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Inside Barry Manilow’s Secret Wedding to Longtime Love Garry Kief: ‘I Didn’t Think It Was Going to Be That Emotional!’

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Pop legend Barry Manilow opens up for the first time about coming out, finding love, and surviving showbiz for 50 years. Subscribe now for his exclusive untold story — only in PEOPLE.

Barry Manilow can’t smile without him!

In the new issue of PEOPLE, the pop icon, 73, opens up for the first time about his 39-year relationship — and 2014 wedding — with longtime manager Garry Kief.

After breaking out in 1974 with his pop-rock ballad “Mandy,” Manilow skyrocketed to fame with hit after hit, from “Looks Like We Made It” to “Copacabana (At the Copa).” The performer says the attention was alienating.

“When you’re that big, you don’t meet very many people,” says the pop icon, who will release his new album, This Is My Town: Songs of New Yorkon April 21.

So when Manilow met Kief — then a TV exec and Houston native — in 1978, his life changed completely.

Martin Schoeller

“I knew that this was it,” says Manilow. “I was one of the lucky ones. I was pretty lonely before that … Garry didn’t know what I did, even though I had all these records out. He was a guy, and I was a guy, so we could just deal with each other like two normal people, not like a superstar and a person.”

Manilow and Kief, 68, have been together ever since, romantically — and even professionally, as Kief has managed the star for nearly 40 years.

“He’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met in my life — and a great guy, too” says Manilow.

3 things you didn't know about Barry Manilow
People.com
Martin Schoeller

Adds Suzanne Somers, a longtime friend of the couple: “It helps that Garry is devastatingly handsome. I still see Barry looking at him with his sparkling, periwinkle-blue eyes, and it’s clear their decades-long love is here to stay.”

Manilow likely gave Kief that same look of love in April 2014, when they exchanged vows in April 2014 in an intimate, private wedding ceremony at their 53-acre Palm Springs estate.

“I didn’t think it was going to be that emotional,” recalls Manilow. “It was deeper than we thought it was going to be, looking at each other, saying, ‘I love you’ in front of people.”

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Still, Manilow says their nuptials were more of a formality than anything.

“We’ve been married all these years. It’s just that it became legal,” says Manilow, who was previously married to high school sweetheart Susan Deixler for a year before they split. (“I was in love with Susan … I wasn’t ready to settle down,” he adds, maintaining he wasn’t struggling with his sexuality at the time).

Adds Manilow: “We took a look at our wills and made sure that everything is in proper order. Getting married was the right thing to do.”

RELATED VIDEO: Suzanne Somers on Best Friend & Next Door Neighbor Barry Manilow: ‘I Love Him Like a Brother’

Like any couple, Manilow and Kief faced some challenges over their years together. The showman says his fame put a strain on their relationship early on after Kief went to a Manilow concert. Afterward, “I got into the car with him, and [the fans] were rocking the car,” Manilow recalls. “He was like, ‘I can’t handle this. It’s not for me.’ I’m glad he stayed.”

  • For more on Barry Manilow’s life, love and legacy, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

After nearly four decades together together, though, the couple is happier than ever.

“Thank goodness we’re still together,” Manilow says, “and we’re in good shape, too.”