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This was the title track to the movie of the same name, which starred Streisand and Robert Redford. The song is about a couple who fall deeply in love despite being complete opposites. They are looking back on fond memories of their time together.
Streisand recorded this song on September 12, 1973 with Marty Paich doing the arrangements. The song was released as a single later in the month, and the movie came out on October 19, 1973. The film was very successful and helped popularize the song, which entered the Top 40 on December 22, 1973 and became Streisand's first #1 hit on Groundhog Day, 1974. The next week it was bumped from the top spot by "Love's Theme" by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, but reclaimed #1 a week later and stayed there until "Seasons In The Sun
" bumped it on March 2nd. A total of 3 weeks at #1, but also the beginning of a chart hiatus for Streisand, who wasn't seen again on the Top 40 until 1976, when "Evergreen
" from A Star Is Born
entered. This one also spent 3 weeks at #1.
This song is famous for its opening line, "Memories, like the corners of my mind," which sets the nostalgic tone for the song and makes it perfect for the movie. Early demos of the song reveal that the first word was written as "Daydreams," and Streisand came up with the idea to change it to "Memories," although needing it shortened to two syllables to fit the music, it becomes "Mem'ries."
In January, 1974, a soundtrack album to the film came out featuring this song as the first track and instrumental scores from the film written by Marvin Hamlisch. Around the same time, Streisand also released an album called The Way We Were featuring the song, and was sued by the movie's producer for using the same title. Streisand's album was re-issued as "Barbra Streisand Featuring 'The Way We Were' and 'All In Love Is Fair.'" Despite the awkward title, Streisand's album went to #1 and eventually sold over 2 million copies, far outselling the soundtrack. The film, single, and Streisand's album all went to #1.
Carol Kaye, who was a top session player in the '60s and '70s, played bass on this track, and told us that it was one of her most memorable sessions, requiring a total of 33 takes. Said Carol: "It was cut live. So they told me for the longest time, they said, 'Don't add any notes to the part.' And it was a very boom-de-boom part. Very simple part. Because I think that they wanted to let the strings shine and for it to sound more like the movie version, which is very sweet and subtle and all that kind of stuff. Well, the band was playing some important lines, and in the middle of the bridge there, I couldn't play sweet. It's the role of the bass to pump up the band. And in that sense, yes, I had to pump up the band. I mean, she was holding her notes, and had you played nothing, it wouldn't have sounded good. So I added some more notes, that 'dum-de-da-dum, de-da-dum, de-da-dum,' to kind of pump it up. But, of course, I'm still attacking it with the sensitivity. But you still have to add a certain kind of a movement pattern to keep the band going in good time and good sense." (Here's our full Carol Kaye interview
This won the the Academy Award for Best Song in 1974, and the Grammy for Song Of The Year in 1975.
In 1975 Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded a medley of this song and "Try To Remember" which peaked at #4 in the UK and #11 in the US. "Try To Remember" was from the 1960 musical The Fantasticks where it was initially sung by Jerry Orbach. The show's original off-Broadway production ran for 42 years, becoming the world's longest-running musical.
Wu-Tang Clan's 1994 single "Can It All Be So Simple" was an interpretation of Gladys Knight's version.
Streisand performed this song in memory of Marvin Hamlisch at the 2013 Oscar. Hamlisch, who died in 2012 at age 68, was the final photo in the "in memoriam" segment (the "death montage"), at which point Streisand appeared on stage and said, "Marvin Hamlisch was a composer of extraordinary depth and versatility. He was also a very kind and generous friend who could always make me laugh. Marvin left us way to soon, but I'll always have those wonderful... (sings) memories..."
This was Streisand's first performance at The Oscars since 1977, when she sang "Evergreen."
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