Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Barry Manilow - "Read 'em and Weep"

Read 'Em and Weep - The Essential Barry Manilow

(Debuted November 19, 1983, Peaked #18, 13 Weeks on the Chart)

At the end of 1983, Jim Steinman must have seemed like one of the most importatnt writers and producers in the music business besides Michael Jackson. At one point in October, he held down the top two spots as writer and producer with Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing at All." As both of those songs were making their way down the chart, another song written and produced by Steinman appeard on the Top 40: Barry Manilow's "Read 'em and Weep."

Unlike the other two hits, "Read 'em and Weep" was a song that had already been done. It was originally recorded and released in 1981 as part of an album by Steinman's most famous partner: Meat Loaf. On the Dead Ringer LP, the song had a slightly different second verse and had been given his over-the-top vocal treatment. It was a hit in the U.K., but American listeners had grown tired of Meat Loaf's music and largely ignored it. So, in 1983 it was given new life by a similarly over-the-top performer, Barry Manilow, who included it as one of the three new songs in his Greatest Hits, Vol. II compliation. It would be a Top 40 pop hit and a #1 adult contemporary hit, marking the last time Manilow would ever reach those marks.

Barry Manilow gets a lot of greif about many of his 1970s hits and is often seen as something on an anachronism in the 1980s, but too many of his songs are too well-known to dismiss his effect. In fact, his style is almost perfect for Steinman's often bombastic production. The lyrics are typically (for Steinman, that is) obtuse and borrow heavily from the theater, and the video shown below appropritely features Manilow in the makeup of a clown. His rendition of "Read 'em and Weep" was well-suited for the early 1980s, even if few wanted to realize it at the time.

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