Happy 70th, Barbra! (Yep, today, Tuesday, April 24.) But this post is really for The Hubi, who laughs at my seeming mastery of the Streisand life and songbook and my corresponding ignorance of Beyonce's (eh di ko makanta mga kanta niya e!).
I once told him of that moment when these two musical forces from vastly different worlds--the older one, already a legend, a peerless purveyor of the adult contemporary sound for over four decades now; and the younger one a defining presence in modern R&B--had a chance to converge and feed off each other's unique gifts.
This was at the Kennedy Center honors for Streisand in 2008, when Beyonce paid tribute to one of her musical idols ("It's an honor to sing for you, Ms. Streisand," she said at the end of her song) by warbling--beautifully--a signature Streisand hit, The Way We Were:
But there was more to the tribute than Beyonce doing justice to the song. She came as a complete package--a walking piece of Streisandiana, as it were, which keen Barbra buffs recognized all too easily. The beehive hairdo, the mandarin fingernails, the chandelier earrings (though exaggerated here), the stark black dress she wore were not random fashion choices. They all alluded to Barbra's iconic closing moment as the singer Fanny Brice in her debut movie Funny Girl (for which she won a Best Actress Oscar at 26)--when Brice, her marriage to her beloved Nicky Arnstein effectively over just minutes before, sings through her tears and roars out her undying love in the thrilling My Man:
(Yes, what Lea Michele also sang in Glee.)
See the imagery Beyonce referenced as an hommage? What a great way to pay tribute, I thought. No florid speeches, no fawning, no superfluous genuflection, only a knowing gesture of appreciation for a favorite artist's legacy and a particular high point in it.
By showing up the way she did, Beyonce was saying she knew Streisand's art by heart, grew up with it probably, and was now honoring it not only with the gratitude of a younger singer-actress following in the footsteps of her inspiration, but also with the insight of a fellow entertainer attuned (as Streisand is, quite infamously) to the finer points of show-biz myth-making and iconography.
Run the world, these two women can.