Barbra Streisand at her MusiCares Person of the Year dinner at the LA Convention Center

By Roger Friedman Stop the presses: None other than Prince, dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, introduced Barbra Streisand last night at her MusiCares Person of the Year dinner at the LA Convention Center. He’d been sitting quietly to the side most of the evening, although at one point he did mildly greet Elvis Costello and his wife Diana Krall, in a sea of 2500 music industry types and stars. This means Prince and Costello sat through a three hour plus evening of performances you might noe associate with their ilk- from the sublime (Leona Lewis) to the sensational (Stevie Wonder).

But then again, so did real legends like Sidney Poitier, Quincy Jones, Sam Moore, and Judy Collins, and a legend who stole the entire show–Tony Bennett, 83, and the master.

At Streisand’s table, her inner circle– husband James Brolin, son Jason Gould, songwriter lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman. David Foster was nearby, as were Cornell West, LA Reid, Joel Katz, Marty Bandier, Nikki Haskell, Rosanna Arquette and James Newton Howard, Cheryl Tiegs, Mo Ostin, and Barbara Orbison. Rob Stringer led a delegation from Sony Music, which Streisand has recorded for since 1962. And Jay Landers, her long time musical director, shared thoughts with famed producer Tommy LiPuma.

The eclectic evening of performers was uneven–it always is–but was saved by Phil Ramone’s production. In particular he came to Streisand’s rescue when the diva of divas finally took the stage and offered up a half hour or more of a solo show that ranged from a medley of hits (The Way We Were,” “Happy Days Are Here Again”) to a few standout renditions of things like “Make Someone Happy” and “I’ll Never Say Goodbye.”

Before that there were highlights like Tony Bennett’s supple and textured version of “Smile” and Leona Lewis’s rendition of “Somewhere” to Stevie Wonder’s jazzy take on “People” and an odd trio that worked, comprising Jeff Beck, Bebe Winans, and Lee Anne Rimes. Faith Hill took on “Send in the Clowns”–courageously, since Judy Collins was in he audience. Barry Manilow proved more is more with “Memory” from “Cats.” Several members of the “Glee” cast–Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, etc–gave it the old Vegas effort.

But in the end, the giants were Streisand herself–making Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s “I”ll Never Say Goodbye” sound absolutely new again — she’s recorded with with Ramone for an album of the Bergmans’ songs. And Tony Bennett. who’s 83 years old and delivered Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” with subtlety and aplomb. Bennett took a song we’ve heard a million times and very simply breathed life into it with simplicity. If only these other singers would listen to him.

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