Streisand’s kid sister is happy as one of Kind
Singer Roslyn Kind on life with Babs, her own career and keeping it in the family for the O2 Arena concerts
Roslyn Kind and Barbra Streisand (Photo: Getty Images)
Roslyn Kind looks unsettled. We are hovering in the lounge of the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles trying to find a quiet table in the midst of a sea of chatter. We go over to one empty table, test it for sound. “Too loud, we won’t be able to hear ourselves talk,” Kind says and we move across the room and try out another. This is better. Less noise.
Kind is Barbra Streisand’s kid sister from their mother’s second marriage. Nine years younger than her mega-famous sibling, she has built a considerable name for herself as a singer, performing on Broadway and around the world.
She’s in anticipatory mood. For tomorrow and Monday, she will appear in the two eagerly awaited Streisand concerts at London’s O2 Arena. And making it a major family affair, her nephew — Streisand’s son Jason — will also be performing with them on the first stage of a world tour.
“I’m so excited,” Kind enthuses with a dazzling smile, “because I’m going to be on stage with my big sis and my nephew celebrating life. Family and life.” She is especially excited because after London, there will be two concerts in Tel Aviv, the first time Streisand has performed in Israel. And it will be only the second time Kind has visited the country.
“I was there for 10 days in 1995 and I definitely felt a strong connection,” she recalls, fingering her Star of David. “How could I not? It’s the motherland of the Jewish people. There’s so much history there and I’ve always loved religious topics. My favourite films were always religious, biblical films. I saw The Ten Commandments and Exodus I don’t know how many times. I was really drawn to that.”
Kind had a very Jewish upbringing. “I was raised Conservative. I went to temple and to yeshivah the first years of school and then I went to Hebrew school along with my public school. My parents believed we should know where we come from and what our roots are.
“Right now I’m kind of in-between but I get a very incredibly soulful feeling, especially on High Holy-Days in temple. I’ve always cried at the end of the services. I’m very very spiritual, even though I believe in a lot of psychic phenomena and New Age and kabbalah. To me, it expands my Judaism.”
Sitting with Kind, one cannot help but notice the resemblance between her and Streisand. Both have blonde, shoulder-length hair and the same Brooklyn dialect. And some of the notes Kind hits on stage are difficult to tell apart from her sister’s vocals. But she does not have Streisand’s worldwide impact — and nor does she want it. “My sister’s monumental. She’s a legend. She is an icon. I’m not even looking at that.”
Despite the nine-year age gap, they were close growing up and Kind’s eyes sparkle as she recalls those years. “My sister used to put me on the toilet seat and comb my hair and she used to take pictures of my profile. We used to harmonise together.” She breaks into Row Row Row Your Boat and nearby diners turn their heads. “I don’t know if Barbra remembers our doing that. But she was out of the house at a young age. She left home after she graduated early.”
Over the years their bond has strengthened. “When you develop into people you appreciate who each other is and you know that there’s love and you can depend on that person and that they’re there for you.That’s how we are.” There appears to be no sibling rivalry and she often travels with Streisand.
Kind began her career as a teenager — “a chubby little kid from Brooklyn” — landing a record deal while still at school. On graduation day she was recording a track for her first album. “Never give up on your dreams,” her grandmother told her and she never did.
When she began singing professionally, she was anxious not to be likened to her sister. However, it was not Streisand’s vocal style she was then compared to, but torch singer Libby Holman. “I didn’t even know who Libby Holman was.”
But she acknowledges that battling comparisons with her sister has been difficult. “It’s very hard,” Kind reflects flicking her long fringe out of her eyes. “Because even though you don’t go in that direction, people compare you anyway.”
Over 40 years, she has carved a career of considerable standing, both as singer and actress. As well as appearing on Broadway, she has sung at Carnegie Hall, starred in cabarets around the world and had roles in sitcoms and TV movies. But singing on stage, she says, is “incomparable”.
Kind’s greatest joy comes from bringing pleasure to others. “Our mother taught us to give tzedakah, to care about and give to people.” So she performs, giving her audiences a love that is missing in her private life, and sharing her spirituality — a huge part of who she is. Before going on stage, she always says her affirmations, “asking to be used as a vessel to share the goodness of love and understanding and to be a positive light in this world”.
The spiritual streak runs in the family, she adds. Streisand has it too. “How can you not see it when she performs? How can you not see what’s in her soul?”
Kind attributes the gift of their singing voices to their grandfather, a cantor in Russia, and their mother. “She loved to sing and she had a glorious voice. But she never went after it. She was very shy.”
There is just one component missing — someone to share her life with. Married briefly years ago, she admits she would like to marry again, but at 62 (she doesn’t look a day over 45), she is still waiting for the right man.
It’s a genuine pleasure to spend time with Roslyn Kind. She’s refreshingly personable, intelligent and funny and seems to have her life together. She knows who she is and where she is going and seems quite contented with her lot.
As she prepares to leave, a man at the next table leans over to tell her how much he had enjoyed her brief bursts into song. Kind thanks him, then turns to me, flashing her radiant smile. “You see, now that’s what it’s all about for me. That’s my ultimate reward.”