Artist Name
Barbara McNair
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Born

1934

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1934 to 2007

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Artist Biography
Barbara McNair (March 4, 1934 - February 4, 2007) was an African-American singer and actress. Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, McNair studied music at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Her big break came with a win on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which led to bookings at The Purple Onion and the Cocoanut Grove. She soon became one of the country's most popular headliners and a guest on such television variety shows as The Steve Allen Show, Hullabaloo, The Bell Telephone Hour, and The Hollywood Palace, while recording for the Coral, Signature, and Motown labels. Among her hits were You're Gonna Love My Baby and Bobby. In the early 60s, Barbara made several musical shorts for Scopitone, a franchise of coin-operated machines that showed what were then the forerunners of today's music videos. McNair's acting career began on television, guesting on series such as Dr. Kildare, I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hogan's Heroes and McMillan and Wife. She caught the attention of the movie-going public with her much-publicized nude sequences in the gritty crime drama If He Hollers Let Him Go (1968) opposite Raymond St. Jacques, then donned a nun's habit alongside Mary Tyler Moore for Change of Habit (1969), Elvis Presley's last feature film. She portrayed Sidney Poitier's wife in They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970) and its sequel, The Organization (1971). McNair's Broadway credits include The Body Beautiful (1958), No Strings (1962), and a revival of The Pajama Game (1973). McNair was one of the very first African-American entertainers to host her own primetime television variety series, but it lasted only from 1969-71, despite the wattage provided by A-list guests like Tony Bennett and Sonny and Cher. She & her third husband Rick Manzi were arrested for heroin possesion in 1972, and even after she was cleared of the charge, career offers began to dwindle . In 1976, her husband, Rick Manzi, was murdered, and Mafia boss-turned-FBI-informant Jimmy "The Weasel" Frattiano later claimed in his book The Last Mafioso that Manzi had been a Mafia associate who tried to put a contract on the life of a mob-associated tax attorney with whom he had a legal dispute. The ensuing publicity did little to help McNair's floundering career. Her recordings include Livin' End, I Enjoy Being A Girl, and The Ultimate Motown Collection, a 2-CD set with 48 tracks that include her two albums for the label plus a non-album single and B-side and an entire LP that never was released. Into her seventies, McNair resided in the Los Angeles area, playing tennis and skiing to keep in shape on a regular basis and touring on occasion. She died at age 72 on February 4, 2007 after developing a skull based tumor that was originally overlooked. By the time it was diagnosed it was inoperable.


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