“Life Cycle of a Woman”
Arranged & Conducted by: Michel Legrand
Lyrics by: Alan & Marilyn Bergman
Recorded April 19, 1973
TTG Studios, Hollywood California
One Streisand project never completed began in 1973. Michel Legrand wrote the music and Alan and Marilyn Bergman contributed lyrics to the project.
It has been referred to in various articles and books about Streisand as Life Cycle of a Woman.
“We never finished it,” Marilyn Bergman told Barbra Archives in 2007. “I think we all got busy.”
Barbra spent one day at TTG Studios on Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California recording the songs—April 19, 1973. The Life Cycle songs were recorded between other studio sessions for Classical Barbra which Barbra was working on with Claus Ogerman.
“I—kind of impulsively—wanted the experience of singing in the middle of an orchestra,” Streisand recalled about the session 39 years later. “I was told at the time that it would work, but what it does is it leaves you no room to lower a harp or bring out the voice, or whatever.”
Michel Legrand told Joyce Haber in April 1975:
All of the songs are written. The Bergmans and I have been working on this project for five years. But Barbra, she's such a busy woman. We've recorded almost half of it. We will finish it. The album concerns a lifetime. The first song deals with birth, the last with death. In between are songs about childhood, adolescence, a first love at age 16, marriage, motherhood. The songs are intense.”
Two songs from Barbra's Life Cycle sessions were included on her 1991 retrospective album Just for the Record (“Between Yesterday & Tomorrow” and “Can You Tell The Moment?”). Barbra, in her liner notes, referred to the project as Between Yesterday & Tomorrow. Marilyn Bergman elaborated: “I don't think we ever gave it a name. It's kind of an orphan.”
Barbra talked to writer Larry Grobel about the project in 1977:
Q: You've been preparing an album called "Life Cycle of a Woman” for six years. It’s supposed to be the first musical drama attempted on record. Why is it taking so long?
STREISAND: I'm already not going to make it. Sounds too impressive. I must pick that up, though. I did one session with three songs and they're quite beautiful. I have more of them.
Q: How often do you just record songs and then forget about it?
STREISAND: A lot.
Michel Legrand referred to the project (in a 1982 interview with Guy Abitan) as The Life And Death of a Young Woman. Legrand also spoke about it again in a 2003 interview with the BBC:
Legrand: One day when I started to work with Alan and Marilyn Bergman, one day I said – because, you know I’d been doing orchestrations for Barbra – I said, “Why don’t we write for Barbra a concept album? For instance, what about the idea of the life of someone, a woman? So she’ll be born, baby, young, teenager, first love, marriage, mother, grandmother, and dead.” “So why don’t we write a cycle of twelve, fourteen songs?” So they loved that idea very much and we wrote it together. The first song is one note, one syllable. Then you wait a few seconds, another syllable. It’s like the heart starting to beat. Two syllables. Three. Four. First phrase. This is exactly the contrary phrase, shorter, shorter. Four syllables. The way people are born and die. At the end, three then two, one, nothing. We played it for Barbra, she loved it very much but she said to us, “I can’t sing birth and death songs. It’s too deep, it’s too – I mean I can’t talk about death, I can’t talk about …” She says to me, “I will do the album if you cut out the birth and death songs.” I said no.
Streisand addressed the project in a 1999 Q&A with All About Barbra magazine: “The idea for this 'concept' record was to chronicle the arc of one woman's life from womb to tomb [...] For a variety of reasons, we all became involved in other projects and the idea lost momentum. However, from time to time, the songs we recorded back then do come to mind. In fact, on my new album A Love Like Ours, I've recorded 'Wait' which was originally conceived for the 'Life Cycle' project.
Alan Bergman elaborated: “We worked on the ending [of “Wait” with Michel Legrand]. We changed the ending from the original years ago.”
Incidentally, two unreleased songs (“The Smile I've Never Smiled” and “Once You've Been In Love”) which were recorded during the studio session on April 19, 1973 were thought to have been part of this concept album. In my 2007 interview with the Bergmans, I asked them to clear this up:
Matt Howe: Were “Once” and “Smile” part of the Life Cycles project?
Marilyn Bergman: No they were from pictures …
Alan Bergman: … themes from movies.
Marilyn Bergman: “Once You’ve Been in Love” was from a picture called One is a Lonely Number. And “The Smile I’ve Never Smiled” is from Portnoy’s Complaint …
The most beautiful song from the Life Cycle sessions is “Mother and Child.” Like “One Less Bell to Answer” from the Barbra Joan Streisand album, “Mother and Child” is another song in which Streisand duets with herself. She recorded each part separately and the engineer combined them for the final track.
MOTHER AND CHILD
Lyrics by Marilyn & Alan Bergman; music by Michel Legrand
MOTHER:For a little face, that's the biggest yawn
- Look at teddy bear yawning, too
- All those animals sleeping in your bed
- Do you really think there'll be room for you?
- Time to tuck you in, warm and cozy-like
- Are you comfortable, little lamb?
- Such a sleepy smile you must surely know
- All the lovely things you'll be dreaming of
- Swinging tree top high, sliding “derry down”
- Eating jelly beans to your heart's delight
- In a fairy tale in a wonderland through the night...
CHILD:I hope that she forgets and leaves my door open
- So I can have a little light from the hallway
- If I can hear them talking, If I can hear them laughing
- I know I won't be frightened, maybe
- At night I know that's just my chair, the nice red one
- But it looks different than it looks in the daytime
- Sometimes I think it's moving, a big enormous monster
- A dinosaur or dragon maybe
- I close my eyes and there are ghosts and witches
- I'm scared a wicked witch will eat me
- Oh, how I wish it wasn't always dark at night...
BOTH SING SAME PARTS, DUETING
“Mother & Child” was officially released in 2012 on Barbra's album, Release Me.
“The Smile I've Never Smiled” and “Once You've Been In Love” are slated for a second volume of Release Me in the future.
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