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Legendary Singer-Actress Barbra Streisand At 80: Still Topping The Charts!

Born on April 24, 1942, Barbra Streisand has been celebrated for over 60 years for her acting, singing and stagecraft, winning a swag of Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony awards along the way. She has sold more records than The Beatles, and is the woman with most top 40-charting albums (54). Yet while she has lived for decades among the stars in Hollywood and Malibu Beach, she says she remains a humble working class Brooklyn girl. Born into an impoverished Polish-Russian Orthodox Jewish family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Streisand hasn't forgotten her roots.

"There"s something about growing up in Brooklyn and living in New York so many years. It"s a very realistic point of view, earthy," she told Variety magazine in 2021.

'Funny Girl' instead of Shakespeare

Streisand's father died when she was just 15 months old. Her mother, a singer, set aside her dreams to support the family by taking on a job as a school secretary. Barbra continued to dream, however, signing up for acting classes at the age of 14. At the same time, she sang in the school choir and later in small nightclubs.

"Because I was known as 'the kid on the block with a good voice' I entered a talent competition, which I thought might at least help pay for my meals until I could do Shakespeare or Ibsen," she told the British newspaper, the Telegraph.

She won first place in the competition and her star began to rise. Her career began not on the theater stage but in big-name nightclubs, where Streisand worked as a singer. At 19, she made her Broadway debut and just two years later, she won the critic's prize for the best actress in a musical for her role in "I Can Get It for You Wholesale."

Nearly simultaneously, her eponymous album was released and won two Grammy awards. In 1968, she made her big breakthrough in the musical, "Funny Girl." It tells the story of the Jewish comedian Fanny Brice who overcame the naysayers who'd labeled her an ugly duckling and became a Broadway star in 1910. The role seemed to be perfectly suited to Barbra.

Hollywood career

Awarded an Oscar for her performance in the musical, the then-25-year-old continued to appear on the silver screen in films like "What's Up, Doc?" (1972) and "The Way We Were" (1973) and carried her fame with her to cameo roles on television series, including "Glee" and "Dancing with the Stars." Her repertoire shows the wide spectrum of her talent, as she appears in comedies and dramas alike. She has appeared opposite Omar Sharif, Yves Montand, Sidney Poitier, Nick Nolte, Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro.

Her favorite leading man, however, was Robert Redford in the romance "The Way We Were." "We never quite knew what the other one was going to do so we were watching each other carefully, interested in each other, and I think the audience felt that."

In 1983, Streisand took on her first role as producer, director, main actress and singer all at once in the film "Yentl." The movie centers on a young Jewish woman who dresses as a boy in order to attend Yeshiva, a Jewish school, to study the Talmud.

"I don't want to brag," Streisand told the press at the time, "But Steven Spielberg said that he would have liked to have criticized 'Yentl' but in his eyes, besides 'Citizen Kane,' there was no better film."

"Yentl" went on to win an Oscar for best soundtrack. Her later directorial success, "The Prince of Tides" (1991), was nominated for seven Oscars. She plays the main character opposite Nick Nolte; her son Jason Gould, from her first marriage to Elliot Gould, likewise appears in the film.

'A voice like diamonds'

Streisand sings in most of her movies - and boy can she sing! "I thank God for giving me this great voice," she once said. When she was honored with the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" in 2015, the highest honor for US civilians, then-US President Barack Obama lauded her, saying she had a voice like diamonds. Many of her songs, like "Woman In Love," "The Way We Were," "A Star Is Born" and "Guilty," are evergreen hits.

Although she has turned 80 years old, Streisand is a long way off from quitting show business. She just released another worldwide top ten album in 2021, "Return 2 Me," and is due to become the chair of the Performing Arts Center at the new World Trade Center in New York when it opens in 2023.

Streisand is also very politically active, supporting environmental activism and tweeting her liberal opinions. She has spoken out against Donald Trump, last year calling his presidency a "disaster" and "four years in a black hole."

When free of engagements, Streisand returns to Malibu, California, where she lives with her second husband, actor James Brolin. Happy Birthday, Babs!

Source: DW

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