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A SUPREME TALENT
By Jaan Uhelszki

At a time when rock and soul were taking over the pop music charts, a slightly more traditional young performer emerged as one of the supreme talents of American popular entertainment, bringing an undeniable spark to film, stage, and turntable. GREAT PERFORMANCES celebrates the 40th anniversary of one of Barbra Streisand's milestones with the broadcast of a newly remastered version of her first television special, MY NAME IS BARBRA. By the time CBS aired the show in spring 1965, Streisand was already a household name. She had debuted on Broadway in 1962's "I Can Get It for You Wholesale" and followed that up two years later with a star turn in "Funny Girl," playing the legendary comedienne Fanny Brice. Early appearances on the talk shows of Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Mike Douglas had made her a TV regular, while a series of best-selling Columbia LPs (beginning with 1963's BARBRA STREISAND ALBUM) influenced several generations of pop singers.

It was her youthful exuberance and, even more, her take-no-prisoners vocal virtuosity that made her so appealing. While much more personally stable than Judy Garland, it was instantly clear Streisand could achieve a similar bravura technique, the kind that made each artist a riveting force.

"Wholesale" and "Funny Girl" had made Streisand the biggest new theatrical star in years, and her records were heard far and wide. This led CBS to sign her to an exclusive and unprecedented 10-year contract to produce and star in a series of television specials over which she had complete creative control. MY NAME IS BARBRA, the first of them, premiered to millions of viewers on the evening of April 28, 1965. In three famous acts, she seared herself into America's consciousness with one song after another.

The atypical special was a singular showcase for her talents. Among its memorable moments: Streisand rushing through New York's Bergdorf Goodman department store in designer furs and hats to the tune of "Second Hand Rose" and "I Got Plenty O' Nothin'," and, at the end, taking to the bare stage to belt out a medley from "Funny Girl," a show she was still appearing in nightly on Broadway. This was a triumph of a different sort than what the Beatles had celebrated on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW the previous year, but in terms of sheer emotion and chops, very much in the same league.



Top banner photos: Barbra Streisand FROM MY NAME IS BARBRA (center photo: CBS Photo Archive).

Barbra Streisand

Streisand was only 23 when she starred in this special.

Barbra Streisand

The sailor dress she wore was auctioned for charity in 2004.

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The DVD, VHS, and CD are available from Amazon.com.


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