Copacabana (At The Copa)

Album: Even Now (1978)
Charted: 22 8
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  • 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.

    Most of Manilow's audience had never set foot in The Copa, but it was a world-famous nightclub thanks to its many celebrity patrons and high-profile entertainers like Frank Sinatra. It shows up in many many movies, including a 1947 film called Copacabana starring Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda.
  • 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.
  • Barry Manilow recalled 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," he wrote in the liner notes of the Even Now album.

    His co-writer Bruce Sussman added: "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!"

    That Grammy award was for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. Surprisingly, it is Manilow's only Grammy win, and it comes in a performance category, not songwriting. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Judy - Melbourne, Australia
  • Manilow's hits to this point were mostly ballads like "Looks Like We Made It" and "Mandy." "Copacabana" gave him a rare uptempo hit in the middle of the disco era. There are some disco flourishes in the song, but it incorporates Latin rhythms in the style of the acts that played the Copa in the '40s and '50s - before it became a disco.
  • Manilow and his songwriting partner Bruce Sussman wrote this with Jack Feldman, who is known for writing music for the stage. With an intriguing storyline and lots of musical shifts, the song is well suited for theater, and in 1985 the three songwriters adapted it into a movie called Copacabana starring Manilow as Tony and Annette O'Toole as Lola. In the '90s, they made it into a musical that ran at the Caesars Circus Maximus casino in Atlantic City, and later in London's West End. The show made it to America as a touring production in 2000.
  • 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." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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...") and featured sound clips from the films ("Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, your my only hope..."). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Eric - Suffern, NY
  • In the 1996 Friends episode "The One with Barry and Mindy's Wedding," Jennifer Aniston starts singing this song to evade an awkward moment when she is speaking at a wedding. Her ploy works: soon the guests are singing along to "Copacabana" and have forgotten that the groom is her ex-boyfriend.

    Other TV series to use the song include:

    Glee ("Guilty Pleasures" - 2013)
    ER ("I Do" - 2005)
    Sex and the City ("My Motherboard, My Self" - 2001)
    The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ("Ill Will" - 1992)

    It has also been used in these movies:

    Despicable Me (2010)
    Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
    Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001)
    Duets (2000)
    Pretty in Pink (1986)
    Foul Play (1978)
  • Liza Minnelli performed this on The Muppet Show in 1979 in a bit that visualizes the song with Tony and Rico as Muppets. Kids could handle a lot more back then: Tony indeed gets shot, and we shift scenes to see Minnelli (as Lola) drinking herself into a stupor as she's lost her mind.
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Comments: 23

  • Jeff from Columbus, GaThis was not Barry's first or only Grammy win; he scored his first Grammy in 1977 for Song Of The Year for the 1976 smash hit "I Write The Songs." [editor's note: "I Write The Songs" did win that award, but the trophy went to the man who wrote it, Bruce Johnston, since it's a composition category]
  • Claude from Blandon, PaI 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.
  • M from New Mexico, Nmthis 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!
  • Zohan from Cambridge, MaOkay 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.
  • Harold from University Park, Pa@ 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**
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiMy favorite Barry Manilow song.
  • Daevid from Glendale, CaI'm kind of surprised that "Bandstand Boogie" is not included among Barry's list of hits.
    That is such a great tune!!
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaI'm not really a disco man...but a very cool record!
  • Sidney from Johnson City, NyAs 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.
  • Deo from Annandale, VaThe words "Copa" and "Cabana" mean Glass house in Spanish.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesWhen 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.
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhThose 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.
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, Njmy guilty pleasure. it so much fun
  • Jennifer from Los Angeles, CaCopacobana 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.
  • Ezra from Rio, Txthere was a movie based on this song and Manilow had a main part
  • Ezra from Rio, TxThere was a TV movie based on this song with Manilow as one main character
  • Kelly from Chandler, AzMy 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.
  • Elson from Los Angeles, CaI 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.
  • Craig from Columbia, PaA 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.
  • Matthew from Marquette, MiThe 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
  • Pete from Sydney, AustraliaThe parody version was done by Weird Al Yankovich... "His name was Yoda, he was a muppet.." Brilliant!
  • Adele from Victoria, CanadaRachel sang this at a wedding in an early episode of Friends.
  • Steven from New York City, Ny"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.
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