The Streisand Effect: I’m Jewish in my soul, my heritage, my spirit
Life Mag

The Streisand Effect: I’m Jewish in my soul, my heritage, my spirit

Ahead of the legendary singer's performance at Hyde Park on July 7, read about her long career, reflecting on meeting Shimon Peres and working on Yentl

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Singer Barbra Streisand hugs late Israeli President Shimon Peres   (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)
Singer Barbra Streisand hugs late Israeli President Shimon Peres (Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

It was the look on Shimon Peres’ face that said it all. The late president of Israel was watching Barbra Streisand sing ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ at his request to mark his 90th birthday celebration in Jerusalem in 2013.

With each soulful note that Streisand sang of the emotive prayer – Our Father, Our King – Peres’ expression grew in awe and reverence as his eyes softened. It was a look that will be replicated on the faces of many in the audience at her British Summertime concert in Hyde Park on 7 July.

While I accept there is no similarity between a performance for the ninth president of Israel and a gathering of eager fans with picnic hampers, for those of us who cry the moment she starts a song it is comparable. As Peres himself said at the time: “It was worth waiting 90 years to hear such a heavenly voice.”

That ‘heavenly voice’ is like no other, not just because of its triumphant strength, but because Streisand, now 76, uses every beat and nuance of the music and lyrics as a means of communicating and does it with such integrity that one is left breathless. Breathless and weeping in my case, particularly when the intro includes the poetic phrase:

God, our heavenly Father

Oh God, and my father

Who’s also in Heaven.

Papa, Can You Hear Me composed by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman is from Yentl, the film she directed and co-wrote in 1983. In her expansive career as a critically acclaimed singer, theatre performer and Academy award winning film actress,  it is always Yentl (based on Isaac Bashevis Singer book) that gets mentioned in interviews even more than her adored son Jason Gould, 53, which is saying something for this overtly Jewish mother and now bubbe.

Most recently she referred to Yentl in relation to the 7 July concert, as she worked on the film in London and recalled stopping for tea every day to have scones and clotted cream. “You should always stop for tea” she said, adding that making the film in England was fantastic, because they had a queen and a female prime minister (Thatcher) and gave her the utmost respect as a woman and first-time director.

Barbra Streisand stands ready to start a scene in the movie “Yentl” circa 1983. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As the first woman in the history of motion pictures to produce, direct, write and perform a film’s title role – a girl pretending to be a boy noch! – it was certainly a controversial time. There were even rumours of her converting to orthodoxy or being a ‘born-again Jew’ because of her extensive research and talks with rabbis.

To this she said: “I was always a Jew. I feel I’m a good person, and that is what the Jewish tradition teaches you to be. I’m not that religious, but I’m Jewish in my soul, my heritage, my spirit.”

Renowned for her commitment ,perfectionism and strong political opinions, Streisand stops detractors in their tracks and of late has done so on Twitter be it fighting for the future of the planet or tearing strips off President Trump. In fact aside from the occasional selfie with celeb pals, notably her Star is Born co-star Kris Kristofferson who will be joining her at Hyde Park, her focus is on the POTUS and her disdain for him was the impetus for ‘Walls – her current and first political protest album.

Her voice remains a gift, but there is sorrow in the songs which include her impassioned plea to the president in the compelling Don’t Lie To Me. One assumes it isn’t on Donald’s playlist. He is also unlikely to spot the irony in the closing song of the album, a new version of  Happy Days. which Streisand has sung for three different presidents, only this time it isn’t happy.

Considering what a force of nature she is, it is no surprise that the term ‘Streisand Effect’ (efforts to suppress information results in it spreading ) is named after her.

Evidently by suing a California Coastal Records Project photographer for including shots of her Malibu home, Streisand encouraged thousands  to see it. I have my own definition of the Streisand Effect  and it refers to the way her magical voice raises goose-bumps. To test the principle watch her singing the Hatikvah in 1978 during a broadcast for Israel’s 30th birthday or just listen to her hum at the start of Memories as the credits roll on the film The Way We Were. But to fully understand the Streisand Effect get to Hyde Park on July 7 and the look on the faces of the crowd will say it all.

PS: Bring blankets as Barbra says: I don’t want people to be too tired on their feet.“

Barbra Streisand is at Barclaycard presents British Summer Time on 7 July, 

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