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Barry Manilow's 'Mandy' Was Originally 'Brandy.' But Was It Really About A Dog?

Music | January 18, 2020

Barry Manilow performing on Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell, airdate: October 11, 1975. Photo by Ann Limongello/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Singer Barry Manilow's hit-studded career begins with a girl: Brandy. Wait, isn't it Mandy? Well, sure, she became Mandy, but she was Brandy first. The chart-topping single, which was released in 1974 and reached the summit on January 18, 1975, wasn't written by the "I Write The Songs" singer (he didn't write that one, either), although he made one crucial tweak that might have made all the difference. 

Before It Was 'Mandy'

Scott English, the writer of "Brandy". Source: (youtube)

"Mandy" began life as "Brandy," co-written by Scott English and Richard Kerr. Kerr recorded a demo of the song, but listeners did not like the way that it sounded with his voice. English did much better with it; his version, released in 1972, was a hit in the UK and Australia, where it rose to #12 and #13 on the respective pop charts. In the United States, English's "Brandy" stalled out at #97. 

The song "Brandy" found its biggest success in New Zealand, where a version recorded by Bunny Walters cracked the top five.

Barry Manilow Was A Star Waiting To Happen

Source: MeTV.com)

By the early '70s, Barry Manilow was a very successful and well-regarded musician, but not as a solo artist. In the '60s, he composed and performed numerous jingles for products and brands (including "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there") and sang others that he did not compose (including "You deserve a break today" for McDonalds). He had written music and lyrics for a musical, and had served as The Ed Sullivan Show's musical director, where he wrote Sullivan a new musical theme. In 1971, he became Bette Midler's pianist, and he produced her first two albums, the Grammy-nominated Divine Miss M (1972) and Bette Midler (1973). Manilow's own self-titled debut album was released in 1973, but the public showed little interest.

When it came time to record Manilow's second album (Barry Manilow II), Bell Records executive Clive Davis was keen for the 31-year-old Manilow to include a version of "Brandy," though Manilow wasn't feeling it. He relented, but Davis felt there was another problem -- a song called "Brandy" had been a hit in 1972 -- Looking Glass' "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)."

So "Brandy" became "Mandy."

The Lyrics To 'Mandy'

Source: (thedailybeast.com

Here are the lyrics from the Manilow hit, which is nearly identical to the English/Kerr composition "Brandy:"

I remember all my life
Raining down as cold as ice
Shadows of a man
A face through a window
Crying in the night
The night goes into
Morning, just another day

Happy people pass my way
Looking in their eyes
I see a memory
I never realized
How happy you made me

Oh, Mandy
Well, you came
And you gave without taking
But I sent you away

Oh, Mandy
Well, you kissed me
And stopped me from shaking
And I need you today
Oh, Mandy

I'm standing on the edge of time
I've walked away when love was mine
Caught up in a world
Of uphill climbing
The tears are in my mind
And nothing is rhyming

Oh, Mandy
Well, you came
And you gave without taking
But I sent you away
Oh, Mandy
Well, you kissed me
And stopped me from shaking
And I need you today
Oh, Mandy

Yesterday's a dream
I face the morning
Crying on a breeze
The pain is calling

Oh Mandy...

Truth And Myth About The Meaning Of The Song

Lassie, the dog that English indicated was his favorite movie star. Source: (youtube)

There was an urban legend about the origins of the song: that it was about a dog. Apparently, a reporter irritated songwriter English and so he made up the story. In the same interview with the reporter, English told him that Lassie was his favorite movie star. 

In more serious converssations, English, who died in 2018, said that the lyrics are about his life, specifically about being afraid to leave his wife, who was the individual who had kissed him and stopped him from shaking and who had taken him in and given him a home. The reference in the song to the face in the window was actually a reference to his father. While English wrote the song about his own experiences, the song resonates with people because it is about the vulnerability of a man.

'Mandy' After Manilow

Westlife, who covered "Mandy". Source: (goss.ie)

Since the Manilow version, "Mandy" was parodied on The Simpsons, and the Irish boy band Westlife covered it, although they were, according to the band, bullied into the cover. It become a hit for them and English expressed his approval of their version. English also went on after “Brandy,” and was a prolific songwriter who composed hits for artists from Carole King and Dionne Warwick to Beck and Thin Lizzy.

Manilow After 'Mandy'

Source: (grammy.com)

"Mandy" ignited Manilow's career. He had two more #1 hits, "I Write The Songs" and "Looks Like We Made It," and his 1978 single "Copacabana (At The Copa)" won the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Manilow won the American Music Award (AMA) for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Vocalist in 1978, 1979, and 1980.

Co-writer English was, initially, not happy with Manilow’s "Mandy," but came to recognize what Manilow brings to it. And, of course, English was happy with the royalties he received from Manilow's success, saying that it paid for his houses.

Tags: 1970s Music | Barry Manilow | Mandy | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!