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Monday, March 26, 2012

Barbra Did It First...

If there is a diva common denominator, an icon so legendary that every artist since has been influenced either consciously or subconsciously, then it has to be Barbra Joan Streisand. Even today's hippest R&B divas tread in Barbra's size 8 footsteps. The hippest pop princesses scramble to re-enact Bab's career highs and iconic looks. Don't believe me? Then let me give you just a few examples of where Barbra did it first...

Winning an Oscar with your debut film role in a musical

It's 2007 and American Idol loser and future WeightWatchers poster girl Jennifer Hudson is the breakout star of Dreamgirls, the movie based on the musical based on The Supremes (allegedly). Her standout performance as Effie White has made her the toast of the town. People are amazed at the maturity of her performance in this, her first motion picture and in awe of her show-stopping rendition of the first act closer And I Am Tellling You I'm Not Going. The industry throws awards at her, including the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Could anyone have ever been so stellar in her film debut...

Flashback to 1969 and Barbra has taken her Fanny Brice from Broadway to the silver screen in Funny Girl. Critics and fans alike are wowed that she so easily made the transition from leading lady to movie star and she literally stops the show with the first act closer Don't Rain On My Parade. Result: Oscar for Miss Streisand.

Being a fashion icon

Every outfit that a diva wears, every hairstyle and make-up choice is fully scrutinised and judged - no pressure! A true diva sets trends, creates new looks and leads the fashion pack. Leading fashion diva of the moment has to be the reigning queen of the urban scene, Miss Beyoncé Knowles - the noughties Diana Ross. Now Sasha Fierce is not overfond of clothing, preferring to show a little skin...

But wait.. haven't we seen that look somewhere before?

In fact Miss Knowles may not be the trendsetter she pretends to be... it seems she has found inspiration from La Streisand on a number of occasions...

I rest my case. Clearly Barbra was the first hip-hop fashion diva! And come on Beyoncé , Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) is just Cry Me A River updated a bit and with a better dance routine. And Babs doesn't need a drag persona, she's got half a million queens pretending to be her on a daily basis. Barbra 3 - Beyoncé 0.

Diva duets

Now there's nothing we diva fans love more than a megastar duet. Never mind how terrible the song is (and they often are), there's nothing more thrilling than seeing two huge voices (and egos) battling it out on one track. Sometimes it's a hot artist of the moment who seeks a bit of extra cred and status by persuading an established superstar to join them on a track, like when Britney Spears begged Madonna to take her tongue out from her mouth long enough to record a song. The result? A number one hit in Denmark, Ireland and Hungary - Me Against The Music.

But Britters is not the first red hot diva to persuade her elder and better to duet up. Where did that mirrorball come from? It's 1979, disco rules and the queen is Donna Summer. But wait, who's that frizzing up their afro and boogieing up to the mic? It's Babs! A duet Miss Summer? Why I'd love to. Hang on though, my new album is all water themed, so let's tack on this slow intro about rain and tears, change the title and then I'll do it. Oh, and make sure I get all the good notes.

If you've only heard the single version of No More Tears (Enough Is Enough), you're missing out. Check out the 8:24 mix on Barbra's Wet album, or better still the full 11:43 version on Donna's On The Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. Go on, you won't regret it.

Hanging out with the President

We've previously established that Lady Gaga likes to "borrow" ideas from other divas, but maybe it's not Madonna who's her major mentor. There's evidence another legendary native New Yorker has heavily influenced the career of this pop magpie.

Gaga is a famous campaigner (for which we love her) and she has taken her lobbying to the top, making a beeline for President Obama. He admitted to finding Gaga "a little intimidating" when they met. A pop diva making a grown President quake in their presence... now where I have I seen that before?

Oh yes, that's right. Didn't Babs meet JFK? It's May 1963 and La Streisand is singing for her supper at the White House and grabbing a cheeky autograph from the President for her mum. She may not have been campaigning that night, but she's probably the most famous Democrat woman after Hillary these days. Her first recording was Happy Days Are Here Again after all, the Democrat party theme song.

But grabbing on the mantle of political diva isn't the most shocking steal that Gaga's made from Babs. You know all this "little monster" business and the whole "paws up" thing that Gaga does with her fans...

Well where do you think she got that idea from!

Enough proof? I'm convinced I can find evidence that Babs has originated every idea any diva has ever had. Challenge me if you dare!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Barbra Streisand: she did it all first!

If you enjoyed reading this blog, please consider forwarding it or linking to it from your Facebook or Twitter account. Also you can hear the tracks mentioned in this week's blog on my Spotify account at the following link: Barbra Did It First.

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