Those characteristics—originality, audacity and blazing talent—have made Streisand the most successful female singer of all time.
In 1963, when the year’s top three hits by female solo artists were the Singing Nun’s “Dominique,” Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him” and Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party,” Streisand released an ironic ballad version of the rousing 1930 smash “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The sound of the record was so elegant, so grown-up, it made those other hits seem like trifles.
The Barbra Streisand Album went on to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. Streisand was just 22 when she took that award in May 1964. She held the record as the youngest winner in that category for more than 30 years, until Alanis Morissette won it in February 1996 when she was just 21. (Taylor Swift broke Morissette’s record in January 2010, when she was just 20.)
Remarkably, 50 years later after her debut album hit the charts, Streisand continues to hold many of the most coveted records pertaining to female vocalists. Here’s a sampling:
Most No. 1 albums by a female artist (nine). Among women, Madonna is in second place with eight. Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Britney Spears are tied for third place with six each.
Only solo artist (male or female) with at least one No. 1 album in each of the last five decades. Streisand has had at least one No. 1 album in every decade from the 1960s through the 2000s. John Lennon and Paul McCartney have also achieved this feat, but only in combination with their Beatles work.
Most top 10 albums by a female artist (32). The tally includes three movie soundtracks, two TV soundtracks, a Broadway cast album, three compilations and three live albums. Among women, Madonna is in second place with 20, followed by Mariah Carey with 16.
Most chart albums by a female solo artist (57). Aretha Franklin is in second place with 44. Note: Diana Ross zooms to the top with 59 chart albums, if you combine solo albums (32) and her albums with the Supremes (27).
Most Grammy nominations by a female artist for Album of the Year by (six). As noted above, The Barbra Streisand Album won for Album of the Year. Streisand was also nominated for People, My Name Is Barbra, Color Me Barbra, Guilty and The Broadway Album. (The Funny Girl original cast album was also nominated for Album of the Year in 1964, but the nomination went to the composers of the score, Robert Merrill and Jule Styne.) Whitney Houston, Bonnie Raitt, Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga are tied for second place among women, with three nominations each. (One female group, Dixie Chicks, has also had three noms.)
Most consecutive Grammy nominations by a female artist for Album of the Year (four). Streisand was nominated every year from 1963 through 1966. Among women, Lady Gaga (a fellow New York native) is in second place. She was nominated three years running from 2009 through 2011.
First female composer to win an Oscar for Best Song. Streisand won for composing “Evergreen.” Note: Dorothy Fields (“The Way You Look Tonight”) and Marilyn Bergman (“The Windmills Of Your Mind” and “The Way We Were”) won Best Song before her, but they wrote the lyrics.
Most RIAA-certified albums sold by a female artist (71.5 million). Madonna is in second place with 64.5 million. Here’s the rest of the top 10: Mariah Carey (63.5 million), Whitney Houston (57 million), Celine Dion (50 million), Shania Twain (48 million), Reba McEntire (41 million), Britney Spears (34 million), Linda Ronstadt (30 million), and Enya (26.5 million). (One female group, Dixie Chicks, has sold 30.5 million albums, per the RIAA.)
Most gold albums by a female artist (51). She has more than her two closest rivals combined. They are Reba McEntire with 27, and Madonna with 20.
Most platinum albums by a female artist (30). As with gold albums, the runners-up are Reba McEntire (19) and Madonna (17).
Most multiplatinum albums by a female artist (13). Madonna is a close second, with 12. Tied for third: Reba McEntire and Mariah Carey with nine each.
Only female to receive lifetime achievement awards from both the Recording Academy and the American Film Institute. Streisand has received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the AFI’s Life Achievement Award. These are arguably the top career awards given for achievements in recording and film, respectively. Only one other artist, Fred Astaire, has received both of these awards. (I interviewed Streisand in 2010 and told her the company she was keeping. I believe she was verklempt.)
Just For The Record II: The Grammys had two female pop categories in 1960, one for singles and one for albums. Ella Fitzgerald won both. In the interest of consistency, I counted that as one win for Ella. One year, one win. Also: The name of the category has changed over the years. Men and women have competed in the same category the last two years, with Adele winning both times.
There will be several other notable 50th-anniversary celebrations in the next 15 months. Stevie Wonder first hit The Billboard 200 on July 13, 1963, the Beatles on Feb. 1, 1964 and the Rolling Stones on June 27, 1964.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Barbra Streisand
- Mariah Carey