From the Even Now album: Barry Manilow recalls that the music for "Copacabana" came incredibly fast. "I remember putting the lyric on the piano's music stand, punching the "Record" button on my tape deck, and writing the song in less than 15 minutes." Co-writer Bruce Sussman adds, "We THOUGHT we were writing the novelty cut for Barry's Even Now album. "Copacabana" surprised everyone - certainly us, and especially Arista Records, for they were faced with the first of Barry's hits that was forced off an album. This put Barry in the unique position of having three hit records in the Top 40 at once. It earned for him his first - and believe it or not, only - Grammy Award, his first gold single for a song he composed, his first international hit record, and the first song to inspire projects in other media (a made for TV film, and a stage musical). So much for novelty cuts!" (thanks, Judy - Melbourne, Australia)
The Copacabana is a famous nightclub in New York City named after a district in Rio de Janeiro, which is where the song takes place. True to the song, the club did become a Disco in the '70s.
The story told in this song about the showgirl Lola and her bartender boyfriend Tony goes along with the joyous melody for the first half of the song, but the story takes a tragic turn when Tony is shot and killed and we find Lola 30 years later insane and despondent over her loss. The music remains upbeat for this section, as does Manilow's delivery, creating a drastic juxtaposition of words and music.
A parody of this song was used in an episode of The Simpsons. In the episode "Tales From The Public Domain," one of the three shorts involves Homer (as Odysseus), along with Lenny, Carl, and Moe (his companions). They travel to the "Island of Sirens," where Patty and Selma (Homer's sister-in-laws) portrayed sirens singing a drawing song that had the same tune as the song "Copacabana." (thanks, Joe - Los Angeles, CA)
A popular parody version was played on several radio stations in the US in the mid-90s during the re-release of the Star Wars trilogy called "The Star Wars Cantina." The lyrics were rewritten so that they were about the movies ("Her name was Leia, she was a princess,..." etc.) and featured sound clips from the films ("Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, your my only hope..."). (thanks, Eric - Suffern, NY)
This won the Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. Surprisingly, it is Manilow's only Grammy win, and it comes in a performance category, not songwriting.