Barry Manilow

I Write the Songs

Composed by Bruce Johnston

Song Review by

Much has been made of the fact that Barry Manilow didn't actually write "I Write the Songs," which became the singer's second number one hit in 1976. Manilow often relied on outside songwriters for his biggest hits (in this case, Beach Boys sideman Bruce Johnston) and employed professional lyricists on his own tunes. But in this case, Manilow's detractors (of which there were many) saw it as a sign of hubris, assuming that he was in effect lying about writing the songs that made the whole world sing and was a little too impressed with his newfound stardom. But a closer listen to the lyrics reveals that Manilow was claiming nothing of the sort: the song is written from the point of view of music itself (or some unnamed, ethereal source from which all music flows...or something of the sort). So when Manilow sings lines like "I am music, and I write the songs," he's not referring to himself in the least. (That's also true when he sings "And I wrote some rock & roll," backed by a Baroque-sounding trumpet.) Rhetorical devices aside, "I Write the Songs" is a prime example of Manilow's taste for huge-sounding arrangements (replete with choir, strings, and horns) and climactic builds. Actually, the dynamic shifts are pretty sudden and extreme -- the piano-led intro figure is spare and quiet until the full orchestra comes in for the last bit of the phrase, and then disappears immediately. The rest of the song carries on with pretty restrained instrumentation, until -- with very little warning -- the last few bars of the bridge suddenly build into a gigantic chorus. Manilow was at his best when his arrangements had big, sweeping melodies to support, and "I Write the Songs" certainly does, which is why it became one of his signature songs.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Tryin' to Get the Feeling 1975 Sbme Special Mkts. 3:56
Live 1977 Arista 4:31
No Image 1977 MGM/UA
Greatest Hits [Bonus Tracks] 1978 Arista
Greatest Hits, Vol. II [1989] 1983 Arista 3:55
No Image 1985 Arista
Live on Broadway 1987 Immortal
Concert at Blenheim Palace 1991 RCA/Columbia Home Video-Musicvision
The Complete Collection and Then Some... 1992 Arista/Legacy 3:55
No Image 1994 BMG Video
Greatest Hits: The Platinum Collection 1994 Arista 3:55
Ultimate Manilow [Arista] 2002 Legacy / Arista / Sony Music Distribution
The Songs 1975-1990 2002 BMG International 3:55
Ultimate Manilow [BMG International] 2002 BMG / Arista
2 Nights Live 2004 BMG Heritage 4:55
Ultimate Manilow [Japan] 2004 Sony Music 3:55
The Essential Barry Manilow 2005 Arista / Sony Music Entertainment 3:54
The Very Best of Barry Manilow [Hallmark] 2005 Hallmark Recordings 3:54
Music and Passion: Live from Las Vegas 2006 Rhino/Warner Bros.
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
Music and Passion: The Best of Barry Manilow 2008 Sony Music 3:52
The Very Best of Barry Manilow 2009 Allegro Corporation / Platinum Legends 3:54
The  Music of Barry Manilow 2010 Arista / Legacy 3:54
Playlist: The Very Best of Barry Manilow 2010 Arista / Legacy / Playlist 3:55
Super Hits 2011 BMG / Commercial Music Group / Sony Music Entertainment 3:55
His Greatest Hits 2011 Rhino / Warner Bros.
Live in London 2012 Stiletto Entertainment
The Box Set Series 2014 Sony Legacy 3:54
Easy Listening Classics/Time Life's Movie Classics
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:54
No Image
Various Artists
Sony BMG
Pure...Voices
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:53
blue highlight denotes editor's pick