Barbra Streisand: The way she still is

Singer Barbra Streisand CBS News

Barbra Streisand is a performer who needs no introduction, and doesn't REALLY need the work. All the same, this morning she explains to our Bill Whitaker why she still is so intently focused to get everything exactly the way she wants it. THAT'S when it becomes nice and easy...

That voice - so caressing, so familiar, so distinctively Barbara Streisand. She has serenaded us from Broadway to Hollywood, selling more than 140 million albums along the way.

"Is it hard to maintain your voice?" Whitaker asked

"You know, I don't worry about it," she replied.

"You never vocalize?"

"I never, no."

"You don't walk around singing? You don't sit around at the piano and just sort of belt out some songs?"

"No. I never sing in the shower either. It's like a gift that I can't even explain to you. When I love the music that I'm singing, it's just there for me. I'm very lucky."

Web Exclusive: Click on the video player below to watch Barbra Streisand speak with Bill Whitaker about the gift of her voice.

Call it luck ... call it fate ... call it her fans' good fortune ... but singing wasn't even her first career choice.

Streisand told Whitaker than she didn't necessarily ant to become a singer: "I did want to be an actress," she said. "I just became a singer, because I could never get work as an actress."

This is Barbra Streisand's fall back job.

As a singer it seems she's done it all. Except perhaps for this: "What Matters Most" is an album devoted exclusively to the songs of husband & wife lyricists Alan & Marilyn Bergman. She calls it a labor of love. "It was pure joy, that's all I can say."

The Bergmans first met Streisand in New York in the early '60s. A friend dragged them downtown to hear a new girl singer.

"I didn't want to be there," said Marilyn Bergman, "until she walked out there and I took a look. And then she started to sing and I started to cry."

"Yes, she cried," said her husband.

Streisand sang a Leonard Bernstein song called "My Name is Barbara."

"You knew right off the bat that - well, the world knew right off the bat," Marilyn said. "Certain things are undeniable."

They've been friends - and collaborators - ever since. If you know Barbra Streisand's music, you know the Bergmans. They have penned the words to some of her biggest hits, spanning albums ... and movies.

"When we were doing 'Yentl,' I would say, 'She's alone, she cut her hair and she should sing to her father.' Now they come up with 'Papa, Can You Hear Me?'"

"At least a year ago I asked them for all the rest of the songs that I've never recorded," Streisand said. "And the ones that I was really drawn to, those are the ones I chose to sing for this album. It was easy!"

But Barbra Streisand never seems to take it entirely nice and easy ... at least not when there are cameras around.

Her reputation for being somewhat controlling hasn't changed much through the years.

In a 1991 "60 Minutes" interview, she asked to check the placement of cameras and light bulbs. "You would love to control this piece," said Mike Wallace.

"Absolutely. What, are you kidding?" Streisand replied.

She's a self-professed "hands-on" person ... hands-on with every detail of her new CD, even the liner notes.

"Up until the last minute, I was working on just the color of peach that I wanted some of the pages to be," she admitted.

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