Since the 1970s, Barry Manilow has been a household name thanks to catchy, romantic pop classics like "Copacabana" and "Could It Be Magic." And he's continued to use his talent for keeping the fans happy with his latest release, "Dream Duets," a unique take on crooning with musical legends (hint: they're all deceased).
But while Manilow's magic has been part of our lives for many years, there are at least five things you might not have known about him. Here's what we learned during his TODAY visit Monday:
One of his earliest gigs was playing piano for Bette Midler
"I never wanted to be a performer," he said of the job, in which he remained firmly in the background. "I learned about being professional."
Another early paycheck? Writing jingles
And not just any jingles; many of these mini-pop tunes are still used in ads today. Like for State Farm ("like a good neighbor, State Farm is there"). "I got [paid] $500 for that!" said Manilow, smacking his hand on the desk in mock disgust. Want to hear more? Check out this clip from his live 1977 album.
A quip got him in trouble with the Smithsonian
Manilow once wore a frilly-sleeved top on stage to perform "Copacabana," and later got a note from the Smithsonian Institution, which wanted to include it in their collection. The singer was honored, but couldn't resist an easy joke: "I said in an interview, 'I always knew it would wind up in an institution,'" he recalled. "And they were so insulted they sent it back!"
Early on, the idea of touring terrified him
After "Mandy" hit No. 1 in 1974, "my life exploded into a million pieces," he explained, but added that the tour he was then expected to do was worrying. "What am I supposed to do with my legs now? I've got to get up and talk to these people," he said. "I just was not prepared; I was pretty awkward. But the audiences didn't seem to have any problem with me, and I'm still here."
Savannah Guthrie appears to know all of his lyrics
During a "finish the lyric" game, the anchors were not as Barry-savvy as they'd hoped to be, and phoned a friend: Guthrie, in her office. Once on the phone, though, she couldn't seem to stop singing along with some of Manilow's greatest hits. Talk about the magic!
"Barry Manilow's Dream Duets" is out now.