Chart Watch Extra: 50 Years Of Barbra
Fifty years ago this week, an original, audacious and gifted singer from Brooklyn entered the Billboard album chart for the first time. Barbra Streisand, who was not yet 21 when her debut album charted, was unconventional from the start, from the quirky way she altered the spelling of her first name to the defiant way she refused to alter the shape of her nose.
Those characteristics—originality, audacity and blazing talent—have made Streisand the most successful female singer of all time.
In 1963, when the year’s top three hits by female solo artists were the Singing Nun’s “Dominique,” Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” and Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party,” Streisand released an ironic ballad version of the rousing 1930 smash “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The sound of the record was so elegant, so grown-up, it made those other hits seem like trifles.
The Barbra Streisand Album went on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. Streisand was just 22 when she took that award in May 1964. She held the record as the youngest winner in that category for more than 30 years, until Alanis Morissette won it in February 1996 when she was just 21. (Taylor Swift broke Morissette’s record in January 2010, when she was just 20.)
Streisand continues to resonate in popular culture. Duck Sauce’s house-music track “Barbra Streisand” topped the dance chart and received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording. Streisand has been a frequent topic of discussion on such varied TV shows as The Simpsons, The Nanny, South Park and Will & Grace. And, of course, she’s the patron saint of Glee. Asked what she most likes to sing on the show, star Lea Michele replied, “Anything Barbra.”
Remarkably, 50 years later after her debut album hit the charts, Streisand continues to hold many of the most coveted records pertaining to female vocalists. Here’s a sampling: