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Copacabana (At The Copa)

by

Barry Manilow



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

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 3 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)
Barry Manilow
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Comments (22):

I never knew this was recorded as a "novelty" song. But I guess that would explain why the background singers sing "have a bananaaaa" at one point in the song.
- Claude, Blandon, PA
this song makes my parakeet come unglued. My parakeet is a barry manilow fanatic. I kid you not when you mention barry manilow he goes nuts. and when you play a song of barry's watch out. in fact one time the tv was on and i left to get a drink the parakeet was quiet all of a sudden he comes unglued he starts screaming at the top of his lungs i come running back into the room to find the tv playing a commercial for BARRY MANILOW CHRISTMAS ALBUM!
- m, new mexico, NM
Okay Harold, no one really wants to be a Weird Al fan, therefore there can be no wannabe Weird Al fans. The fact that you have his whole discography is not something that one should advertise. By the way Matthew from Marquette already enlightened Pete so there was no need for your post. Matthew, I have been to Marquette, amazing little town. Family and I went there to hike Pictured Rocks.
- Zohan, Cambridge, MA
@ Pete

Great, another wannabe Weird Al fan. What makes you think "His name was Yoda" (actually titled 'Star Wars Cantina') was done by Weird Al? And the name's "Yankovic" not "Yankovich." You p2p downloaders take way too much for granted, assuming every tag on every song you illegally download is correct. I remember when I was that naive. It sickens me.

Oh, and BTW, I have Al's ENTIRE discography, so don't even try me.

**educating the internet about parodies not done by Weird Al, one ignorant person at a time**
- Harold, University Park, PA
My favorite Barry Manilow song.
- Jennifer Harris, Grand Blanc, MI
I'm kind of surprised that "Bandstand Boogie" is not included among Barry's list of hits.
That is such a great tune!!
- Daevid, Glendale, CA
I'm not really a disco man...but a very cool record!
- steve dotstar, los angeles, CA
As of this month, the 30th anniversary of the time the single debuted on the American pop charts, the lyric "But that was 30 years ago" is now especially ironic. Of course, he was singing about approximately 30 years BEFORE 1978, circa 1948.
- Sidney, Johnson City, NY
The words "Copa" and "Cabana" mean Glass house in Spanish.
- Deo, Annandale, VA
When I first heard this I took it for a knockoff or at least a synthesis of Andre Previn's song "That's How It Went, All Right", which was a 1960 hit for Bobby Darin. He sang it in an otherwise forgettable Cantinflas movie. It's likely that Manilow had completely forgotten hearing Previn's song -- possibly why he found himself writing it so fast.
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
Those of us who watched TV from the early 1950's were amused by this song because there were constant references to "the Copa" in the various sitcoms of the day. That's because many of these were shows that purported to depict domestic lives of real-life, retired entertainers at home: Burns and Allen were a retired vaudeville couple, Ricky Ricardo, and Ozzie Nelson were bandleaders, Jack Benny and Danny Thomas were retired or semi-retired stage comedians. Someone was always going out to catch an act at the Copa.
- Mark, Lancaster, OH
my guilty pleasure. it so much fun
- Caitlin, Upper Township, NJ
Copacobana is on my "secret shame" list of tacky (or in this case, campy) songs that I rather like. It gets points with me because, while it tells a sad story, it never takes itself too seriously. Plus it's catchy. The line about long-gone days: "but that was 30 years ago/when they used to have a show" is ironic now, as the disco days are just as long gone as Lola's showgirl days.
- Jennifer, Los Angeles, CA
there was a movie based on this song and Manilow had a main part
- ezra, rio, TX
There was a TV movie based on this song with Manilow as one main character
- ezra, rio, TX
My uncle is actually Jack Feldman who co-wrote this song with Barry and Bruce.

I know when this was written they all thought it was pointless because it's a story song about murder and jealousy. They loved it but thought it would never be well recieved or taken seriously. It obviously was well recieved...but it's iritating how few people even pay attention to the story being told. It's amazing.
- Kelly, Chandler, AZ
I taught a songwriting class recently, and played this to my students to show how you can tell a real story in a song's lyrics. I don't like Manilow's sappy stuff ("Even Now" makes me puke) but "Copacabana" is one of the finest songs ever written, IMO. Telling a sequential story lyrically in a song is a lost art nowadays, unfortunately.
- Elson, Los Angeles, CA
A few guys I work with tease me and say "Lola, she was a show girl" if they hear this song playing because they know my wife's name is Lola. Then they will say it 20 times throughout the day. It does not bother me because I just go home and tease my wife and call her Tasty. Now I'm hoping my wife sings the song to me in the bedroom when I get home on July 29th 2005. I am overseas for a one year deployment.
- Craig, Columbia, PA
The Star Wars parody version was not done by Weird Al Yankovich, as verified by his personal website. The version was actually done by a man by the name of Mark Jonathan Davis. His website http://members.aol.com/manitsas/cantina.html
- Matthew, Marquette, MI
The parody version was done by Weird Al Yankovich... "His name was Yoda, he was a muppet.." Brilliant!
- Pete, Sydney, Australia
Rachel sang this at a wedding in an early episode of Friends.
- Adele, Victoria, Canada
"Copacabana" was said by Barry to have been a "novelty" or "throwaway" song, but those songs usually don't lead off an album by being the first song on it, as "Copa" is, so obviously someone in charge somewhere figured on "Copa" being a single and a hit before the "Even Now" album was released.
- Steven, New York City, NY
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