David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 205: Barry Manilow (I Write The Songs)

December 2, 2022

Whatever trust issues I have, can be traced back to 1975. That was the year a 13-year old kid spent some of his hard-earned money from chores to learn that Barry Manilow didn't write the freaking songs.

Certainly, his "I Write The Songs," coming off of "Mandy" and "Could It Be Magic" made him a constant on radio, and that recurring line from its chorus, "I write the songs that make the young girls cry," made me want to write songs. By that point, the fact that Manilow was being revealed as the writer of many commercial jingles elevated his writing status in many a young boy's eyes.

So, imagine my horror to discover that Manilow did not write the song "I Write The Songs." In fact, he didn't write, either solo or in collaboration, 4 of the songs on Tryin' To Get The Feeling, the title track of which also not written by Manilow landed him in the Top 10.

"I Write The Songs" wasn't even first debuted by Manilow. Turns out Captain and Tennille  and David Cassidy had both beaten him to the punch in recording the song for 1975 releases. And yet neither Captain and Tennille  nor Cassidy wrote the song.

Good God, the music industry can fuck with one's head.

A Beach Boy wrote the song, a fact that would have meant little to me at the time. However, it's not THE Beach Boy, Brian Wilson, who would have every right to write "I Write The Songs," and nor was it his sleazy bandmate, Mike Love. No, it was some guy named Bruce Johnston.  C'mon everybody, let's play a game: Name a Beach Boy. After naming at least 3 Wilsons, a Love, a Jardine, perhaps even a Glen Campbell, maybe the more fanatical of us remember Bruce Johnston's name. Because the music industry can fuck with more than one's head, let it be noted that Johnston, despite some fantastic song-writing talent, has only released one solo album in his life.

You can watch a memorable clip of Johnston singing "Disney Girls" that he wrote for The Beach Boys on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Do it to appreciate how we may have undervalued the guy who wrote the song(s).

Back to Manilow. I no longer have Tryin' To Get The Feeling and have no idea when I got rid of it (at some point, I must have thought it was too uncool to have in my record collection). Outside of the two hits (that he didn't write), the only song I remember is "Bandstand Boogie," which he did co-write and which was Dick Clark's Bandstand theme for many years. Sure hoping there was some great residuals there, Barry.

Sadly, it didn't take long for me to openly mock Manilow, to the point where my friend's girlfriend, later wife, Karen, must have wanted to kill me. What can I say? Maturity came (is coming) very late to me. I pretended to be the music snob in devaluing him, but I wonder if part of me was still stinging from the loss of trust as revealed through the hits he wasn't writing. It's too bad because his version of "I Write The Songs" is pretty dramatic (especially the string onslaught in the intro) and pretty spectacular (the bridge end and segue back to the chorus). I don't want to diss David Cassidy too much, but his version carries none of the weight of Manilow's.

But then again, Manilow didn't have to carry Danny Bonaduce for awhile.

Barry Manilow. "I Write The Songs." Tryin' To Get The Feeling. Arista, 1975. Link here.

Day 204: Pink Floyd "Is There Anybody Out There?"

Day 206: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, & Linda Ronstadt "After The Gold Rush"

See complete list here.