Manilow was born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Harold Pincus and Edna Manilow. His mother's family was Jewish, while his father, who was often known by the surname "Keliher" was born to a Jewish father and Irish American mother. Barry's name was changed to Barry Manilow at the time of his Bar Mitzvah, adopting his mother's maiden name. Reared in the community of Williamsburg in northern Brooklyn, Barry attended nearby Eastern District High School, from which he graduated in 1961. In the same year, he enrolled in the Juilliard performing arts school, while working at CBS to pay his expenses.
At CBS, in 1964, Manilow met Bro Herrod, a director, who asked him to arrange some songs for a musical adaptation of the melodrama, The Drunkard. Instead, Manilow wrote an entire original score. Herrod used his composition in the Off Broadway musical, which enjoyed an eight-year run at New York's 13th Street Theatre. Manilow then earned money by working as a pianist, producer, and arranger.
During this time he began to work as a commercial jingle writer, an activity that continued well into the 1970s. Many of those he wrote and/or composed he would also perform, including State Farm Insurance ("Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there..."), and Band-Aid ("I am stuck on Band-Aid, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me!"), for which he adopted a surprisingly convincing childlike voice. His singing-only credits include Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, and the famed McDonald's "You Deserve a Break Today" campaign. Manilow won two Clio Awards in 1976 for his work for Tab and Band-Aid. These jingles were a mainstay of his concerts for years as his "V.S.M.", or "Very Strange Medley".
By 1967, Manilow was the musical director for the WCBS-TV series Callback, which premiered on January 27, 1968. He next conducted and arranged for Ed Sullivan's production company, arranging a new theme for The Late Show, while still writing, producing, and singing his radio and television jingles. At the same time, he and Jeanne Lucas performed as a duo for a two-season run at New York's Upstairs at the Downstairs club.(1968–1969)
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