Veteran crooner Barry Manilow was moved to tears by the lyrics of Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind as he covered the smash hit for his new album.
Barry Manilow recorded his version of Alicia’s vocals for the song NYC Medley, a mash-up of the 2009 track and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, and Barry was more than a little emotional thinking about his native Big Apple while working at his home in Palm Springs, California.
“When I was doing these songs, I found myself welling up more often than I anticipated,” he told People magazine. “Stuff like (Frankie Valli tune) Native New Yorker and even Empire State of Mind – these lyrics hit me so hard, and I just didn’t expect it to. There’s some beautiful writing in Empire State of Mind!
“I am a native New Yorker, and I didn’t expect it to be emotional, and it was. I had to keep stopping singing because I kept welling up.”
Barry admits he was particularly moved because the songs all reminded him of his early career, when he worked hard to make a name for himself penning jingles and collaborating with fellow entertainer Bette Midler.
“Every time I would get to another line, I’d be, ‘Yeah, that’s me: I was there. I believe what these lyrics say,'” he smiled. “Bright lights, sidewalks of New York; I was there for all of my young life.
“When I got to sing them, they really hit me in the gut, and it was a very emotional recording session. I thought, New York doesn’t have one style to it – New York is a melting pot of people and different styles.”