondheim especially for this recording.
In 1991 she released a four-disc box set, entitled Just for the Record. A separate disc, entitled "Highlights from Just for the Record" featured two dozen tracks, including live material, greatest hits, and rarities, from her early recordings up to 1991. Around 1992, however, success was not in Streisand's favor. She was losing money, and sought advice from former boyfriend Dennen. He suggested she perform in a series of live concerts, not only for financial reasons, but to overcome her chronic stage fright, as well. The tour was one of the biggest all-media merchandise parlays in history. Dennen later wrote a book called My Life with Barbra.
On New Year's Eve 1999 she returned to the concert stage, scoring another personal triumph for giving the highest grossing single concert in Las Vegas history to date. She later toured Australia with that programme, called Timeless, which was also released on a two-disc album by Columbia. At the end of the last millennium, she still was the number-one female singer in the United States, with number-one albums in each decade since she had started out.
Her most recent albums have been Christmas Memories (2001), a collection of somber holiday songs, and The Movie Album (2003), featuring famous movie themes and backed by a large symphony orchestra. Guilty Pleasures (called Guilty Too in the UK), a collaboration with Barry Gibb and a sequel album to their previous Guilty, was released worldwide in 2005.
Her first film was a reprise of her Broadway hit, Funny Girl (1968), for which she won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Actress, sharing it with Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter), the first time there was a tie in this Oscar category. Her next two movies were also based on musicals, Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! (1969) and Alan Jay Lerner's and Burton Lane's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970), while her fourth film was based on the Broadway play The Owl and the Pussycat (1970).
She also starred in the original screwball comedies What's Up, Doc? (1972), with Ryan O'Neal, and For Pete's Sake (1974), and the hugely successful drama The Way We Were with Robert Redford. Her second Academy Award was as composer of the song "Evergreen", from A Star Is Born (1976) and was the first time a woman had received this award (the film itself, though, was widely criticized as a vanity project).
Along with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier, Barbra Streisand formed First Artists Production Company in 1970 so these actors could secure properties and develop movie projects for themselves. Streisand's initial outing with First Artists, while not a huge commercial success, was the personal Up the Sandbox (1972).
In 1970, she had a topless scene in The Owl and the Pussycat. She quickly regretted the move and bought up all prints of the film, deleting the scene. When High Society magazine later published the original photos of her bare breasts, Streisand sued them.
She has produced a number of her own films, setting up Barwood Films in 1972. For Yentl (1983) she was producer, director, writer, and star, an experience she largely repeated for The Prince of Tides (1991). Steven Spielberg called Yentl a masterpiece, and many critics praised both it and Prince of Tides. There was controversy when Yentl received five Academy Award nominations but none for the major categories of Best Picture, Actress, or Director. There was more controversy when Prince of Tides received even more nominations, including Best Picture, but Streisand still was snubbed for Best Director.  Some claimed that her well-known uncompromising, tough behavior was to blame for the slight, while others felt that Hollywood was punishing her for being a woman, and if a man behaved the same way, he would have been given recognition.
In 2004, Streisand reappeared on the big screen in the comedy Meet the Fockers, playing opposite Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, and Robert DeNiro among others. The film was very successful commercially and Streisand garnered positive reviews.
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