Entertainment

Barry Manilow did not think ‘Copacabana’ would be a hit

Barry Manilow recalled how he initially didn’t think one of his most iconic songs would be a hit.

During an interview with NBC News, the 80-year-old singer explained that he “never” knows when a song he creates will become a success.

“I just write them. And if I’m lucky, I make a great record out of it. And that’s it. That’s all I know,” Manilow said.

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Manilow was then asked to name a song that he “really did not put [his] money on.”

barry manilow smiling/barry manilow in copacabana movie

Barry Manilow recalled that he didn’t think his iconic song “Copacabana” would become a hit. (Getty)

“‘Copacabana,'” Manilow admitted of the 1978 classic that he co-wrote with lyricists Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman.

He continued, “It was fun to write it. It was fun to make a great record of it. And, that was it.”

Manilow remembered that he and his co-producer at the time, Ron Dante, doubted that the song would even get airplay.

“It sounded really great, but it was a novelty card,” he remembered. “Nobody was making songs like that. We never thought it would ever get played on the radio.

“But we took it to a disco, when there were discos and, we asked the DJ to play it,” Manilow continued. “And everybody ran to the dance floor and started to dance like they were back in the 1940s. They were dipping the girls and all because, you know, it’s ‘Copa.’ And, I said to Ron, we may be onto something with this one.

“And then, it turned out to be the most popular song in my catalog.”

barry manilow holding a micriphone and smiling on stage

The song won Manilow his first and only Grammy Award. ( Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Inspired by the legendary New York nightclub Copacabana, the song was featured on Manilow’s fifth studio album “Even Now.” “Copacabana” became the first certified gold single that Manilow wrote or co-wrote and reached No. 8 on the U.S. Billboard Charts. 

Manilow received his first and only Grammy Award for “Copacabana,” winning him the trophy for best male pop vocal performance in 1979.

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Due to “Copacabana’s” success, Manilow, Sussman and Feldman produced the 1985 musical TV movie of the same name based on the song’s story and lyrics with additional musical numbers. The trio later created a stage musical titled “Copacabana,” which debuted at London’s West End and ran for two years.

 “Copacabana” went on to tour the United Kingdom for 18 months, and more than 100 productions of the musical have been staged around the world.

barry manilow in movie copacabana

“Copacabana” was made into a 1985 TV movie musical. (Dick Clark Productions/Getty Images)

Manilow recently performed five sold-out concerts during his ongoing residency at Radio City Music Hall. The singer made history with his 42nd show at Radio City Music Hall, setting a record for the most performances by an artist at the iconic venue. 

While speaking with NBC News, Manilow shared that he is still surprised by his own success as a musician.

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“I’m a very grateful guy. I’m always surprised every night when there’s an audience out there,” he told the outlet with a laugh. “I say to Ken, my stage manager, I say, ‘Is there anybody out there?’ And I mean it.

“Because I wouldn’t be surprised after all these years if they stopped coming,” Manilow said. “I really wouldn’t be. They shouldn’t be coming after all these years. And I’m so grateful that they still have a good time with me.”

barry manilow performing on stage

Manilow recently set a record for the most performances by an artist at Radio City Music Hall. ( Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Manilow explained that he loves the process of creating music, even if some of his songs don’t go on to become hits like “Copacabana.”

“Sometimes I know they’re not going to ever be heard,” he said. “I just love making music, I love creating. I’m a creator.”

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Manilow continued, “And I’m happiest when I’m coming up with ideas. Even if they never see the light of day, I just love doing it. Especially since we now have machinery that you can make sound like anything you ever wanted in your dreams.

“And that’s why I stay in my studio and I just come up with ideas. And most of the time I throw them out. But for me, it’s my happiest time.”

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