How Barbra Streisand came to do a song for a TV series for the first time

How Barbra Streisand came to do a song for a TV series for the first time

On April 25 — the day after her 82nd birthday — Barbra Streisand released “Love Will Survive,” the 10-time Grammy winner’s first new single in six years, as well as another first: Never before has she recorded an end-title theme song for a television series. The poignant ballad, which showcases Streisand’s still-commanding vocal prowess, is on the soundtrack of Peacock’s six-part Holocaust drama “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” based on Heather Morris’ bestselling book. Starring Harvey Keitel and Melanie Lynskey, the limited series tells the story of a concentration camp prisoner made to tattoo the ID numbers on his fellow prisoners, even as he falls in love.

The Envelope was curious as to how Streisand’s involvement came about. The star answered our questions via email.

How did this project and song find you — and how did it all come together?

Timing is everything. I happened to be working on a special new album when the gifted composer (and my onetime neighbor) Hans Zimmer reached out to one of my producers, Peter Asher, to ask if I’d be open to hearing a theme he and co-composer Kara Talve wrote for a TV series based on the book “The Tattooist of Auschwitz.” Obviously, with all that’s going on in the world today, the subject matter was of great personal interest to me, but the music cue was just that — a lovely piece of writing but not a full song. I asked my other producer, Walter Afanasieff, if he could transform Hans and Kara’s theme into an actual song. And then we asked Charlie Midnight to write the lyrics. We’re a good team, zero egos, and it was a very easy process. Then we asked my dear friend Bill Ross to work on the arrangement with Walter. As it happened, Bill was in London conducting the score for a movie with the London Symphony Orchestra, so it all fell into place rather quickly. They recorded the track in England, and I recorded my vocal at my engineer’s home studio in Malibu.

Were you at all apprehensive about returning to the recording studio?

Yes, I was quite nervous! I hadn’t made a new record in about five or six years, and I honestly didn’t know what my voice would sound like after doing my audiobook for six weeks straight — six days a week, for five hours a day. I never do any of the things I hear most singers do, like warm-up exercises … too boring! So, the first time I had to sing a song for this new album, I literally stood in front of the microphone, in a small vocal booth, and prayed to God my voice would be there. And lo and behold, my prayers were answered. I have a wonderful engineer named Jochem [van der Saag] who somehow feeds a great sound into my headphones, with all the instruments playing with a perfect mix of my voice and the orchestra, so it makes singing a pleasure. Very different than singing live in concert, where I can never really hear myself because I can’t wear those earwigs [“in-ear” devices].

A woman camp prisoner sits at a small table with lines of other prisoners behind her in "The Tatooist of Auschwitz."

Anna Próchniak as Gita Furman in “The Tatooist of Auschwitz.”

(Sky UK/Martin Mlaka / Sky UK)

Why do you think it’s important that audiences watch “The Tattooist of Auschwitz”?

During the Holocaust, 6 million Jews were murdered. Historically speaking, it wasn’t that long ago. And today, antisemitism has reared its ugly head again. So a TV series like “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” (based on true events) is a way of reminding people that we must be vigilant or else we’ll repeat the tragedies of the past.

You write in your autobiography that theatrical movies are increasingly hard to get made. I’m sure you know your fans would love you to act and/or direct again. Would you ever consider a streaming series or film — acting or directing it — if the project spoke deeply to you?

I do love movies. I just don’t see myself spending years trying to raise the financing for a new project, which requires a commitment of energy I’d rather spend elsewhere — but I never say never! I do love directing movies, and I’d pursue it if someone else did all the heavy lifting. I have a great producer friend who wants to do this with me, so we’ll see. I also enjoy spending time with my family, my good friends and especially my delicious grandchildren! (Not to mention my dogs!)

Would you ever consider adapting your autobiography as a streaming limited series?

Absolutely not! But now that I’m finished with the book, I’m involved in making a documentary that will collect lots of unseen footage from my career, so some subjects I wrote about will have a visual reference.

After all you’ve done and been rewarded for, is there anything left to cross off your list?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate that so many of my professional aspirations came true. I’ve also tried using my public platform to shine a spotlight on issues that personally mean a lot to me — climate change, women’s equality, including a woman’s right to choose and medical research on women’s hearts via my Streisand’s Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai, and my center at UCLA, which is focusing for now on “Truth in the Public Sphere.” Let me end here with a song called “Here’s to Life” that sort of sums it all up in a lovely way.

“I had my share, I drank my fill / and even though I’m satisfied, I’m hungry still / to see what’s down another road beyond the hill / and do it all again.”

I’m still curious to see what surprises life has in store for me!

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