Interview with Engelbert Humperdinck
Article By: Marilyn Hallett, You’ve Earned It
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 9:38 AM
International music legend, Engelbert Humperdinck returns to South Africa this November for a series of intimate shows.
You've Earned It chatted to Engelbert about some fascinating little-known facts about his life as well as his career as a legendary music icon.
Mr Humperdinck, or may I call you Engelbert? Backtracking to the sixties - you have been a part of my life ever since I was at boarding school in the UK! I remember listening to Top of the Pops every weekend, along with other "Humperdinckers" (his female fans), to Release Me and other chart-busters! So it is a privilege and a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet you today.
I understand that your name comes from the 1911 Austrian composer who wrote "Hansel and Gretel". What was your reason for choosing this particular name?
Way back in 1966, when I was trying to create a style/image, I already knew that I had a different hair style and I wanted a different name! My first manager, Gordon Mills, and I said it would be great to use an old composer’s name.
As it was way before the days of the internet, we couldn’t just "google it", so Gordon did some research and then one day before I was about to go on stage as Gerry Dorsey in Darlington, Gordon called me and said 'your name is now Engelbert Humperdinck!!' I thought it was a group!
You were born in Madras in India and moved to Leicester in the UK as a child. What got you started in the music industry?
I come from a musical family. I had 7 sisters and 2 brothers. My dear Mother and Father used to love to entertain at our house in Madras and apart from Mum playing the violin and Dad playing the swannie whistle… we kids used to supply the entertainment.!
I was shy, but I would sing from behind the curtain or under the table. I was only about 6 years old. India was a magnificent place to grow up. We were very privileged, with my father being in the British Army as we had a huge house with tropical gardens. It was quite magical.!
Few people know that other musical icons started out as opening acts for you in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – can you name a few, and have you retained relationships with any of them?
Jimi Hendrix was a good friend. Jimi was the opening act on a tour with Cat Stevens and myself. He was such a great guy - we used to hang out after the shows. On one occasion, my guitar player didn’t show up and Jimi offered to play my show from behind the curtain.
It sounded like 4 or 5 guitars behind me! I was very sad when he died - not only did the world lose one of its’ finest musicians, but lost one of the nicest guys in the industry.
The Carpenters were my opening act for many years too. Karen would always come and take my (then very young) children out for early morning bike rides when we were performing in Lake Tahoe or Vegas or places like that. Even today, she is still one of my favourite female vocalists of all time.
On researching your background, I read that it was you and not Elvis Presley who made famous the awesome sideburns and flamboyant leather jumpsuits! Did he (Elvis) become your arch-enemy when he "stole" your image?!!
Elvis and I were friends from the second we met. The entire world (including myself) stole things from Elvis and I was flattered when he grew his sideburns back again in the late 60’s and said to me 'Hell boy - if they look good on you, then they are going to look even better on me!'.
I think Elvis and I always enjoyed the more flamboyant stage suits for many years. I guess we were the original "Kings of Bling"!
In the early days, you were stricken by tuberculosis? Did this put you out of action for some time?
Yes - I was in hospital for 6 months (they actually had a priest give me my last rights). I spent a further 6 months recuperating at home. So I was basically out of the business for about a year.
When I came back and started knocking on doors again, all the agents said 'Oh Gerry Dorsey…. He’s "old hat"… 28 years old hat!' Which was another reason to change my name and almost start all over again.
You have been a legend in the international music industry since the sixties. You have sold over 150 million records and you have a world-wide fan base of millions! Out of all your international hits, which is your personal favourite?
It would have to be Release Me. It started my musical life and it was number one around the world – this gave me the ability to have a world market. I still get the chills when I perform it – the hair on my arm stands up when the music starts and the crowd cheers!
We are delighted that you will be coming to South Africa to present the four "Engelbert Calling" concerts to local fans. How have you found the South African audiences?
I have always loved performing in South Africa. The audiences have always been fantastic. I am also proud to have been one of the first international stars to play to NON-segregated audiences. I take my music all over the world from Lebanon to Las Vegas, from Africa to Antarctica - all in the name of love and peace.
Can you tell us a little more about your latest CD "Engelbert Calling" and the names of some of the artists who accompany you in some of the tracks?
Where do I begin? This project was the masterchild of my son and manager Scott. It took about 2 years to put it together, but so many people came on board that we had to make it a double CD.
I was honoured to sing with such legends as Johnny Mathis, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Olivia Newton John, Dionne Warwick, Charles Aznavour, Cliff Richard and Gene Simmons to name but a few.
But it was such a thrill being in the studio with Sir Elton John that really brought it home. I have always been a MASSIVE Elton fan but had only met him in passing in the past.
He was most of the most gracious, comforting and welcoming people I have met. It was a complete honour to record with him. I do the Elton duet as a virtual duet in the concert that I will be bringing to South Africa!
You have four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe for "Entertainer of the Year" (1988), 63 gold and 24 platinum records and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and yet you have chosen not to retire! Why?
Music is not a job... it is my way of life and you can't retire from your way of life. You can slow down … which I have and recently cut back to doing around 50-60 concerts per year.
I had good stamina training. At one time, we would perform for 1 month straight in Vegas doing 2 shows a night (60 shows), have 1 day off and do the same thing in Tahoe for 2 weeks straight (30 shows)… we were doing over 400 concerts a year!
You represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 in Azerbaijan. You set the record as the oldest singer, at the age of 76, to have ever participated in the contest. Can you tell us a little more about this experience?
It was a huge honour to be asked by the BBC to represent your country in song. I had a fantastic song Love Will Set You Free writen just for this contest.
Prior to the show, everyone was telling me that we were second favourites to win with the public votes and that it was just up "the judges".
Well I came second last, the last spot going to 12 Russian Grannies baking bread and clapping. I guess the judges were just not into my music! However, I did have a great time participating and would do it all over again. Probably. Maybe...!
Release Me spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 and sold 85,000 copies at the height of its popularity. It made the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic and kept the Beatles from the number one slot in the Top Ten. That must have felt so good! Is Release Me one of your personal favourites, and will it be in your repertoire when you come to South Africa?
Actually it was selling 125,000 units a day at its height! I know as I would call my friend at the record company and ask what we sold that day. It was truly amazing – I had been given a last minute opportunity to perform Release Me on national UK TV on Sunday Night At The London Palladium - it jumped into everyones’ living rooms and introduced Engelbert Humperdinck to the world.
Of course I will be singing it in South Africa. We usually get a pretty good sing-a-long from the audience and I’m expecting my South African audience to be in fine vocal form when I get there!
May we touch on your personal life? You married Patricia Healey in 1964 and you have four children? Do you have grandchildren? And where is home now – still the UK or the USA?
My beautiful wife Patricia and I have 8 amazing grandchildren ranging from George (4) to Ryan (26).
I live most of the time in Los Angeles but visit my home in Leicestershire 3-4 times each year
I understand that you have an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Leicester. And you have been given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester. These are both accolades of the highest order. How does it feel to be honoured by your home town?
It feels amazing and something that I am truly proud of. Apparently I am allowed to walk my herds of sheep through the middle of Leicester with my Freedom Of The City!!
What do you believe is the single, most important reason for your success?
Hard work. I am always trying to better myself and I work hard at trying to achieve perfection... along with a little luck!
Can you describe the off-stage Engelbert Humperdinck to us?
Family man and devoted to my wife, children, grandchildren and friends
Overall, how would you describe your journey to date?
Amazing and one that I don’t want to end… which is another reason not to talk about retiring!
CAPE TOWN Venue: Grand Arena, GrandWest
Date & time: Saturday, 21 November 2015
Ticket prices: R400, R500, R600, R700
JOHANNESBURG Venue: Teatro at Montecasino
Dates & time: Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 8pm
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 at 8pm
Ticket prices: R500, R550, R650, R750, R850
Computicket by calling 0861 915 8000, visit www.computicket.com
or visit your nearest Computicket service centre.
Engelbert on iheart Radio
Engelbert chats with man of the moment Paul Cashmere
Bob Rogers Interviews Engelbert Humperdinck
Listen to Engelbert as he chats with legendary DJ Bob Roberts on Sydney 2CH
They discuss the upcoming Australian tour and how he has family in Sydney
Engelbert on iHeartRadio
Listen here as Engelbert chats with the man of the moment Paul Cashmere
ATTENTION AUSTRALIA Engelbert's personal message to his fans downunder
Hello Australia from the Legendary Engelbert Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck Shares An Address With Hugh Hefner And Woody Woodpecker
by PAUL CASHMERE on AUGUST 25, 2015, Noise 411
Engelbert Humperdinck has some interesting company cohabitating his Hollywood Walk Of Fame address on Hollywood Blvd.
Engelbert’s Walk of Fame star at 7000 Hollywood Blvd shares an address with Tom Hanks, Hugh Hefner and even Woody Woodpecker.
Since October 23, 1989 Engelbert Humperdinck has been stoned outside the famed Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel at 7000 Hollywood Blvd as one of the Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
7000 Hollywood Blvd honors some huge names in showbiz and Engelbert is in good company. When you arrive outside the Hollywood Roosevelt, other stars you will see include Holly Hunter, Kirstie Alley, Gene Autrey, Angela Bassett, Mayor Tom Bradley, Andrea Bocelli, LeVar Burton, Stephen J. Cannell, Arthur Cohn, Glenn Close, Alice Cooper, Tony Danza, Angie Dickinson, Vin Diesel, Placido Domingo, Dear Abby, Patty Duke, The Everly Brothers, The Fifth Dimension, Pauline Frederick, Friz Freleng, John Fogerty, The Four Step Brothers, Andy Garcia, Berry Gordy, Louis Gossett Jr, Brian Grazer, Monte Hale, Lionel Hampton, Mary Hart, Mariette Hartley, Hugh Hefner, Julio Iglesias, Norman Jewison, Kevin Kline, Patti LaBelle, Jack LaLanne, Walter Lanz, Julie London, Keye Luke, Ed McMahon, Eddie Murphy, Mills Brothers, Liza Minelli, Guy Mitchell, Dudley Moore, Randy Quaid, Brock Peters, Sumner Redstone, Joan Rivers, Soupy Sales, Lalo Schifrin, George Schlatter, David O. Selznick, Dean Stockwell, Cybil Shepherd, Nancy Sinatra, Jacklyn Smith, Jane Seymour, Donna Summer, Ted Turner, Jack Valenti, Vivian Vance, Tichi Wilkerson Kassel, Vanessa Williams, Natalie Wood and Renee Zellweger.
Engelbert Humperdinck dates
October 25, Perth, Crown Theatre
October 29, Melbourne, Palais Theatre
October 31, Sydney, State Theatre
November 2, Gold Coast, Jupiters Casino
Humperdinck brings world-renowned talent to suburbs
Engelbert Humperdinck is a powerhouse. He performed on "The Late Show with David Letterman," sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the 1996 Daytona 500, and has performed in the most prestigious venues across the world.
He could go anywhere. And he's coming here.
Humperdinck will perform 8 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Rialto Square Theater in Joliet.
With over 150 million records sold, Humperdinck has found success with audiences around the world. The Golden Globe Award-winning singer's top hits include "Release Me," "The Last Waltz" and the American favorite "After the Lovin'."
His career has been defined by variety, writing songs for charities, including the American Red Cross, while contributing to the soundtrack of 1996 film "Beavis and Butt-head Do America."
Crossing genres, Humperdinck has collaborated with Tony Bennett, Elton John and Grammy Living Legend Award-winner Smokey Robinson, who performed at the Genesee Theatre in 2014.
The Rialto Square Theatre is located at 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet. For more information, contact rialtosquare.com.
Troy Kelleher is a freelance writer.
Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
Tickets: Sold out
Information: 815-726-6600 or rialtosquare.com
Engelbert Interview on Australia's Sunrise
Follow this link to the a clip from the interview:
On This Day: 25 Years Ago
Caring crooner Engelbert Humperdinck is backing the battle to save an old people's home from closure.
The international singing superstar turned up at De Montfort House, Narborough Road, Leicester, on Saturday, to show his support.
He said: "It is absolutely vital that this place stays open, because it provides such a marvellous service for the elderly.
"I've been really touched by the standard of care here. When you get old, you need expert help and the company of others in the same situation. Loneliness is a terrible thing."
De Montfort House, which caters for 51 residents, is one of four homes in Leicestershire that the County Council are considering closing down.
The council claims De Montfort, like the three others shortlisted, has a high level of vacancies, unsuitable accommodation, a bad location and is in a poor state of repair.
But Mrs Wendy Derbyshire, whose father lives at the home, said:
"We're determined to fight this all the way. My dad loves it here and doesn't want to move because of the friendly atmosphere."
She added that a decision will be taken on the home's future in November. Already a 600-strong petition has been handed to officials at County Hall.
By Leicester Mercury | Posted: July 30, 2015
Engelbert Humperdinck - Live In South Africa November 2015
Legendary Engelbert Humperdinck will be performing in South Africa at the Grand Arena, Cape Town for one show only on 21 November, followed by two shows at the Teatro at Montecasino on 24 and 25 November. Shows begin at 20h00 and tickets are now on sale at www.showtime.co.za