Barry Manilow writes the songs, but his family would prefer he didn't write his own history. In particular they'd prefer he didn't tell people he's actually the son of an Irishman. That's right, Manilow is actually half Irish.
A born and raised New Yorker, most fans know Manilow was brought up by his mother Edna and his Russian immigrant Jewish grandparents. But few know he is actually half-Irish.
The truth is, Manilow's late father was a man called Harold Kelliher, an Irish truck driver. Being poor and not Jewish, Kelliher had two strikes against him and was a persona non grata in the Manilow family. Their objections to his lowly status was a bit rich, Manilow told the Irish Independent this week, as their own background was 'beneath humble.'
'The fact that Harold was an Irish truck-driver was hidden from the family,' Manilow told the Irish Independent. 'It was considered a terrible thing for my mother to have done. They wouldn't even allow my name to be Kelliher. They changed it immediately. When I was born, I was called Barry Pincus. They had to dig deep into my father's family to find one Jewish relative. They went back to the 1800s and they found one uncle, a Jewish guy called Pincus. My mother made my father change his name to Pincus.
'Right now it sounds stupid but back then they thought that having a Jewish son was the most important thing. To me, it means nothing. As a matter of fact, it would have been interesting if my name was Barry Kelliher and if I was raised half-Irish and half-Jewish, but I wasn't. The Irish part of me did not exist. It was gone and forgotten.'
Manilow's parents divorced when he was still a baby and he was known as Barry Pincus until his grandfather brought him to have his surname changed legally to their family name Manilow.
The grandparents played an instrumental role in rearing Barry, lavishing him with love and all the while telling him that his biological father was 'a monster father.'
'That's what I was told, and also that I shouldn't have anything to do with him,' he says. 'I don't think he was a monster father at all.' There is a touch of tenderness in his tone as he recalls him. 'I think he was a good guy. He tried to get in touch with me, but they wouldn't let him in my world.'
As a boy one day walking in Brooklyn he heard a man call his name. Something familiar about his looks made Manilow connect his face to the one stray photo of his father he had seen.
'It was my 11th birthday. He handed me a tape recorder and ran away and got back into his truck. I didn't see him for many, many years after that. They just would not allow me to have anything to do with him.'
They met only one time later.
'He came backstage after a show - a quick conversation. He kept trying to get into my life, but it was just too late, too late,' Manilow sighs.
Another Irish truck driver named Willie Murphy came into his mother’s life and the pair spent a lot of their time drinking, but the relationship was not a destructive one.
Manilow says he listened to and was inspired by Murphy's Irish record collection and, later when he became his stepfather, both he and and his mother clubbed together to buy the boy a piano. It cost $800 and took five years to pay off but they loved him and they believed in his talent.
'They did a great thing,' he says.
Barry Manilow singing his world famous song "Mandy":
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