BY: BETH HARRIS
LOS ANGELES – Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett and a trio of “Glee” stars led Barbra Streisand on a musical journey through her nearly 50-year career.
They joined Faith Hill, Barry Manilow and Seal in launching Grammy weekend by honoring the Oscar-winning singer and actress as MusiCares Person of the Year on Friday night.
Streisand, who turns 69 in April, was singled out for her musical achievements and philanthropic work.
“I said yes because it’s such a wonderful organization that takes care of their own — the people who actually create the music,” she told the audience.
The evening’s standing ovations went to Wonder, Bennett and Streisand, who closed the show with what she called “the leftovers” of her hits at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Wonder played piano and harmonica on “People,” accompanied by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.
“I want you to know when I was 12 years old, I said, `I wish she could be my girlfriend because she sounds so good,’” Wonder told more than 2,000 guests.
Bennett did “Smile,” a song he and Streisand dueted on in his 2006 TV special.
With Herbie Hancock at the piano, 17-year-old Canadian Nikki Yanofsky sang a jazzy take of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” from Streisand’s 1970 movie of the same name.
Diana Krall played piano on “Down with Love” from 1963, while Lea Michele of “Glee” belted out “My Man” from 1965.
Matthew Morrison, Michele’s castmate on the hit Fox show, and Kristin Chenoweth dueted on “One Less Bell to Answer/A House is Not a Home.” Darren Criss of “Glee” opened the show with “What Kind of Fool” before he and his a capella backups blew kisses to Streisand, who was seated in the audience next to her husband James Brolin.
“My niece recently watched a DVD of `Funny Girl’ for the first time and asked why I was singing songs from `Glee,’” Streisand said, drawing laughs.
With Jeff Beck on guitar, BeBe Winans and LeAnn Rimes performed a bluesy version of “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Hill did “Send in the Clowns” and Manilow sang “Memory,” a hit for both him and Streisand.
“Neither one of us know what the heck the lyric means,” he said of the song from the Broadway musical “Cats.”
Later, Streisand said, “I think it’s about a vampire.”
It was a rare public performance for Streisand, who was introduced by Prince as “very simply the one and only.” She hasn’t toured since 2007 in Europe.
Backed by an orchestra, she sang “The Way We Were,” “Evergreen,” “Happy Days Are Here Again,” “I Finally Found Someone,” “Windmills of Your Mind” and another song from a new album she is currently recording.
Streisand poured herself a cup of tea between songs and gripped the mic stand with her left hand.
“I love music for what it does to the soul, how it elevates the moment, the emotions,” she said. “I love music for what it’s given me. It gave me a job when I couldn’t get a job as an actress. I love how music binds us together. It also reflects the times we live in.”
Streisand is nominated for best traditional pop vocal album for “Love is the Answer” at Sunday’s Grammy Awards. She will perform on the CBS telecast and be introduced by “A Star is Born” co-star Kris Kristofferson.
Friday’s dinner and auction produced the highest grossing evening in the tribute’s 21-year history, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said.
MusiCares, run by the Recording Academy, provides financial assistance to individuals in the music industry during times of need.
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