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"I Write the Songs" is a popular song written by Bruce Johnston in 1975 and made famous by Barry Manilow. Manilow's version reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1976 after spending two weeks atop the Billboard adult contemporary chart in December 1975. It won a Grammy Awardfor Song of the Year and was nominated for Record of the Year in 1977.
The original version was recorded by The Captain & Tennille, who worked with Johnston in the early 1970s with The Beach Boys. It appears on their 1975 album, Love Will Keep Us Together. Conversely, the first release of I Write the Songs as a single was by then teen-idol David Cassidy from his 1975 solo album The Higher They Climb, which was also produced by Bruce Johnston. Cassidy's version reached #11 on the UK Singles Chart in August of that year.
Johnston, has stated that, for him, the "I" in the song is "God" and that songs come from the spirit of creativity in all of us. He has said that the song is not about his Beach Boys bandmate Brian Wilson.
Manilow was initially reluctant to record the song, stating in his autobiography Sweet Life: "The problem with the song was that if you didn't listen carefully to the lyric, you would think that the singer was singing about himself. It could be misinterpreted as a monumental ego trip." After persuasion by Clive Davis, then president of Arista Records, Manilow recorded the song, and his version of "I Write the Songs" was the first single taken from the album Tryin' to Get the Feeling. It first charted on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 15, 1975, reaching the top of the chart nine weeks later, on January 17, 1976.
This song has also been recorded by Johnny Mathis, Frank Chacksfield, Mantovani, Ray Conniff, Richard Clayderman, Tom Jones, Dinah Shore, as well as Bruce Johnston himself on his 1977 album, Going Public. Frank Sinatra sang it as "I Sing the Songs" from 1976 (leaving out the line "and I wrote some rock and roll so you could move"). In 1979, Sammy Davis, Jr. performed it as part of his live show. In circa 1975, Quebec popular singer René Simard performed it live in a French-English two-verse version. In 2008, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes recorded it on their album Have Another Ball.