Barbra Streisand: New Singing Sensation

Look Magazine
November 19, 1963

Look 1963 cover with Khrushchev

New Singing Sensation

Within three years, this complexly endowed 21-year-old lass has voyaged from an enormous, bleak place called Nowehere to a small, enchanted area called Somewhere. This rarely achieved move was fascilitated by a dramatic singing talent that has made her the most-talked-about, sought-after performer in many, many years.

“I often wonder why people like me. Maybe it's because I get up there and really give them me, and not a lot of baloney.”

Miss Streisand did not always want to be a singer; she wound up one by the fairly canny process of elimination. “I really wanted to be an actress,” she confessed recently, “but nobody I was interviewed by shared my, uh, views or, uh, obsessions. The poor jerks didn't know a good thing when they saw it. I mean, maybe I could've become Duse or somebody like that. Anyway, I thought, if they won't let me become an actress, what's to stop me from making it by yelling—singing. Anybody can make sounds. So I threw myself into that, you might say, bagpipes and baggage.”

That was when she was 18 and living with her mother in Brooklyn. She sang in nightclubs in the New York area—“I'd never even been inside a joint before I started singing”—and had a reasonable success. But it was not until she portrayed a Miss Marmelstein in the Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale that her star began to zoom. Her singing-acting wowed everybody, and from that point on, she has been surfing in a world of wild applause. From coast to coast, hypnotized patrons line up outside nightclubs to hear her almost overwhelming presentations of such items as Happy Days Are Here Again and Cry Me a River. She puts every nerve ending, muscle tendon and female oomph unit she has into a song; at the end of an evening, the audience is washed out. “I sometimes feel guilty because I've put them through the wringer, but I can't help it,” she says, smiling sadly yet triumphantly.

Her albums for Columbia have sold several hundred thousand copies. Her next big move: She will star in David Merrick's production Funny Girl, the story of Fanny Brice. “I can hardly wait. It's going to be a new me.”

Barbra relaxes in dressing room between shows

Barbra relaxes between shows to think over the problems of existence, and to munch a little. “I read a lot of philosophy so I can get some new questions to ask myself. I'm always wondering why.”

“You can learn quite a bit in the streets of Brooklyn, believe me.”

Barbra attributes her “life style,” as she puts it, to her growing up in the streets of Brooklyn. “You couldn't be dumb and survive,” she explains. “Those were pretty jumping years. You had to sort of make things up as you went along, constantly adapt, you might say.” She was raised by her mother. Her father, an English and psychology teacher, died when she was a baby. “My mother is really a very simple person. She's mainly interested in basic things like eating and breathing. She's a very secure person, sort of like, uh, normal.” Characteristically, Barbra has a rather unusual view of herself as a professional: “I'm not really a singer at all. I never took a lesson in my life. Actually, I'm an actress. And the songs are all little plays that I present. In one evening, I'm half a dozen different people—a whole repertory theater, kind of. Singing, or whatever it is that I do, is harder than acting. I'm up there alone, I've got nobody to back me up or bounce my stuff off, like other actors. It's tough, but I love it, I guess. But you never know. Maybe I'll wind up in the construction business.”

Streisand miming.

One of her favorite pastimes is miming. Here, she goes into an old-style sex-siren bit.

“When I'm up there singing, I'm trying to find what you could call the truth.”

Full length shot of Streisand miming.

The offbeat Miss Streisand has a very generous attitude toward her potential. “I truly believe I could be anything I want to be,” she says. “I mean, I could be a painter or a ballerina or a writer or even a good cowboy. I know that sounds a bit brash, but it's the way I feel. Nothing's worse than not thinking big, real big.”




Outtakes by David Drew Zingg

(Below:) Zingg followed Streisand around for this Look photoshoot. He photographed her at ballet class, catching a cab, and discussing business in an office.

Alternate Zingg photos in ballet class

(Below:) A Look ad for the Streisand story.

Look ad


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