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The Way We Were (song)

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"The Way We Were"
In this black-and-white photograph, Barbra Streisand appears wearing a shawl around her head with her hand against a wall.
Single by Barbra Streisand
from the album The Way We Were
B-side "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?"
Released September 27, 1973 (1973-09-27)
Format 7"
Length 3:29
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Marty Paich
Barbra Streisand singles chronology
"If I Close My Eyes"
(1973)
"The Way We Were"
(1973)
"All in Love Is Fair"
(1974)

"If I Close My Eyes"
(1973)
"The Way We Were"
(1973)
"All in Love Is Fair"
(1974)

"The Way We Were" is a song recorded by American vocalist Barbra Streisand for her fifteenth studio album, The Way We Were (1974). It was physically released as the record's lead single on September 27, 1973 through Columbia Records. The 7" single was distributed in two different formats, with the standard edition featuring B-side track "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" and the Mexico release including an instrumental B-side instead. The recording was written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman and Marvin Hamlisch, while production was solely handled by Marty Paich. "The Way We Were" was specifically produced for the record, in addition to three other tracks, including her then-upcoming single "All in Love Is Fair" (1974).

Its lyrics detail the melancholic relationship between the two main characters in the 1973 film of the same name. Its appeal was noted by several music critics, who felt its impact helped revive Streisand's career. It also won two Academy Awards, which were credited to the songwriters of the track. The single was also a commercial success, topping the charts in both Canada and the United States, while peaking in the top 40 in Australia and the United Kingdom. Additionally, "The Way We Were" was 1974's most successful recording in the United States, where it was placed at number one on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles list. It has since been certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales of over one million units. Streisand has also included "The Way We Were" on various compilation albums, with it most recently appearing on 2010's Barbra: The Ultimate Collection.

Several renditions and versions of the single exist, including one by American singer Andy Williams, who sang it for his thirty-second studio album of the same name in 1974. American band Gladys Knight & the Pips also recorded a cover for I Feel a Song (1974). It was commercially successful, reaching number four in the United Kingdom and number 11 in the United States. Their version was blended with the song "Try to Remember" and features the B-side track "The Need to Be".

Development and release[edit]

American composer and producer Marvin Hamlisch created the final melody for "The Way We Were", which initially was problem between himself and the singer. Streisand had asked Hamlisch to produce a composition in minor key, but he instead wrote it in major key due to his fear of the song's lyrics being revealed too quickly.[1] Shortly following the commercial success of "The Way We Were", Columbia Records began compiling tracks for the singer's then-upcoming fifteenth studio album. Since time was limited, the record consists of several non-album compositions recorded by Streisand, including the aforementioned title and her preceding single "All in Love Is Fair" (1974).[2] According to the liner notes of her 1991 greatest hits album Just for the Record, "The Way We Were", "All in Love is Fair", "Being at War with Each Other", and "Something So Right" were the only tracks specifically created for the album.[3] The recording and two other variants were also included on the original soundtrack for the film: the original, the instrumental, and the "Finale" version.[4] Individually, it was released as a 7" single in the United States on September 27, 1973 through Columbia Records;[5] the aforementioned edition included the studio version of "The Way We Were", in addition to the B-side single "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?", a cover of the 1969 Michael Dees song.[6][7] The Japanese release featured the same versions with slightly different durations,[8] while the version intended for the Mexico market includes the instrumental version of "The Way We Were" as the B-side track instead.[9]

Lyrical interpretation[edit]

Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote "The Way We Were" while Marty Paich handled its production.[6] In particular, the lyrics detail the personal life of Katie Morosky, the character she portrays in the film. Specifically, her troubling relationship with Robert Redford's Hubbell Gardiner is explained, "Memories light the corners of my mind / Misty watercolor memories of the way we were" and "Memories may be beautiful and yet".[10][11] Streisand sings, "What's too painful to remember / We quickly choose to forget", where she longs for nostalgia, which Rolling Stone's Stephen Holden described as an implication that "resonate[s] in the current social malaise".[12] In the beginning of what seems to be a bridge, she whispers, "If we had the chance to do it all again / Tell me would we? Could we?".[10]

Legacy and accolades[edit]

The song's lead songwriter appears holding two awards for his credited work in the single.
Hamlisch was awarded two Academy Awards for his credited work on "The Way We Were".

"The Way We Were" received significant success after its original release in North America; Jon Landau of Rolling Stone claimed that its impact proved worthy enough to revive her career as a musical artist. However, he was more critical of the singer "ignor[ing] the line-by-line variations in [the] song's meaning".[13] Nevertheless, the mass appeal of the single was labeled by Turner Classic Movies's Andrea Passafiume as "one of the most recognizable songs in the world".[14] Hamlisch and the Bergmans won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 46th Academy Awards, beating out four other nominees; the former musician also won the award for Best Original Score for his credited work on "The Way We Were" and the soundtrack of the same name.[15] It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1974 and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1975.[16][17] According to the National Endowment for the Arts and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in their list of the top 365 "Songs of the Century", the single was placed at number 298.[18]

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United States, "The Way We Were" debuted at number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending November 24, 1973, where it served as the issue's seventh-highest debut.[19] After steadily climbing the list for ten consecutive weeks, it topped the chart on February 2, 1974, where it knocked Ringo Starr's version of "You're Sixteen" (1973) from the highest spot.[20] After being temporarily displaced by The Love Unlimited Orchestra's debut single "Love's Theme", Streisand reclaimed the number one rank for two more weeks beginning February 16 of the same year.[21][22] "The Way We Were" departed Billboard's Hot 100 on April 27 at the position of number 53; in total, it spent 23 consecutive weeks among the chart's ranking.[23] On the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1974 list, the single also topped the chart on the list of the year's 100 highest-ranking songs.[24] On August 19, 1997, in addition to several of Streisand's recordings, "The Way We Were" was certified Platinum in the United States by the RIAA for sales exceeding one million copies.[5] On the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, where it was then referred to as the Easy Listening chart, it reached the number one spot on January 12, 1974 and held that position for two weeks.[25]

Outside of Streisand's native country, the single found similar commercial success. In Canada, "The Way We Were" entered the chart compiled by RPM at number 45, where it was the week's third-highest debut.[26] On its seventh week, it reached the top position that was previously held by Terry Jacks' cover of "Seasons in the Sun" (1973).[27] It spent a total of 13 weeks in Canada before departing at its position at number 58.[28] It also topped the Adult Contemporary chart in its 11th week, also in 1974.[29] In their year-end chart, "The Way We Were" was ranked as Canada's eighth best-selling single of 1974.[30] In the final year of Australia's chart compiled by Go-Set, Streisand's recording peaked at number six.[31] It also reached its peak position in the United Kingdom at number 31 for the week of March 30, 1974.[32]

Live performances[edit]

Streisand has performed "The Way We Were" on numerous occasions and is often considered to be one of her signature songs.[33] On her third live album, One Voice (1986), the single was included alongside a live video of the singer performing it.[34] In September 1994, Streisand released The Concert, which also included a live rendition of "The Way We Were" as performed at the Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.[35] At a series of live concerts in 1999 and 2000 in Las Vegas, the singer sang several songs from her catalog and was billed as one of her final live performances; the entirety of the event was then included on Timeless: Live in Concert (2000), including the "Introduction" segment which featured "The Way We Were" in addition to "You'll Never Know", "Something's Coming", and a live interview with actress Shirley MacLaine.[36] The single was also placed on Live in Concert 2006 (2006) and Back to Brooklyn (2013), with its appearance on the latter consisting of a medley of both "The Way We Were" and "Through the Eyes of Love".[37][38]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Japan (RIAJ) 38,650[40]
United States (RIAA)[5] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone

Cover versions[edit]

Several renditions of "The Way We Were" have been released since its initial distribution in 1973. American singer Andy Williams recorded a cover of the track for his 1974 and thirty-second studio album of the same name.[43] AllMusic's William Ruhlmann was divided on Williams' interpretation and claimed that fans of Streisand's version would not be interested in this one.[44] However, Mike Parker from the Daily Express considered his version and the album as a whole as a classic.[45] Bing Crosby recorded the song for his album Feels Good, Feels Right in 1976. He also sang it at his London Palladium concerts that year and in 1977.[46]

In 2014, Streisand re-recorded the track with Lionel Richie for her thirty-fourth studio album, Partners (2014).[47] Walter Afanasieff's contributions and added background vocals to the aforementioned edition were acclaimed by Los Angeles Times' Mikael Wood, who described the composition as a "fluttering" one.[48] "The Way We Were" has also been selected for inclusion on several of Streisand's compilation albums, including Barbra Streisand's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1978),[49] Memories (1981),[50] Just for the Record (1991),[3] The Essential Barbra Streisand (2002),[51] and Barbra: The Ultimate Collection (2010).[52]

Gladys Knight & the Pips version[edit]

"The Way We Were" / "Try to Remember"
An orange photograph displaying all of the band members plus the title and respective artist of the song.
Single by Gladys Knight & the Pips
from the album I Feel a Song
A-side "Try to Remember"
B-side
  • "The Need to Be"
  • "Love Finds Its Own Way"
  • "Midnight Train to Georgia"
Released March 14, 1975 (1975-03-14)
Format 7"
Length 4:48
Label Buddah
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Ralph Moss
Gladys Knight & the Pips singles chronology
"On and On"
(1974)
"The Way We Were" / "Try to Remember"
(1975)
"So Sad the Song"
(1976)

"On and On"
(1974)
"The Way We Were" / "Try to Remember"
(1975)
"So Sad the Song"
(1976)

Background and reception[edit]

American R&B band Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded a cover of "The Way We Were" as part of a blend between the aforementioned recording and the 1960 song, "Try to Remember". It was released in 1974, paired alongside the B-side singles "Love Finds Its Own Way" and "The Need to Be".[53][54] It was also included on their tenth studio album, I Feel a Song (1974), and released by Buddah Records on March 14, 1975 in a 7" single format. Due to the inclusion of "Try to Remember", the song features additional writing by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.[55] Alex Henderson from AllMusic was surprised regarding their version, calling it an "unlikely remake". He further critiqued Knight's "ironic" spoken monologue on the track by assuming she's "reflecting on the nostalgia that seems to be human nature".[56] However, Rashod Ollison from The Virginian-Pilot enjoyed it, declaring it a "stirring remake" and taking a liking to the track's live orchestra. He further lauded the B-side track "The Need to Be" for being a "deeply soulful declaration of independence".[57]

Chart performance[edit]

On the United States' Billboard Hot 100, "The Way We Were" reached its highest position of number 11 on August 2, 1975.[58] It spent a total of 17 weeks charting before decreasing weekly until meeting its final position at number 57 for the week ending August 16, 1975.[59] In Canada, it peaked at number 29 on the list compiled by RPM.[60] It also entered the Adult Contemporary charts in both the United States and Canada, ranking at numbers two and three, respectively.[61][62] In the United Kingdom, the Gladys Knight & the Pips version was more successful than Streisand's. It peaked at number four in that country, becoming their first top ten single; it would tie with their 1977 single "Baby, Don't Change Your Mind" as their highest-peaking track.[63]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Standard edition 7" single[53]
  • A1 "The Way We Were" / "Try to Remember" – 4:48
  • B1 "The Need to Be" – 4:07
United Kingdom 7" single[54]
  • A1 "The Way We Were" / "Try to Remember" – 4:45
  • B1 "Love Finds Its Own Way" – 3:51
United Kingdom Reissued 7" single[64]
  • A1 "The Way We Were" / "Try to Remember" – 4:45
  • B1 "Midnight Train to Georgia" – 4:41

Charts[edit]

Chart (1975) Peak
position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[60] 29
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[62] 3
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[63] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[65] 11
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[61] 2

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Barbra Streisand – The Way We Were". AllMusic. Archived from the original on January 26, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Just for the Record (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. Columbia. 1991. CK 48648. 
  4. ^ "The Way We Were (Original Soundtrack Recording) by Barbra Streisand on iTunes". iTunes Store, Apple. 1974. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "American single certifications – Barbra Streisand – The Way We Were". Recording Industry Association of America. August 19, 1997. Retrieved November 14, 2016.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  6. ^ a b c "The Way We Were" / "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. Columbia. 1973. 4-45944. 
  7. ^ a b "The Way We Were" / "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. CBS. 1974. CBS 1915. 
  8. ^ a b "The Way We Were" / "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. CBS, Sony Music. 1973. SOPB 266. 
  9. ^ a b "The Way We Were"" (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. CBS. 1974. CBS 7244. 
  10. ^ a b Corliss, Richard (August 7, 2012). "Remembrance: Nobody Did It Better: Memories of Marvin Hamlisch, 1944–2012". Time. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016. 
  11. ^ Grad, Laurie Burrows (April 8, 2016). "Memories: Misty Water-Colored Memories Of The Way We Were". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016. 
  12. ^ Stephen Holden (11 April 1974). "Rolling Stone Review - The Way We Were". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Lindau, Jon (June 6, 1974). "Barbra Streisand – The Way We Were". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 9, 2008. Retrieved November 27, 2016. 
  14. ^ Passafiume, Andrea. "The Way We Were (1973)". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016. 
  15. ^ "The 46th Academy Awards (1974) Nominees and Winners". Academy Awards. 1974. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Winners & Nominees Best Original Song – Motion Picture". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on January 6, 2017. Retrieved December 31, 2016. 
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  25. ^ a b "Barbra Streisand Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved November 13, 2016.
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  28. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5000b". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2016. 
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  30. ^ a b "Top RPM 1974 Singles: Issue 3893a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on January 16, 2016. Retrieved November 15, 2016. 
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  36. ^ Timeless: Live in Concert (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. Columbia. 2000. C2K 63778. 
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  38. ^ Back to Brooklyn (Liner notes). Barbra Streisand. Columbia. 2013. 88843001952. 
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  53. ^ a b "The Way We Were"/"Try to Remember" / "The Need to Be" (Liner notes). Gladys Knight & the Pips. Buddah. 1975. BDA-463-N. 
  54. ^ a b "The Way We Were"/"Try to Remember" / "Love Finds Its Own Way" (Liner notes). Gladys Knight & the Pips. Buddah. 1975. BDS 428. 
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  57. ^ Ollison, Rashod (November 10, 2016). "When Gladys Knight & the Pips were at the top". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved December 31, 2016. 
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  63. ^ a b "Gladys Knight and the Pips: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
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External links[edit]