Date TimeJuly 07, 2019
VoiceAs the revered star prepares to play Hyde Park, Paul Taylor assesses her impact on the gender debate and her musical legacy
Barbra Streisand has kept her head when other great talents fell apart
I have measured out my life in Barbra Streisand albums. Millions of us have. Given her achievement of selling 150 million of those albums worldwide, it would be hard to dispute her right to be ranked among the all-time-great female recording artists. I would put her at number one.
But it’s only relatively young fans (or the more forgetful older ones) who could claim to have measured out their life in Streisand concerts. When the 77-year-old diva lifts that incomparable voice in song in Hyde Park on Sunday 7 July, the tally of her performances as a concert headliner will – if only just – stretch over the hundred mark. Which is scarcely numerous when you consider that it’s now more than half a century since the brash kook from Brooklyn, who resolutely refused to have a “schnoz bob”, started to electrify audiences in Greenwich village nightclubs. Her voice’s goosebump-inducing speed of vibrato and the delectably drilling narrowness of timbre (possibly the result of a deviated septum) create a sound that is, to this day, unmistakably hers – even when you hear it at a distance in a noisy department store.
Streisand forgot the words to some of her songs while performing for the 150,000 people who piled into her free Happening in Central Park concert in 1967. This forgivable lapse became magnified in her soul into a traumatic experience. Between that date and her astronomically lucrative “return” in Las Vegas at New Year 1993-94, she did not sing before a paying public, restricting her live performances to shows for charity or in support of office-seeking Democrat politicians. So, for more reasons than one, Sunday’s Happening in Hyde Park – where special guest will include Bryan Ferry, Kris Kristofferson (her co-star in the original A Star Is Born) and Ramin Karimloo​ – constitutes an event you will want to tell the grandchildren about.
Seventeen year ago, The Independent published a collection of my thoughts on Streisand on the eve of her 60th birthday. I can make the small boast that, in the interval between then and now, words written by the present writer are to be found quoted in Streisand’s Wikipedia entry. In my Independent review of her last live concert in Britain (at the O2 in 2013), I made a link between invincible vocal technique and moral character. I conceded that her sound, at that time, was a little “scratchy and frayed, though the stout resolve and superb technique with which Streisand manages to hoist it over these difficulties has come to seem morally as well as aesthetically impressive”. I stand by this as a general statement of principle, but I’m delighted to report that, since then, the voice has regenerated itself to a quite remarkable degree, delightfully reminding you why it has been justly likened to “liquid diamonds”.
Looking at “What Barbra Did Next”, from age 60 onwards, it’s heartening to note how – in terms of championing the Democrat cause and women’s rights in particular – she has resisted the mellowing process. True, she has not entirely dispensed with the diva’s handbook. For example: she notoriously cloned Sammy, her beloved Coton de Tulear dog, and took the furry issue, Miss Fanny and Miss Scarlett, to visit their clone mom’s last resting place. Gloria Swanson, in Sunset Boulevard, would lift a glass to that.
But at the respectable end of scientific endeavour, Streisand spent a fortune striking a blow for female equality by founding the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Centre at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in LA. This groundbreaking venture addresses a life-or-death imbalance. More women die of heart disease than men because experiments are routinely performed on male animals whose physiology crucially differs from that of female counterparts. The centre pries open this vicious circle. And while it is no secret that Hollywood like to dump on Trump, few artists have gone for him with the verve of Streisand. At a Wall Street fundraiser for Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election, she sang Stephen Sondeim’s pointedly debunking rewrite of one of his own hits, “Send in the Clown” (sic); she has become a late-flowering anti-Trump columnist for the Huffington Post and she released Walls, a whole album inspired by her contempt for the 45th president (spin-off single “Don’t Lie to Me”).
Barbra Streisand has kept her head when other great talents fell apart
Trying to describe to a friend the impact of meeting Streisand, Jamie Foxx – with whom she memorably duets on the 2018 album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway – resorted to an admiring quip: “Barbra? She gangsta.” The gangsta goddess? If anyone can be said to deserve such a disjunctive description, it’s Streisand. In the souls and bodies of great artists, there is, almost invariably, a creative contention. Think of the bisexual tussle between yin and yang in the persons and personas of, say, Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando. Streisand’s greatest achievement (to date) is the movie Yentl, in which the eponymous heroine from the early years of the 20th century disguises herself as a young man in order to enter the male world of study. “Not since As You Like It,” I opined, in 2002, “has there been such a searching, delicate, funny-sad examination of what we can learn about gender and reality from playing hookey, for a while, in the clothes of the opposite sex.”
Our appreciation that things are more fraught with risk and richness in the non-binary world of gender has, of course, much advanced since I wrote those words. The unflaggingly liberal-minded Streisand understands this too; she has produced several films, such as Serving in Silence: the Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (1995), starring Glenn Close, which attest to how she has kept pace with change. But the deep poetic truths in Yentl hold good.
Besides, Streisand’s talent is bifurcated in virtually every respect – in ways that are rooted in gender, but ramify outwards from it. Take the discrepant sides of her face. It has always been grist to the gag-writers’ mill that she prefers to be seen in her left profile. Films have been framed and talk-show studios turned right round to accommodate this predilection. What matters is not whether empirical reality bears out her downgrading of the right front of her visage. It’s her inner perception of the “problem” that matters and it proves to be of a piece with other discontinuities in her creative psyche.
Barbra Streisand has kept her head when other great talents fell apart
Emmanuel Streisand, her PhD teacher-father, died when Barbra was a baby of 15 months. The result was a widow whose grief left her on wary guard against any impulse to optimism and a family that was, in respectable ways, basically dysfunctional. Streisand was the wild child who ate out of pots on the stove – and who in single-minded reaction to this (her mother curbed her enthusiasm, not wanting her daughter to become “swell-headed”) ended up revolutionising the whole idea of what is means to be a “Jewish princess”.
There’s one regard in which I wonder if this universally feted megastar gets sufficient credit. Unable to take the strain of being the custodian of enormous talent, other luminaries – from Judy Garland to Janis Joplin – have gone the way of sozzled, pill-popping flesh. But Streisand has “kept her head/ When all around were losing theirs” to adapt Kipling’s “If” in a rather different context. The consequence is that, at 77, she is still here to tell us that, as Yentl affirms, “Nothing is impossible.” Her genius is to make one feel this – not as some idle, airy piece of showbiz uplift, but on the pulses and, stirringly, in the well of one’s own throat.
The throbbing climb of the voice and the revving engine of its lyrical lift-off bespeak both the unappeasable hunger of the eternally bereft child and the immeasurable hope of a woman who had the guts not to go under. One thing is certain: the world will never hear its like again.

Tacko Fall had his moments
‘Floribama Shore’ star Nilsa Prowant allegedly flashed breasts, kicked out car window: report
Adam Sandler And Skai Jackson Share Their Heartbreaking Reactions To Cameron Boyce’s Death
Beth Chapman Shared Memorial Ideas with Her Family Before Death
Megan Rapinoe on the spot as USA beat Netherlands to win Women’s World Cup
El Chapo: US prosecutors want Mexican drug lord to forfeit $12.7bn following conviction
Fresh clashes in Hong Kong after huge march to China station
Forget smart bulbs, this discounted TP-Link smart light switch adds smarts to every bulb in the room
Spy Sub Down: How a Secret Russian Nuclear Submarine Caught Fire
Ocasio-Cortez responds after Pelosi dismisses young House progressives
China Likely Tested Missiles That Can Kill Aircraft Carriers in the South China Sea
California governor says earthquakes are a 'wake-up call'
Johnson Set for Crushing Victory Over Hunt, Poll Suggests
Shutdown Showdown: How the Strait of Hormuz Factors into the U.S.-Iran Crisis
Hong Kong protesters march on station to 'educate' Chinese mainlanders
Officials: Searches find nobody in blast-damaged Nevada dorm
Italian captain under investigation for rescuing 41 shipwrecked migrants
Protests pile pressure on Hong Kong's already-stressed youth
Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce dies at age 20
Meghan and Harry share ‘deliberately intimate’ Archie christening photo to ‘endorse' event
Iran to breach uranium enrichment limits set by landmark nuclear deal
Hong Kong Protesters Take Message to Mainlanders in New March
George Kay Dead: Kerry Katona's Ex-Husband Dies Aged 39
Wreaths Laid On 14th Anniversary Of 7/7 London Bombings
Thirteen-year-old girl fought off attacker and escaped attempted kidnapping in New York
California earthquake: more major quakes and months of aftershocks likely, seismologists say
U.S. envoy says latest peace talks with Taliban 'most productive' so far
Trump claims July 4 rally will lead to 'big spike' in people joining US military
Gas explosion at US mall injures 21
Rattled nerves, minor damage from second major Southern California quake
Erdogan Ousts Central Bank Chief Who Drew Ire for Holding Rates
Trump claims Americans 'took the airports' in War of Independence - over a century before first flight
Turkey Will Soon Have Russia's S-400 (And Is Stockpiling F-16 Parts)
Trump seeks to override Supreme Court ruling on census
China station next target for Hong Kong protesters as new rally begins
Alex Rodriguez Consoles Jennifer Lopez After She Breaks Down on Tour
The Real Story Behind Adele’s New Mystery Man
Tribute or prank? New statue of Melania Trump in Slovenia confounds residents
Deutsche Bank could cut up to 20,000 jobs
Stevie Wonder tells Hyde Park crowd he will take break from music to have kidney transplant
Vinnie Jones' wife Tanya dies after long illness
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein arrested and accused of sex trafficking minors, sources say
Brazilian bossa nova pioneer Joao Gilberto dies at 88
Amanda Nunes wins big, Jon Jones squeaks decision at UFC 239
Cameron Boyce Dead: Disney Channel Star Dies Aged 20
UN condemns attack on migrants, calls for Libyan cease-fire
Russian Oligarch Scoffed at FBI’s Collusion Theory
Justice Department presses for census citizenship question
California governor says earthquakes are a 'wakeup call'
Malta heads off crisis with Italy migrant swap
Hong Kong protesters hold vigil ahead of Sunday march
AP Sources: Jeffrey Epstein arrested in NY on sex charges
Biden: I Was Wrong to Tout Work With Racist Senators
U.S. Senator Warren proposes executive action on women of color pay gap
With Jony Ive Gone, the Steve Jobs Era of Apple Is Finally Over
'Dancing aunties' spark new Hong Kong protest
California earthquake: Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team plays on while quake rattles stadium
‘We should expect more quakes’: a top seismologist on California’s tremor
U.S. Still Puzzled Over How to Add Census Citizenship Query
Migrant rescue sailboat defies Salvini, docks in Italy
The Latest: Gov. Newsom says Trump wants to help California
Iran hints it could enrich uranium to 5 percent
Kamala Harris proposes $100B in homeownership assistance
Alaska sees record temperatures in heatwave
Apple is reportedly working on a foldable iPad with 5G support and a massive screen
Los Angeles 'Big One' quake fears revived by major shocks
Harris's $100 Billion Plan Aims to Help Black Families Buy Homes
Sneaky: America's F-22 Stealth Fighter Snuck up on an Iranian F-4 Phantom
Top official says Iran ready for higher uranium enrichment
Seized North Korean ship sought for American student's death
Police: Security officer's gunshot warning caused stampede
Australian student 'very happy' in Tokyo after North Korea detention
Trump asks Americans to 'stay true to our cause'
Mexican authorities rescue 24 kidnapped migrants
20 civilians killed in northwest Syria: monitor
'Return to normal life' for Australian held in North Korea
Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke says she put pressure on herself to feel normal after suffering a stroke
10 deals you don’t want to miss on Saturday: $25 true wireless earbuds, $4 Instant Pot cookbook, AirPods 2, more
Multiple injuries in Florida gas explosion
Large crowd expected at Beth Chapman's memorial in Colorado
Nicki Minaj asked by human rights group to pull out of Saudi Arabia concert: 'Refuse the regime's money'
Kylie Jenner Got Some Backlash After Showing Off Her Many Luxury Cars on Instagram
Mike Teunissen pips Peter Sagan to line in Tour de France stage one photo finish
Massive explosion at Plantation Florida shopping mall, mass casualties 'like apocalypse'
Pride in London: Sadiq Khan attacks Boris Johnson for using 'homophobic language'
Iran condemns detention of oil supertanker in Gibraltar
'We need to talk about that' - Serena Williams wants Andy Murray chat at Wimbledon
Emotional Dan Evans beats Basilashvili to reach Wimbledon third round
Elephants: the jumbo surprise outside Nigeria's megacity
Amazon’s blowing out brand new SanDisk microSD cards starting at under $6
Venezuela Independence Day marked by rival rallies, UN rebuke
After Losing Istanbul, Erdogan's Grip on Turkey Will Never Be the Same
Trump administration could fell 320,000 trees to supply US 2020 census
Trump news: President’s ‘embarrassing mess’ parade speech widely mocked, amid arrests over July 4 fights between MAGA fans and left-wing activists
North Korea says released Australian student was 'spying'
Rivals Biden, Harris to circle each other in South Carolina
Shiseido unveils intelligent skincare system based on Internet of Things
Cat and Mouse: A U.S. Destroyer Shadowed a Russian Warship in the Caribbean
Families file suit in bizarre US mistaken identity case
North Korea says released Australian student was spying
Rustic sculpture of Melania Trump unveiled near Slovenian hometown
Trump presses for contentious census citizenship question despite legal uncertainty
Ultimate Weapon? Sanctions on Iran's Supreme Leader Really a Game Changer?
2020 Democrats see opportunity on foreign policy
California desert braces for aftershocks from major 7.1 quake
Crews assess damage from second big quake in Southern California
Trump asked to declare state of emergency after 7.1 earthquake strikes southern California
Turkey sacks central bank governor: presidential decree
US races for Taliban deal but Afghan peace further away
Videos Show The July 4 Earthquake Rippling Across North America
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Holding Private Christening for Baby Archie
Beth Chapman's Family Bracing For Massive Turnout at Colorado Memorial
The Overreach of LGBTQ Activism
Ashleigh Barty powers past Harriet Dart into Wimbledon last 16
Players tell themselves the World Cup final is just another game. They're wrong
Former NFL star Tedy Bruschi recovering after second stroke
Russell Westbrook likely to be shopped by OKC
Morata leaves Chelsea for Atletico on permanent deal
Hong Kong Protester Who Defaced the City Emblem Is Still Angry
These $8 outdoor LED bulbs that turn on at night and off in the morning don’t even need Wi-Fi
Haftar Vows No Let Up in Tripoli Fight as He Dismisses Rival
Trump says US troops 'took over airports' in war almost 100 years before planes were invented
Southern California Rocked by 7.1-Magnitude Earthquake, Strongest to Hit Area in 20 Years
U.N. nuclear watchdog's board to meet on Iran at request of U.S
Alaskans put away jackets, get out sunscreen amid heat wave
Could This New Threat Bring Down the Peerless F-22 Raptor?
Trump Remakes July 4th With Speech, Fireworks, Military Display
California shaken by second earthquake: 7.1-magnitude tremor causes rockslides, fires and fresh damage
Democrat Klobuchar announces plan to help U.S. teachers and students
Protesters in Myanmar demand justice after 2-year-old raped
Biden jabs leftwing Democrats and says Trump a bully he'd 'smack in the mouth'
July 4th 2019: How a tax on playing cards and a thwarted tea shipment led to American Independence Day
US lawmakers again urge sanctions over China's Xinjiang crackdown
California earthquake: Fears of imminent major quake grow after ‘swarmageddon’
Libyan Strongman Wants to Control Tripoli, Not Peddle Oil
Marathoner Accused of Cheating Found Dead in L.A. River
Did You Have Fun on the 4th? J.Lo, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, and Gwyneth Paltrow Sure Did
California has the biggest earthquake in 20 years: is it getting close to 'The Big One'?
Amber Portwood’s Ex Gary Shirley Speaks Out After Her Arrest
Serena Williams Reveals Why She Won't Be in Attendance at Baby Archie's Christening
Shawn Mendes Melts Hearts Letting 'Little Angel' Fan Kiss Him During Show
Amazon founder Bezos' divorce final with $38 billion settlement: report
Police recover body of slain Utah student Mackenzie Lueck in Logan Canyon
Chris Cline, America's 'King of Coal' killed in helicopter crash
Jamie Murray explains player council exit as Novak Djokovic dodges political questions
'Curtis is too honest but he didn't cheat on Amy on Love Island', says dancer brother AJ
Pride in London organisers fend off pinkwashing claims
Second earthquake shakes southern California causing damage to homes and triggering fires
Danny Green tells Raptors fans to ‘get your popcorn out’ for the Kawhi Leonard watch
Kawhi Leonard signing with Los Angeles Clippers; Paul George joining him via monster trade
S. California hit by 7.1-magnitude quake, strongest in two decades
Trump calls America's story 'the greatest political journey'
Alaska heat wave shatters city's record, disrupts jobs and lives
Powerful Southern California quake, second in two days, causes damage, injuries
Strong aftershock jolts same California desert region day after major quake
Mothers rally as Hong Kong's divide shows no sign of closing
Why the Navy SEALs Loved the Sig Sauer P226 Gun
Bigger Quake Feared After 6.4 Shaker Hits Southern California
Alaska heat wave shatters temperature record in largest city Anchorage
A decade after Xinjiang riots, ethnic tensions persist
The Air Force Just Closed The Door on New F-22 Raptors
Huawei’s Android-based operating system might launch alongside the Mate 30 Pro
Joe Biden says having a woman as 2020 running mate would 'help' campaign
Trump donor killed in helicopter crash in Bahamas
The world’s thinnest iPhone case is on sale at its lowest price ever
Samsung has been working on new smartphone designs that are unlike anything we’ve seen before
Is the United States Ready for a Tech War?
Trump administration admits that the threat of Huawei spying was enough for a ban
UPDATE 3-Strong aftershock jolts same California desert region day after major quake
Betsy Ross shoe: Did Nike cave to PC culture?
China locks down Xinjiang a decade after deadly ethnic riots
New report claims to have uncovered conflicts of interest inside Robert Mueller's Russia investigation
Trump explodes over Republican congressman Justin Amash leaving party: ‘Total loser!’
In Hong Kong, colonial flag still a symbol of prized values
Meet the M1 Abrams: The Tank Making the 'Rounds' at the Salute to America Bash
Mexico says political conspiracy behind police protest
Iranian commander warns British ship could be seized if oil tanker detained in Gibraltar is not released
Anchorage roasts as heat records break across Alaska
Prominent 2020 Democrat nominee Kamala Harris' fundraising for 2nd quarter far behind top rivals'
This July 4th Had Everything: Tanks, Trump—and Scandal
Trump administration loses bid to lift bar on funds for border wall
'Rushing for the exits': Rival Afghans meet in Doha
Hong Kong mothers march in support of anti-extradition students
Ex-Venezuela spy chief says Maduro ordered illegal arrests
California outlaws hair discrimination with new bill
Who needs Prime Day when the Echo Dot is already half off at $25?
Alaska: temperatures rival Miami amid 'unprecedented' heatwave
The Latest: Cline's daughter and her friend 'lit up room'
Definitely try these $25 true wireless earbuds before dumping $159 on Apple’s AirPods
Melania Trump: ‘Disgraceful’ wooden statue of first lady prompts complaints in Slovenia
Donald Trump hails America's military might in July 4 speech amid pomp and flyovers
Libya's Haftar 'nothing but a pirate': Erdogan
Starved, tortured, bombed: the fate of refugees trapped in Libya
Sony WH1000XM3 noise cancelling headphone refurbs are back down the lowest price of 2019
War crimes court-martial ends with Navy SEAL walking free
Biden Brushes Off Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Too Far Left: ‘Mainstream Democrats’ Won in the Midterms
Biden says he was surprised by Harris attack at Democrats' debate
Jury to consider death penalty in Chinese scholar killing
Border patrol agents mock migrants with racist messages in Facebook group
Migrants still detained at site of deadly Libyan air strike