Barry Manilow saying goodbye to touring

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

At 71, Barry Manilow is ready to throw in the towel on touring life.

“I’ve been roaming the Earth for 40 years, packing and unpacking in hotels and dressing rooms,” Manilow says. “After a while it’s enough.”

The chart-topping pop crooner is embarking on his “One Last Time” tour, which stops Sunday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Although Manilow says the tour will be his last, he hastens to note that he’s not retiring and will continue to do one-off performances and make records. Last year was a particularly productive year for Manilow’s recording career, as he released two very different records. The first, “Night Songs,” has been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category.

Manilow says the stripped-back standards album, which features him accompanying himself on piano and bass, was initially just a “private project” that he pursued in his free time. But it took off when he played the songs for his manager.

“They said, ‘Would you put it out?’” Manilow says. “I said, ‘Sure, what the hell?’, never having any idea that anybody would even discover this album, no less the Grammy committee finding it.”

Manilow’s other recent release, “My Dream Duets,” was a considerably more complicated project. When his record company asked him to do a duets album, Manilow brainstormed to come up with an approach that would make his record stand out from other duets collections. He settled upon the idea of using technology to resurrect the voices of some of his favorite now-dead vocalists, interspersing his own vocals to create otherwise impossible duets. Manilow tested the idea by creating about 40 self-described “bad demos” of himself with various vocalists. He whittled down his list of fantasy duet partners to 11, including Whitney Houston, Jimmy Durante and Judy Garland, and hit the studio.

“I had a bunch of geniuses working with me that made these songs sound like they were done yesterday and I was standing right next to Jimmy Durante,” Manilow says. “It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever been involved with, and very creative, and very emotional, too.”

In the recording process, Manilow says he strove to keep a respectful spotlight on his now-deceased duet partners.

“This was not my album,” he says. “This was their album. I was honoring them, and I stayed pretty far away. Every time I would mute their voice I would say, ‘How dare you? These are legendary people.’”

Manilow even found a way to take some of the “Dream” duets on the road with him. In Detroit, a video of Whitney Houston will appear to perform “I Believe In You and Me” with Manilow. In addition to the newer material, Manilow says he’s aiming to perform “every hit song I have” on the tour. Although he’s about to quit life on the road, he says he’s still looking forward to this last ride.

“There is nothing like that curtain opening and being hit with the roar of thousands of people that are in your corner,” Manilow says. “You’ve got to be dead not to be affected by this. And I will miss that.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

Barry Manilow

with Dave Koz

7:30 p.m. Sunday

The Palace of Auburn Hills

6 Championship Drive, Auburn Hills

Tickets $19.75-$149.75

(248) 377-0100