Born in Brooklyn, New York, Barbra's father Emmanuel was a high school teacher, and he died of a cerebral hemorrhage when Barbra was just fifteen months old. The family faced a lot of financial problems while Barbra was growing up.
The funky spelling of her first name was her creation: she was born Barbara Joan Streisand but changed her name by removing the second 'a' from her first name. When she was 18 she wanted to be unique (don't we all), but didn't want to change her name completely.
While in her teens Barbra became a nightclub singer. She also appeared in Summer Stock and in a number of Off-Off-Broadway productions. Her boyfriend, Barry Dennen, helped Streisand create a club act which propelled her success as a singer.
Streisand has recorded 35 studio albums, almost all with Columbia Records, and at the end of the '70s she was named the most successful female singer in the United States. At the beginning of the '90s, Barbra became almost inactive in the recording studio and began concentrating on her film directorial efforts.
Barbra's fundraising events in 1992 helped to put former President Bill Clinton into the spotlight and into office. In 1993 she introduced Clinton at his inauguration. Because of her appearance at a benefit in 1992 and the inaugural performance, a tour was suggested to Streisand, but because of her well-known stage fright and security concerns she would not immediately commit to doing the tour. She finally announced her first public concert appearances in 27 years in September 1993. It began as a two-night New Year's event but eventually led to a multi-city tour in the summer of 1994.
Streisand explained the reason for her stage fright in an October 2015 interview with the Daily Mail's Weekend magazine: "When I sang in Central Park in 1967 I forgot the words to a couple of songs," she said. "That frightened me so much that – except for at fundraisers – I didn't perform in public for 27 years. But I'm a lot more relaxed about it now."
Streisand has said that one of her favorite singers is Johnny Mathis, with whom she did a duet medley of "I Have A Love"/"One Hand, One Heart."
Barbra has been married twice. Her first marriage was to Elliot Gould, with whom she has a son, Jason Gould. Jason appeared with Streisand as her on-screen son in the film The Prince of Tides. Her second husband is actor James Brolin. Ironically, both of her husbands starred together in the 1970s conspiracy sci-fi thriller Capricorn One.
Streisand is the only artist ever to receive an Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy plus record a #1 single and album.
In the early '80s, she made several music videos. Her record company lobbied hard to get her on MTV, but to no avail.
A photograph of the Malibu home of Barbra Streisand was taken in 2003 for the California Coastal Records Project. Her attempts to suppress the photograph led to the unintended consequence of publicizing it much more widely; before the singer filed her lawsuit, the image had been downloaded only six times (twice by Streisand's lawyers), whereas in the month after the lawsuit afterwards more than 420,000 people visited the site. The term "Streisand effect" evolved from the controversy and has been used to describe subsequent cases of the phenomenon.
When Barbra Streisand's 2014 long player Partners topped the Billboard 200, she created US chart history by becoming the first artist to score #1 albums in every decade from the 1960s to the 2010s.
Streisand is the first female singer to clock up ten #1 albums in the US.