Barry Manilow

Copacabana (At the Copa)

Composed by Barry Manilow / Bruce Sussman / Jack Feldman

Song Review by

Opening with an infectious, faux-Latin percussion beat and a disco-fied string/horn backing, Barry Manilow's "Copacabana (At the Copa)" immediately signaled itself as a departure from the sort of MOR balladry that had given the singer his greatest success. The song is doubly unique in Manilow's repertoire, since not only was it danceable, it was also a story song with dark and even sleazy subject matter -- wild nightclubs, showgirls, gangsters, murder, alcoholism, insanity. However, it's all handled with a campy theatricality that makes it tempting to attribute the song to a lingering sensibility developed in Manilow's early days, when he performed with Bette Midler in New York City's gay bathhouses. (In fact, "Copacabana" was even turned into a stage musical in the early '90s -- obviously, with a great many additional songs.) Issues of stereotyping aside, though, the song is hugely entertaining regardless of whether you treat it as kitsch; its dramatic, show tune-esque musical flourishes help evoke the atmosphere of both the Copa's nightclub past and the disco it becomes. That theatrical flair also means the song is just plain fun to dance to, which is why the story of Tony the bartender, Lola the showgirl, and Rico the killer has become an enduring dancefloor favorite. "Copacabana" scraped the lower reaches of the Top Ten in 1978, but even though it wasn't Manilow's biggest hit, it remained one of his best-known -- and best-loved -- songs, particularly among more rock-oriented audiences.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Even Now 1978 Arista 5:43
Greatest Hits [Bonus Tracks] 1978 Arista
Greatest Hits, Vol. II [1989] 1983 Arista 5:42
No Image 1985 Arista
The Complete Collection and Then Some... 1992 Arista/Legacy 4:05
No Image 1993 Alex 3:52
No Image 1993
Various Artists
Alex / BMG
The Best of Me: Greatest Hits Tour 1994 BMG Video
Greatest Hits: The Platinum Collection 1994 Arista 4:05
Ultimate Manilow [Arista] 2002 Legacy / Arista / Sony Music Distribution
The Songs 1975-1990 2002 BMG International 5:45
Ultimate Manilow [BMG International] 2002 BMG / Arista
2 Nights Live 2004 BMG Heritage 3:44
Scores: Songs from Copacabana and Harmony 2004 Concord Jazz / Concord 5:02
Karaoke Party: More Retro 70s & 80s 2004
Karaoke
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4:10
Ultimate Manilow [Japan] 2004 Sony Music 5:46
The Essential Barry Manilow 2005 Arista / Sony Music Entertainment 5:39
Music and Passion: Live from Las Vegas 2006 Rhino/Warner Bros.
Nissan Driving Pleasure 2006
Various Artists
BMG
First and Farewell [DVD] 2006 Rhino
The Greatest Songs of the Seventies 2007 BMG / BMG / Sony Music / Sony Music Entertainment
The First Television Specials 2007 Rhino
Songs from the Seventies 2008 Rhino
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 5:39
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa [Original Soundtrack] 2008
Various Artists
Geffen / Cobalt Helladisc / Interscope 4:06
Music and Passion: The Best of Barry Manilow 2008 Sony Music 3:57
Lo Esencial de Las Clásicas de... Universal 92.1 FM 2008
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 5:41
Wesele Marzen 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:42
Happy Holiday! 2009 Stiletto New Media / Rhino
Essential 3.0 2010 Arista / Legacy / Sony Legacy 5:46
The  Music of Barry Manilow 2010 Arista / Legacy 5:44
Playlist: The Very Best of Barry Manilow 2010 Arista / Legacy / Playlist 5:45
Jackie: The Party Album 2010
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution / EMI TV 3:55
Super Hits 2011 BMG / Commercial Music Group / Sony Music Entertainment 5:46
Live in London 2012 Stiletto Entertainment
No Image 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:56
The Box Set Series 2014 Sony Legacy 5:45
Len Goodman's Ballroom Bonanza
Various Artists
Sony Music
Ultimate Office Party!
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:57
blue highlight denotes editor's pick