Barbra Streisand’s status as one of the most successful singers of her generation is all the more remarkable not only because her popularity has been achieved in face of a dominant music trend—rock ‘n’ roll—which she did not follow; but also because, despite an amazing singing voice that has enthralled practically anyone who has heard it, she has always used singing as a mere stepping stone to other careers, as a stage and film actress and as a film director.
Streisand struggled briefly as an actress and nightclub singer in New York in the early ‘60s before landing her first part in a Broadway show, “I Can Get It for You Wholesale”, in 1962. The cast album for that show and a subsequent appearance on a studio revival of Pins and Needles were her first recordings. Signed to Columbia Records, she released her first album, The Barbra Streisand Album, in 1963. It became a Top Ten, gold-selling record, turning Streisand into one of the best-selling recording artists of the early ‘60s.
But despite three successful albums by early 1964, Streisand turned her back on potentially lucrative concert bookings in favor of a starring role in the Broadway show, “Funny Girl”, in which she appeared for more than two years. “People” from that show became her first Top Ten single, and the People album her first chart-topping LP. She turned to television in 1965 with My Name is Barbra, the first of five network specials. In 1967, Streisand went to Hollywood to film Funny Girl, for which she would win an Academy Award. But by 1970, with her second and third films flops and her recording career flagging in the face of rock, she seemed consigned to Las Vegas before turning 30. Instead, she returned to hit-making with a Top Ten cover of Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End” and a successful non-singing performance in the comedy, The Owl and the Pussycat.
In the 1970s, Streisand successfully married her musical and film acting interests, first in The Way We Were, a hit film with a theme song that became her first number one single; and then with A Star is Born, which featured her second number one single, “Evergreen”, a song she co-wrote. From that point on, every album she released sold at least a million copies. In the late ‘70s, she found recording success in collaboration: her duet with Neil Diamond, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, hit number one; as did “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, a dance record sung with Donna Summer. She had her biggest selling album in 1980 with Guilty, which was written and produced by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees and contained the number one hit, “Woman in Love”. In 1983, Streisand’s first directorial effort, Yentl, became a successful film with a Top Ten soundtrack album. In 1985, The Broadway Album returned her to the top of the charts. Just for the Record was released in 1991..., a boxed set retrospective, and her second film as a director, The Prince of Tides. Streisand returned to the concert stage in 1994, resulting in the Top Ten, million-selling album, The Concert. In 1996, she directed her third film, The Mirror Has Two Faces; and in 1999 she released A Love Like Ours.
The 2000 album, Timeless: Live in Concert, was recorded at her Las Vegas show on New Year’s Eve 1999 and released on both CD and DVD. A year later, the new holiday album, Christmas Memories, arrived, then a sequel to The Broadway Album, The Movie Album, appeared in 2003. In 2005, a deluxe, CD/DVD reissue of the original Guilty was followed a month later by Guilty Pleasures, a new album that reunited Streisand with Barry Gibb.
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.
Over the years, Streisand has been the recipient of an award in every medium she has worked in. This "grand slam" as an honoree has never been duplicated by any other performer in history. Among her many awards are two Oscars, six Emmys, eleven Golden Globes, ten Grammys, a Tony award, two cable ace awards, the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a number of other awards.
In 1995 she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. As of 2005, her U.S. album sales rank her as the top-selling female recording artist in the US.