“I never want to dis­ap­point”

Bar­bra Streisand opens up to Stel­lar about fighting for the truth and the sad­ness that in­spired her new al­bum.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Cotents - In­ter­view by KATHY MCCABE

ar­bra Streisand has re­sorted to com­fort eat­ing. First off, it was pan­cakes – cov­ered in maple syrup – af­ter the morn­ing news. Now she finds that ice­cream helps ease the anx­i­ety the evening bul­letin brings.

“I tell you, when the news gets re­ally bad, like it did the other night lis­ten­ing to [US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump], I had to have two cof­fee ice- cream cones,” she says from her Mal­ibu home. “One wasn’t enough, you know what I mean? I had to have two. I was think­ing about three. Some­times when I do that and eat choco­late be­fore I go to bed, I can’t sleep un­til five, six in the morn­ing. I get very lit­tle sleep.”

These “trou­bling times”, as she calls them, have been keep­ing her up late at night more of­ten than not in the past 12 months. Since the ’60s, Streisand has been as renowned for her ac­tivism as her cre­ative tal­ents, set­ting up her own foun­da­tion in 1986 to sup­port pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment, gen­der equal­ity and nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment, among myr­iad is­sues. The long­time Demo­crat backed Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign for the top job in the US and, af­ter Trump’s win, has been mak­ing her opin­ions widely known.

Now she’s de­cided to take a stand by har­ness­ing what made her fa­mous in the first place: mu­sic. Her lat­est al­bum, Walls – which marks her first new ma­te­rial in more than a decade – poured out of her as she wres­tled with a deep sad­ness and frus­tra­tion about cur­rent events in her home­land, from im­mi­grant fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions to ocean pol­lu­tion.

“The songs came quickly,” she says. “It was just my mind opened, my heart opened, it came to­gether quite eas­ily, which I loved. I didn’t have to search for songs. It was quite a lib­er­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me. I’m so grate­ful hav­ing that op­por­tu­nity to re­lease my feel­ings in a pas­sion­ate way.”

And, some­times, they came from un­likely places: one song, ‘Don’t Lie To Me’, was for­mu­lated dur­ing a road trip with her hus­band, ac­tor James Brolin. The pop ra­dio sta­tion the cou­ple, who have been mar­ried for 20 years, flicked to was a wel­come re­prieve from the “break­ing reports of rant­ing tweets [that] were mak­ing my head spin”, she says – and the re­sult is a more mod­ern an­them than fans might ex­pect.

While Streisand doesn’t name Trump in any of the lyrics or the notes she has writ­ten about the songs on Walls, he looms large in con­ver­sa­tion. On the brink of this week’s US midterm elec­tions, her pro­mo­tional cam­paign is dou­bling as a po­lit­i­cal one against him.

“He lied from the be­gin­ning. Trump lied from the be­gin­ning, and I just hon­our the truth – in my work, in my life, I love the truth. I think it’s so pow­er­ful,” she tells Stel­lar. “I never un­der­stood as a young

A (from with STAR Kris top) IS Kristof­fer­son Bar­bra RE­BORN Streisand in the 1976 ver­sion of A Star Is Born, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Orig­i­nal Song; per­form­ing in Wash­ing­ton DC two years ago; with her hus­band of 20 years, James Brolin, in 2016.

per­former when peo­ple were mak­ing up lies about me… I could never fig­ure out why it was nec­es­sary to change the story. The truth, to me, is the essence of liv­ing in a democ­racy and I guess what of­fends me so much is Trump seems to care so very lit­tle about it, be­cause he con­tin­ues to lie day af­ter day and make up things, you know?”

Walls may be her re­sponse to the present, but she doesn’t en­tirely let go of the past. In one med­ley, Streisand in­ter­twines the lyrics and melodies of ‘Imag­ine’ with ‘ What A Won­der­ful World’. Streisand’s right-hand mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive Jay Lan­ders had to seek the per­mis­sion of Yoko Ono for the bold reimag­in­ing of the John Len­non classic. Ono gave Streisand her bless­ing.

“As a mat­ter of fact, there’s a won­der­ful story Jay told me when he had to get per­mis­sion from Yoko Ono to put the songs to­gether. And she told him a story that she had a friend who had a child who was dy­ing of can­cer and wanted to speak to me on the phone,” she says. “And I did, ob­vi­ously… I don’t re­mem­ber the con­ver­sa­tion, I’ve had sev­eral like that and it was many years ago. And Yoko said, ‘I’ll do any­thing for Bar­bra,’ so she al­lowed me to do that. I have just writ­ten her a note thank­ing her and also hop­ing she liked the way it came out. That was lovely what she did. Gen­eros­ity al­ways seems to come back to you.”

The al­bum ends with ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’, a song she has per­formed “at least 100 times” since she re­leased it as her debut sin­gle in 1962. Her voice be­lies the lyrics – she sounds de­spair­ing of a re­turn to hap­pi­ness.

“The last time I sang it on­stage, I said, ‘I’ve sung this for three pres­i­dents al­ready and I hope to sing it again with joy,’” she says. “But this time I had to sing it on the record like I re­ally feel, which is kind of de­pressed. Yet I still have a bit of hope. I just hope peo­ple come out and be­lieve in the power of their voice, be­lieve in the power of one vote.”

She’s so fo­cused on things at home, she ad­mits re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia af­ter 18 years away isn’t on the cards for now. “Af­ter I fin­ish a lit­tle tour, which is very mi­nor in terms of what en­ter­tain­ers usu­ally do, I al­ways say, ‘I can’t do this,’” she says. “It’s stress­ful for me… I don’t know, that stage fright thing. I think I’m go­ing to for­get the words. I never want to dis­ap­point the au­di­ence: ‘Oh god, will they think I’m too fat? Is my voice OK?’ And it’s hard. That’s why I love record­ing. It’s very pri­vate; I do the work, I do it un­til I’m happy. And this was such an easy al­bum to make, it just flowed out of me. Isn’t that in­ter­est­ing?” Walls is out now.

“I never un­der­stood why peo­ple made up lies about me”

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