Barbra Streisand Explains Why She Allowed 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' to Use Her Songs

Amazon's show about a Jewish housewife who becomes a stand-up coming during the '60s got the singer's blessing to use two of her tracks, one of which was a surprising choice to Streisand.
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It’s not very often that Barbra Streisand allows her music to be used on television shows. But not all shows are The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which received the vocal legend’s blessing to use not just one, but two of her tracks on the first season.

And now, for the first time, Streisand is weighing in on giving her musical green light to the hit Amazon series, which she praises as doing “a wonderful job capturing the energy of the Village” of the late '50s and early '60. She should know — Streisand made her professional debut in 1960 opening for Phyllis Diller at the legendary Bon Soir on 8th Street.

“I don’t license my songs very often, but I was impressed with how the show digs deep into the song catalogs of the era and doesn’t just go with the obvious hits,” Streisand tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was fun hearing an obscure song from my first album, Cole Porter's ‘Come to the Supermarket (In Old Peking),’” used during the Mrs. Maisel pilot.

But then there was the definitely-not-obscure “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a Streisand classic played while Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) is moving back in with her parents after her marriage falls apart. Mrs. Maisel creator Amy Sherman-Palladino chose Streisand’s original rendition, also from her first album, which she recorded in 1963.

“It was a few months after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the country had just averted an unimaginable catastrophe,” Streisand recalls. “So my concept for the ending was almost like saying, ‘My God, we nearly came to the end of the world!’ But when I heard the playback, I didn’t like it. It was too traumatic. I wanted it to be more symphonically traumatic like Mahler, with beauty in the chords. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and money to redo it. I changed it immediately for my live performances.

“Usually, when someone requests a license they only use 30 seconds or a minute, so I was surprised when they used the whole song with that crazy ending,” Streisand continues. “They must have thought that wild, out-of-control finish captured Miriam Maisel’s conflicted emotions. So be it!”

Sherman-Palladino promised herself she would do whatever it took to get Streisand’s permission for the music. “We were going into post on the pilot and [my producers] were like, ‘You know, Barbra hasn’t signed off on the song yet so we don’t know if you want to look at something else,” she tells THR. “I was like, ‘It’s that song or nothing.’”

Sherman-Palladino wrote Streisand a letter “pleading” for her OK. “I also put the pilot together with ‘Come to the Supermarket’ and sent it to her,” she says. “Thank God she said yes.”

Sherman-Palladino came close to thanking Streisand in person at the Golden Globes when Mrs. Maisel was named best musical or comedy TV series.

Her husband and producing partner Daniel Palladino didn’t tell her Streisand was sitting in the front row of the Globes during her acceptance speech until they were off the stage: “He said, ‘I debated whether or not to tell you but then I thought you would completely go off the rails.’”

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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