January-February 2007

Hey, Mr. Manilow,
Don't Play a Song For Me

By Ross Altman

Barry Manilow and the 1960s. T-t-t-talkin’ bout my g-g-g-generation. Is it a perspective by incongruity, critic Kenneth Burke’s term for shedding light on one realm of experience by reference to a deliberately incongruous point of view, like “the war between the sexes,

Take away Dylan, take away Lennon, take away the Stones, take away the anti-war songs, take away the civil rights anthems, take away Woodstock; now tell me about the 1960s. That’s what Barry Manilow does in this follow-up to last year’s hit album The Greatest Songs of the Fifties.

Have I ever said a mumblin’ word about the King of Pap before? Not a one—I don’t waste time criticizing the rich and famous—it inevitably winds up sounding like sour grapes. But it’s my job (unpaid at that) to uphold certain cultural standards and to—if only for another day—keep the barbarians from the gate.

I wish Herr Shlockmeister had kept his smarmy hands off of my decade, or that his record company (Arista) had chosen a title not so patently grandiose and offensive to anyone with an IQ over 85. The Greatest Pop Songs of the Sixties, or The Greatest Love Songs of the Sixties would have done it, but no, they had to wave a red flag in front of me with the title The Greatest Songs of the Sixties.

As Huck Finn’s pap said, “That’s where I drawed out.

  

All Columns by Ross Altman