Barbra Streisand On Losing Her Dad When She Was A Child And The Profound Impact It Had On Her Life And Career

Date November 28, 2018 14:17

Barbra Streisand has a spectacular career and is a loving wife and mother, but she’s had her fair share of pain and loss. At 15 months old, when her life just started, she lost her father. His passing had a profound effect on her life and career, and it’s something she didn’t realize for a long time.


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Who was Barbra’s dad?

Emanuel Streisand, Barbra’s father, was a son of an immigrant fishmonger. He got his degree at Columbia University and became a teacher of English literature at a Brooklyn high school.

Barbra couldn't remember much about him, as she was only 15 months old when he died. He had an epileptic seizure, and then got a morphine shot at a hospital and stopped breathing. Since she was only one year old, Barbra was too young to comprehend what happened. In a 1983 interview with People, the singer recalled how she would look out the window every evening, waiting for her dad to come home.


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She told the magazine:

I always felt I never had a father. There wasn’t even a picture of us together. Only his books down in the cellar, tied up with string.

When Barbra was 7, her mother, Diana, married another man. He had always been mean to her, and her mom wasn’t very kind to her either. She rarely showed emotion and never even hugged Barbra and never told her she loved her, the singer recalled in one interview. Her mom was even jealous of her, as she had a good singing voice but didn’t have the courage to use it professionally, as Barbra did.

READ ALSO: "I Just Couldn’t Please Her": Barbra Streisand Reflects On Painful Memories With Her Mother

What Barbra did to honor her dad's memory

For a long time, Barbra was angry at her dad for leaving her too soon. She hated being “the only kid on the block without a father.”

One day, in 1979, Barbra had a surreal experience that changed her attitude. Her older brother, Sheldon, turned to a medium to try to communicate with the dad’s spirit. Barbra was scared, but she heard her father reach from the other side to say how sorry he was for leaving her and her brother and how proud he was of her.

Four years later, in 1983, Barbra made her directorial debut. The movie, Yentl, was dedicated to her father. When Yentl was still in the works, the singer wanted to get to know her dad better. In an interview on NPR, she recalled:

I read his theses. He had written two theses [for a Ph.D.]. ... He was a teacher, you know. ... The first one was on the behavior of my brother. It was written almost like a play, but it was based on the truth. ... And I never read my father's second thesis until I was 39 years old and wanting to see if I should direct Yentl. ... It was all about how he taught English to prisoners and juvenile delinquents at Elmira Reformatory by using Chekov and Shakespeare and Ibsen. And so you see so much is in the genes, you know?


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Her father is probably looking down on her and feeling immensely proud.

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