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.
The Copacabana hitmaker 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.”