Engelbert Humperdinck Reflects on His Career 50 Years After Release Me: My Music Has Been My Passport to the World
June 2, 2017, Fred Bronson, Billboard
Manager Gordon Mills had a habit of changing his client’s names. He turned Thomas John Woodward into Tom Jones, and shortly after transformed Arnold George Dorsey into Engelbert Humperdinck, a name borrowed from a well-known 19th century German composer. Under his new name, the artist born in Madras, British India, and raised in Leicester, England, had his first major hit with a remake of a country song, “Release Me,” in 1967.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the single’s worldwide success, Decca/UMe is releasing Engelbert 50 today (June 2) in the U.S. With a U.K. street date of May 19, the album debuted on the official album chart at No. 5, making it the eighth top-five album of Humperdinck’s career. The two-CD collection includes Humperdinck’s long list of hits as well as two new songs. Dividing his time between his homes in Los Angeles and Leicester, the singer took some time to talk to Billboard about the new set.
How does it feel to be celebrating 50 years?
It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe where the time has gone. It’s been exceedingly wonderful. I was over in the U.K. doing promotion and the young ladies in charge made me do some television shows, which helped put me back in the charts. I’m celebrating my 50th year and the Beatles are marking the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Speaking of the Beatles, when “Release Me” spent six weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., it prevented the Fab Four from hitting the top spot with one of their greatest singles, “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
They were such a monster group, I never thought I stood a chance against them. “Penny Lane” would have been their 12th No. 1. Before it was a hit, “Release Me” spent three months sitting on the shelf. Then I appeared on a TV variety series, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. That exposure made “Release Me” a massive hit. The very next day we had orders for 80,000. The most I sold in one day was 127,000. Fate gave me that TV show.
Did you ever discuss your triumph over “Penny Lane” with any of the Beatles?
When I met Paul [McCartney] and Ringo [Starr], they were too much the gentlemen to even bring it up.
How did you find “Release Me”? Did Gordon Mills bring it to you?
Yes, Gordon found an instrumental version by (British saxophonist) Frank Weir. I heard the melody and thought it could be a hit. I asked if we could find the lyrics. When we heard the words, it was a double whammy for me because they sounded terrific. Then we brought in a great arranger, Charles Blackwell.
Were you familiar with any of the earlier recordings? The song was written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount. Jimmy Heap, Ray Price and Kitty Wells recorded country versions in 1954 and Little Esther Phillips had an R&B hit with the song in 1962.
I never heard any of them before I recorded the song. After, I heard Ray Price’s version. He used to tell his audiences, “This used to be my song.” He always mentioned my name in his shows.
In April 1967, “Release Me” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at No. 4. How did you feel about your American success?
It was unreal. After I made it in England, Gordon said we have to go to America. I appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and the exposure was unbelievable.
One of the songs on Engelbert 50 is “Strangers in the Night.” I understand you have some history with this composition.
[Composer] Bert Kaempfert played it for me in Spain. He also played “Spanish Eyes” and “Wonderland by Night” for me. I went back to London and recorded all three songs. I thought “Strangers in the Night” would be my single and then I was told I couldn’t release it because Frank Sinatra had recorded it and was releasing it as a single. I wasn’t going to argue with Frank. His version went to No. 1.
Is the version on the new album your recording from back then?
No. We couldn’t find the original. It’s buried somewhere. Everyone searched the archives, but I think it was ordered to be hidden. We recorded a new version but it doesn’t compare to the original, which we recorded with a big orchestra. It’s far superior.
Finally, when you were starting out, did you ever think you would one day be celebrating 50 years of your career?
I never thought that. I was just happy to have success at that time. It was always a question in my head about how long it was going to last. If you don’t put out material that’s going to last, you’re not going to last. Over the years, I sold over 150 million records. My music has been my passport to the world, and it’s been amazing for me.
Engelbert's There's a Hush All Over the World on CLAWS
“There’s A Hush All Over The World” will be featured on CLAWS episode 104. It will air on TNT, July 2nd at 9PM.
CLAWS is an hour-long dramedy produced by Rashida Jones in association with Warner Horizon Television and TNT Original Productions and starring Niecy Nash. Claws is a dark, wickedly funny meditation on female badness that follows the rise of five diverse and dangerous Florida manicurists in the traditionally male world of organized crime. The series also stars Carrie Preston, Harold Perrineau, Judy Reyes, Dean Norris and more.
CLAWS premieres June 11 on TNT and is one of the network’s most hotly-anticipated new series.
Tin Pan Alley, Country Pop & The Indestructible Release Me: Engelbert Humperdinck Talks To uDiscover
Vocal stylist Engelbert Humperdinck has been talking to uDiscover about the remarkable body of work that's celebrated by today's (19 May) release of the compilation Engelbert Humperdinck: 50 and the simultaneous The Complete Decca Studio Albums Collection. He discusses how he used to search for new material, how he crossed country music into the pop charts — and how there might be a new Engelbert studio album in the pipeline.
The 50 compilation, which you can order here, is a two-CD, 39-track retrospective featuring all of the Grammy-winning singer's biggest hits, in a career that has realised 150 million record sales worldwide. It also includes a new DBU Disco Remix of 'Release Me' and two brand new songs, 'I Don't Want To Call It Goodbye' and 'I Followed My Heart.'
“It's an amazing presentation, I think,” says Humperdinck. “I can't believe how well it's been done, and we've got a couple of new songs on there, plus the remix of 'Release Me.' The new songs were just both a propos, so we put them both on the album, and they're great songs, well-written.”
The 11-album box set (click here to order) is available physically but also makes these albums available digitally for the first time. “I like the idea of the vinyl covers remaining the same in digital form now,”he observes. “Not giving it a different face, giving it the same face, only packaging it in a very contemporary way. It's wonderful.”
Musing on the remarkable history of 'Release Me,' he recalls the long history of the Eddie Miller/Robert Yount composition even before he got near it. Written in 1949, the song was successful for a number of artists before it transformed Engelbert's career in 1967. It became the UK's bestselling single of that year, famously preventing The Beatles' 'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' double A-side from reaching No. 1.
“It was a big hit before I got it, a country hit by Ray Price,” says the vocalist. “On stage he said 'This was my song until Engelbert Humperdinck came along and made it a hit around the world.' I heard it as an instrumental by a gentleman called Frank Weir. I just heard the melody and I said to Gordon Mills, who was my manager at that time, 'That's a hit song.'
“When it was given to Charles Blackwell and he did that amazing arrangement that is so recognisable, even that introduction gives it meaning. Everybody knows it's 'Release Me' before it starts.
“My early years were very exciting for me,” he continues. “Fortunately, I had Gordon beside me, guiding my career. He was a manager that was very musically-minded. He also wrote a lot of my b-sides. He was a great manager.”
The album collection affords the opportunity to recall the wide range of material that Engelbert recorded beyond his well-known hits,. He would often interpret existing material, put his stamp on recent chart successes for others (from 'Wand'rin' Star' to 'Aquarius'), and put the spotlight on some songs of historical importance.
“We all hung out in Tin Pan Alley, many times, looking for material for new albums,” he recalls. “But then once you have a hit record, it changes the picture and people start to send you a lot of songs. You don't have to go looking anymore. That was one of the great things about having hit songs,” he laughs. “It makes life a little bit easier.”
His first Decca album of 1967, also called Release Me, featured a version of 'Misty Blue,' which had recently been a country hit for Wilma Burgess but became better-known to later audiences from Dorothy Moore's soulful interpretation of 1976. “I love that song, it's a real Nashville song,” enthuses Humperdinck.
“We didn't go totally country, we went country pop, which is the best way to go, if you're not a country singer yourself. Some of my hits, like 'Am I That Easy To Forget' and 'There Goes My Everything,' they were country material which was used before, but I took it and made them hits.” Another fascinating country entry is his reading of the Bee Gees' song 'Sweetheart,' which became the title song of his 1971 Decca album.
Humperdinck has fond memories of the recording techniques of this album era. “I like the method we used, because the arranger would come, you would routine it, then he'd take it away and the next time you see it, it's in the studio with all these wonderful musicians and singers.
“Then they went to another method where they just gave you a rhythm track, and you'd put your voice on that, but I never liked that method. I always liked the entire arrangement, the bed of music, to lie on, because it lends your voice to going in so many different directions, and I think that's one of the reasons that brought success to these albums in the early years.”
Arrangers were, and remain, key to his distinctively luxuriant sound. “Arrangers of the past, they were just brilliant musicians themselves,” he says. “People like Les Reed, he wrote great songs for me like 'The Last Waltz,' 'Les Bicyclettes de Belsize,' 'Winter World Of Love,' some massive hits that came from him.
“I've started to work with an arranger I worked with about 50 years ago, his name is Johnny Harris. He did great stuff for me like 'Quando Quando Quando,' that's his arrangement. And he did the track for 'I Follow My Heart,' one of the new songs on the CD. It is harder to come by great songs [now], but I can honestly say that the two new ones are in this fashion.”
At 81, Engelbert's diary continues to be packed. “A whole new album is in store, of new songs,” he reveals, but before that, there are many more shows to fulfill in his datebook, starting in June in Bucharest, Romania. “I love it. There's not many places in the world I haven't been, but I'm going to Iceland, I haven't been there before, or Romania. But I've been everywhere else. 'I've been everywhere, man...'” he sings with a chuckle.
“You do get that little nervousness when you play countries like Russia, but the funny part — although I have to have an interpreter on stage to do my talking for me — but the songs themselves, they tend to sing them in some phonetical fashion, and they sing along with you, it's amazing.”
Of the double CD and box set packages, he concludes: “For the people that haven't heard my music before, it's going to be quite an eye-opener, because it does lend itself to great compositions and great arrangements. The entire package is so well done.”
Engelbert on BBC Radio 4 - Front Row
Engelbert on Weekend ITV1 on this Sunday May 21st
One for your calendars! Tune in to Weekend ITV1 on Sunday 21st at 8.30am to hear Engelbert talking to the wonderful Aled Jones about his brand new album.
Engelbert Facebook Live May 19th
We're delighted to announce that on Friday 19th May Engelbert will broadcast a live Q&A on Facebook. And we want to ask him some of YOUR most pressing questions. Here's how to do it.
Video yourself asking your question, upload it to YouTube, then post the link in the comments on the official Engelbert Humperdinck Facebook page.
You can post your video directly into the comments on the official Engelbert Humperdinck Facebook page by tapping the camera icon to the right of the comment box.
If you don't have a video camera, why not upload a photo of yourself instead, along with your question.
If you're sending us a video or photo, please be aware that we might use it in the Q&A (we'll play questions direct to Engelbert and he will answer during the broadcast). We'd love to hear your most interesting questions so that we have a range of things to ask Engelbert about.
Engelbert Humperdinck To Share 50 Years Of Hits In New Compilation
by ROGER WINK, VVN MUSIC on APRIL 20, 2017
in NEWS, Noise11.com
Fifty years ago today, Engelbert Humperdinck had just finished up a six-week run at the top of the British Singles chart with the song Release Me.
It wasn’t a new song. Release Me had been written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount and hand already had hit versions in the country field by Ray Price, Jimmy Heap and Kitty Wells and in R&B by Little Esther Phillips, but it was the Engelbert version that really put the song into the ears of the general public.
Up until that time, Humperdinck had not had major recording success but, one night in early 1967, Engelbert was asked to fill in for an ill Dickie Valentine on the popular U.K. TV program Sunday Night at the London Palace. He sang Release Me and, within a few weeks, it was at the top of the charts keeping the Beatles’ Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever at number 2.
It was the beginning of a career that would see Humperdinck hit the British top ten a total of eight times and the U.S. top ten twice, including Release Me which peaked at number 4.
On June 2, Decca/UMe will release Engelbert Humperdinck 50: The Legend Continues. The two-CD set contains 36 songs from his years at Decca Records along with two newly recorded songs and a brand new disco remix of Release Me.
Engelbert said “It is wonderful to still be at Decca after all these years! It’s remarkable to think that it’s been 50 years since ‘Release Me’, yet I still feel a thrill when I step in front of the microphone to sing and love seeing the great joy it brings my fans. I’m delighted to have recorded two new songs for the album, which I’m dedicating to my beloved wife Patricia, whose strength and courage is truly extraordinary.”
The track list with chart info:
Release Me (1967 / #4 Pop / #28 Adult Contemporary (AC) / #1 U.K.)
There Goes My Everything (1967 / #20 Pop / #2 U.K.)
The Last Waltz (1967 / #25 Pop / #6 AC / #1 U.K.)
Am I That Easy To Forget (1968 / #18 Pop / #1 AC / #3 U.K.)
Quando Quando Quando (1968 / #40 U.K.)
Les Bicyclettes De Belsize (1968 / #31 Pop / #3 AC / #5 U.K.)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
My World (Il Mondo)
There’s A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World)
Everybody Knows (We’re Through)
My Cherie Amour
Sweetheart (1970 / #47 Pop / #2 AC / #22 U.K.)
Stand By Me
Let There Be Love
Have I Told You Lately
I Don’t Want To Call It Goodbye (New track)
Just The Two Of Us
A Man Without Love (1968 / #19 Pop / #3 AC / #2 U.K.)
The Way It Used To Be (1969 / #42 Pop / #4 AC / #3 U.K.)
Winter World Of Love (1969 / #16 Pop / #3 AC / #7 U.K.)
My Marie (1970 / #43 U.S. / #2 AC / #31 U.K.)
Strangers In The Night
Another Time, Another Place (1971 / #43 Pop / #5 AC / #13 U.K.)
Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings
Dance The Night Away
A Place In The Sun
It Had To Be You
Too Beautiful To Last (1972 / #86 Pop / #16 AC / #14 U.K.)
This Guy’s In Love With You
I’m A Better Man (For Having Loved You) (1969 / #38 Pop / #6 AC / #15 U.K.)
What A Wonderful World
I Followed My Heart (New track)
Release Me (DBU Disco Remix)
On the same day, Engelbert will also release the new 11-CD box set The Complete Decca Studio Albums with all eleven of the albums being released digitally for the first time.
Release Me (1967)
The Last Waltz (1967)
A Man Without Love (1968)
Engelbert Humperdinck (1969)
We Made It Happen (1970)
Another Time, Another Place (1971)
In Time (1972)
Engelbert, King of Hearts (1973)
My Love (1973)
Engelbert Humperdinck 50 LEGENDARY SINGER CELEBRATES 50th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS HIT SONG RELEASE ME WITH NEW ALBUM
Album released on Decca Records on 19th May 2017 (U.S. release date June 2)
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE TEASER TRAILER
LOS ANGELES, April 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Engelbert Humperdinck celebrates 50 yearssince his iconic song Release Me with a new album of his greatest hits, including two brand new tracks. The 2CD collection will be released on Decca/UMe on June 2nd (available May 19 outside the U.S.) and includes a remix of Release Me – one of the best-selling singles of all time.
In a career spanning over five decades, Engelbert has sold in excess of 140 million records worldwide – more than Adele, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. He has 64 gold albums, 23 platinum albums, multiple Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe for Entertainer of the Year, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and he represented the UK in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. He is still performing live, with a 50th anniversary world tour this year.
The new album features 35 of Engelbert’s best-loved songs plus two brand new recordings, I Followed My Heart and I Don’t Want To Call It Goodbye – these tracks possess the same elegance and charismatic charm as his previous hits, brought to life by his distinctive silky vocals. With truly heartfelt and poignant lyrics, both new songs have been personally dedicated to his wife of 50 years, Patricia.
Engelbert comments: “It is wonderful to still be at Decca after all these years! It’s remarkable to think that it’s been 50 years since ‘Release Me’, yet I still feel a thrill when I step in front of the microphone to sing and love seeing the great joy it brings my fans. I’m delighted to have recorded two new songs for the album, which I’m dedicating to my beloved wife Patricia, whose strength and courage is truly extraordinary.”
Engelbert’s hit song Release Me held the No.1 spot in the UK chart for six weeks in 1967, preventing The Beatles single Penny Lane from reaching the top (and breaking their four-year run of chart toppers). Release Me was the highest-selling single in 1967, spending a record-breaking 56 weeks in the charts and hitting the No.1 spot in 11 countries. The song was re-released after being used in a TV advert for John Smith’s beer.
The youngest of 10 children, Engelbert was extraordinarily reserved and timid growing up. Originally from Leicester, he lived in India until he was 10 before moving back to his home city. His childhood was dominated by the love of his parents and his brothers and sisters. He knew he could sing harmonies, but the power of his own voice came as a surprise to him and other people: “It’s just so loud, but I discovered I can be tender with it at the same time,” said Engelbert.
Born Arnold George Dorsey, he started studying music and playing the saxophone at the age of 11. At 17, he found himself playing at a pub that sponsored singing contests.
Becoming popular on the UK music circuit, he released a single called Crazybells/ Mister Music Man on Decca Records in 1959. However after contracting tuberculosis, which silenced him for six months and nearly ended his rising music career, he made a comeback under a new stage name. Thus was born the soon-to-be legend, Engelbert Humperdinck.
Never intending his monumental rise to fame, Engelbert exploded onto the music scene in the sixties. The then shy, handsome young man captured the hearts of the public instantly, quickly becoming an international icon. He became great friends with Elvis Presley and the two legends often performed each other’s songs.
Engelbert’s music has transcended time and his voice still continues to reach out to people. The new album celebrates the life and works of an icon with a collection of his greatest hits, along with brand new tracks to be treasured for years to come.
To coincide with the new album, Engelbert will be releasing a new 11-disc box set entitled 'The Complete Decca Studio Albums" on June 2nd . Each of the 11 albums featured in this box set will be released digitally for the first time ever.
PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM HERE
1. Release Me
2. There Goes My Everything
3. The Last Waltz
4. Am I That Easy To Forget
5. Quando Quando Quando
6. Spanish Eyes
7. Les Bicyclettes De Belsize
8. Can't Take My Eyes Off You
9. My World (Il Mondo)
10. There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World)
11. Everybody Knows (We're Through)
12. My Cherie Amour
14. Love Letters
15. Stand By Me
16. Let There Be Love
17. Have I Told You Lately
19. I Don’t Want To Call It Goodbye *
1. Just The Two Of Us
2. A Man Without Love
3. The Way It Used To Be
4. Winter World Of Love
5. Ten Guitars
6. My Marie
7. Strangers In The Night
8. Another Time, Another Place
9. Funny Familiar Forgotten Feelings
10. Dance The Night Away
11. A Place In The Sun
13. It Had To Be You
14. Too Beautiful To Last
15. This Guy's In Love With You
16. I'm A Better Man (For Having Loved You)
18. What A Wonderful World
19. I Followed My Heart *
20. Release Me - DBU Disco Remix *
* indicates a new track
* * *
Engelbert Humperdinck and the Queen to have lunch together in Leicester
By Tom_Mack | Posted: April 11, 2017
Legendary singer Engelbert Humperdinck will be flying back home to Leicester for lunch with the Queen on Thursday.
Her Majesty and Prince Phillip will be in the city to attend the Maundy Thursday service at Leicester Cathedral and their visit will include lunch at St Martins House next door.
The cathedral has drawn up a varied list of local heroes including people running small charities, youngsters who set up a skate park in Measham, a handful of MPs and civic dignitaries and just the one global superstar.
Engelbert will be visiting briefly after a tour of the eastern states of the USA and Canada.
He said: "The excitement for the Royal visit has been building for weeks. What a wonderful moment in time to welcome Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip to our city.
"I'm thrilled to be able to share the viewing of the Maundy Thursday service.
"The route being taken will put a regal touch on all of our collective memories of our beloved city.
"I used to meet my wife under the clock tower 60 years ago and now I can add Her Majesty to the retelling of my story in the future."
Enge said he was also hoping to catch up with his old friend Leicester City legend Alan Birchenall, who suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this year.
He said: "I shall be on the look out for my dear friend, Alan, who owes me a catch up get-together.
"What a better one for the memory book than to do it in the Queen's presence?"
Recalling the last time he met the Queen in 2014 he said: "The last time I had the honour of being in the presence of Queen Elizabeth was at Buckingham Palace.
"It was a little like a fairy tale but at the moment of acknowledgement, I said, 'Your Majesty....Engelbert Humperdinck' and bowed as deeply and respectfully as possible.
"Nothing was captured on film but it will forever play in my own history book."
The Queen goes to a different cathedral each year to hand out special coins, called Maundy money, to people who have served their local churches and communities.
Canon, pastor and sub-dean of the cathedral Alison Adams, who is organising the event, said: "The recipients in the cathedral will be people who are doing things for their community and so we wanted the lunch event to reflect that.
"Engelbert is an honorary freeman of the city and people in that category, who have done something good in their lives, are the people we thought would be suitable.
"The lunch is a celebration of local things so instead of filling the lunch with civic dignitaries we are inviting all kinds of people who are doing great things in the city and county."
Music legend Engelbert Humperdinck coming to Lancaster
Gary Haber , firstname.lastname@example.org 10:03 a.m. ET March 29, 2017
The balladeer brings his 50th anniversary tour to American Music Theatre on Sunday
Engelbert Humperdinck has long been one of music's biggest entertainers, a mega-watt star so famous he barely needs to use a last name.
He's got four Grammy nominations, 64 gold records and a string of enduring hits to his credit like "After the Lovin'," "Spanish Eyes" and "Release Me," the 1967 classic that spent more than a year atop the pop music charts. That won Humperdinck a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
But Humperdinck's not a singer who rests on his past successes.
He likes to keep things fresh, whether it's cutting a country music album or the 2014 album of duets Humperdinck did with fellow music icons, including Elton John, Smokey Robinson and Willie Nelson.
Humperdinck is currently assembling material for an album of all-new songs he hopes to release this summer.
"I'm testing them out with my audiences now, and I'm getting great results," he said during a recent phone interview from his home in California.
Humperdinck is looking to fill the album with the kinds of songs to which he's always been partial. He calls them "songs with value," songs with lyrics to which the average listener can relate.
"My kind of material is story lines that people have lived before, so the can say 'That's my life," Humperdinck said.
Humperdinck will bring his musical virtuosity with him to Lancaster on Sunday, April 2, when he performs, backed by an eight-piece band, at American Music Theatre. It's part of Humperdinck's 50th anniversary tour, dubbed "The Legend Continues."
It's a far cry from the years Humperdinck spent honing his craft playing pubs in his native England where he learned how to win over an audience.
"That served as an apprenticeship for me," said Humperdinck, who was born Arnold George Dorsey.
"When I got a hit record, I had already paid my dues."
He'd already been performing for years under the name Gerry Dorsey before his manager suggested a catchier stage name: Engelbert Humperdinck, which was the name of a 19th-century German opera composer.
When he's not on tour, Humperdinck keeps on top of the latest music trends.
He's a regular watcher of TV's "The Voice."
As for his own half-century entertainment career, Humperdinck said he's pleased with how it all turned out.
He originally thought he'd make his mark as a saxophone player, but it was his voice that turned out to be his instrument of fame.
"I'm just happy to keep doing what I'm doing," he said.
If You Go
What: Engelbert Humperdinck in concert: "The 50th Anniversary Concert...The Legend Continues."
Where: American Music Theatre, 2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: All seats $69
To order: By phone: 717-397-7700. Online at www.amtshows.com