It's not an exaggeration to say that my life changed the first time I heard the voice of Barbra Streisand. Something in that timbre and the expressive richness behind it woke up my musical senses like nothing else ever had. The only other experience quite so transforming for me would happen years later, when I finally succumbed to the power of opera and discovered the phenomenon of Maria Callas.
Even as my own world moved professionally from pop to classical, my fixation on Streisand never waned, and I get nostalgic about her every April 24, her birthday. I refuse to believe she has turned 68 today. That's just a number, after all. This singer -- excuse me, this actress who sings -- is obviously timeless. Over the years, I've regretted some of the musical choices Streisand has made, but the vocal talent has remained a source of wonder and inspiration for me decade after decade.
To mark her birthday, I thought I'd share the opening montage from her 1966 TV special "Color Me Barbra." This is what introduced me to her (I must have still been in a crib then, given the age I admit to today). In these three songs, you can find nearly the whole range of Streisand's talent on display, vocal and theatrical. I am particularly fond of the second number, "One Kiss," which has always been one of my desert island choices when it comes to Streisand. I don't think this song has ever, could ever, be more divinely sung. It goes from being a pleasant Romberg operetta tune to something on a par with Schumann, and not just because of the sensitive arrangement. It's the singer who makes it gold. (I'd love to know what Streisand performances you could not live without -- and why.)