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November 10, 2023

All about Engelbert Humperdinck, ballad singer for the ages

by Bill Kopp Rock On Magazine

Romantic singer Engelbert Humperdinck is one of the most beloved singers in modern times. He’s also one of the most prolific, with more than 100 albums released between his 1967 debut and today. His latest release, 2023’s All About Love shows that time has not diminished the skills nor appeal of the Madras-born and London-raised singer. Today at age 87, Humperdinck still maintains a busy concert touring schedule, and there’s a new documentary film chronicling his life and career. Ahead of a North American tour that takes him back and forth across the continent (including a January 13 date at the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, NV, Humperdinck spoke with Rock On about his enduring passion for music and performance.

On All About Love, you manage the neat trick of sounding contemporary without pandering to trends. Do you personally choose the songs? 

Well, I’ll be honest with you: no. My producer [Jurgen Korduletsch] brings the songs to me, and he asks me, “Do you think you’d like this?” He says, “I think these are going to be good for you,” and I listen to them, because he’s the man who’s making it happen for me. And I say, “Well, some of them.” There are some that he brings to me that I throw out. I pick the songs I think that would be appropriate, and we work together on it.  

On this particular one, all the arrangements were done in Nashville with Nashville musicians, and I wasn’t there. I would have loved to have been there. 

It worked all right, but I’d rather have been there with him. As I do with everything that I do in life, I like to put my little input in every now and again. I like to have my finger on every project, but this particular one, [Jordan] did it on his own. And it worked out.  

When there’s a song that’s suggested and you decide for one reason or another that you don’t care to do it, what kind of reasons figure into that equation?  

If I listen to it, and I don’t think it suits my style,  I just say, “It’s a ‘no’ on this one, but this one looks good.” I’m very particular. 

When you sing a song that has already been a hit for another artist – which is the case with several of the songs on this new album – how much notice do you take of the style in which the song was cut before? 

I just give it my own stamp. And it’s very hard to do, mind you. It’s very hard to do after somebody else [puts their] stamp and style on it, but I do.  

I’m singing a lot differently now than I did when I first began; my style has really changed a lot,  because I’m growing rather than standing still. And the way I read into a lyric now is differently than I did before, because a lot of things have transpired in my life that have been a bit hard. For instance, I lost my wife [Patricia, in 2021]. And so, when I read a lyric now, it’s a lot different. Her image always comes into my head and my heart. So it comes out a lot differently. 

With regard to music, I sometimes think of method actors, even though that’s a very different thing from singing. They immerse themselves in the character that they’re playing. And I wonder if that approach would have value for a ballad singer. Your songs always seem to completely convey the mood that they contain. When there’s a session, do you do any kind of emotional preparation ahead of singing a particular song to get into that headspace? 

I consider myself a thespian of song. Because I think you have to be. Like an actor, you have to read your lines the way it’s written. And like an actor, it comes through your eyes and through the expression of your face and your body language and all those things that go along with portraying your subject matter.  

And that’s what I do on stage now. I live the part, and then you can see it in my expression. You don’t have to move a lot. An actor, if he moves like this, he goes out of the shot. And it’s the same thing when you’re on stage. You have to let [the audience] recognize your moves, and the more you are steady, the more you get across, I think. When you’re moving around, it’s for a different kind of song; not for a ballad, not for something you’re telling a story with. 

You’ve been on stage countless times. To what degree are you able to get a sense of how the audience is reacting to your performance, and how does that factor into what you’re doing in real time? 

Well, you can see the front rows. You can [see] what’s happening in the first few rows, and you can judge from that, what is happening throughout the audience. 

Sometimes it’s rather surprising to the performer, like me, who sees the reaction of what takes place in an audience. Sometimes, when I’m singing a particular song, I can look down and see somebody reach over and touch the person’s hand and squeeze them, or put their arm around them. And it’s just amazing to see what transpires during a performance. It’s rather wonderful to think that you are responsible for that, actually. 

There’s a new documentary, Engelbert Humperdinck: The Legend Continues. What can you tell me about it? 

Well, I haven’t watched many documentaries in my life, but I watched this one because it’s about me! I did it a few years ago, and it was rather shocking, actually, because there were many touching moments in it that made me cry.  

And I also was shocked at the fact that I must’ve been going through some trauma at that particular time, because I was 40 pounds heavier than I am today. It’s shocking to watch myself in that state, you know? When I look at myself today, I’m 200 pounds. At that particular time, it was in the middle of my wife’s illness and having to deal with doing my work plus the worry of what’s going on at home, you know? It was a hard time. 

Following on from that, do you ever find yourself overcome by the emotion of a particular song? 

Many times, yes. As a matter of fact, I wrote a song for my wife about 30 years ago called “Everywhere I Go” [on 1993’s Yours – ed.] If you look it up and listen to it, you’ll understand what I mean with the lyrics, and it’s a wonderful arrangement by Bebu Silvetti. He did all these wonderful string arrangements for me – he did about six albums for me – and he did the arrangement for that particular one.  

Since my wife has been gone, I sing “Everywhere I Go” in my show. I dedicate the song to her, and there’s many a night that I don’t get through it. It’s one of those things.

I would imagine that you take the audience with you on that emotional journey…

Yeah, I do see people weeping in the audience. And it’s something you can’t put on. It just happens, you know? There are nights when it won’t happen, but the majority of shows that I do, it does get me, because it was written for her. And it gets me. 

Are there any surprises in the film for audiences? 

Well, they’ll see footage that they’ve never seen before about my children and growing up. They’ll see me talk about my life in a way that I’ve never done before. You see my humble beginnings, you know? It takes me back to the place where I first began, when I lived in a flat in Hammersmith, London. It had no carpet, no curtains, no light bulbs or lamp shades, and very [few] chairs to sit on. And it took me back to that era. I remember those wonderful days. 

“The Hungry Years," you know, which I had joy in singing, and it brought all sorts of memories back. If you listen to “The Hungry Years” [from 1976’s After the Lovin’], which I had joy in singing, it’s really my life story. I feel as though Neil Sedaka wrote it for me, but he didn’t. He wrote it for himself, so he must’ve been going through the same thing in his beginning. 

Plenty of artists who’ve had successful careers retire when they’re 20 years younger than you are now. What motivates you to keep recording and performing? 

It’s the passion I have. I don’t consider my job as work. When I walk on stage, it’s just a passion. It’s not hard work for me, not at all. I just love what I do, so therefore the passion strengthens my whole being. I just feel good about it.  

If I didn’t want to perform, I wouldn’t get that feeling. But I love it. I love the performance, I love the reaction. And my audience feeds me with the passion that I love to portray.






All About LoveAll About Love
You’re The First, The Last, My EverythingYou’re The First, The Last, My Everything
Warmest Christmas WishesWarmest Christmas Wishes
The Man I Want to Be The Man I Want to Be
The Complete Decca Studio AlbumsThe Complete Decca Studio Albums
Engelbert Humperdinck - 50Engelbert Humperdinck - 50
Christmas CDChristmas CD
Runaway CountryRunaway Country
Engelbert CallingEngelbert Calling
We Made It Happen/SweetheartWe Made It Happen/Sweetheart
My Love/King of HeartsMy Love/King of Hearts
Legacy of Love Disc 2Legacy of Love Disc 2
Legacy of Love Disc 1Legacy of Love Disc 1
The Winding Road The Winding Road
An Introduction to Engelbert HumperdinckAn Introduction to Engelbert Humperdinck
Totally Amazing Totally Amazing
Best of Engelbert Humperdinck: The Millenium CollectionBest of Engelbert Humperdinck: The Millenium Collection
Let There Be Love Let There Be Love
Love Songs and BalladsLove Songs and Ballads
His Greatest Love Songs His Greatest Love Songs
Release MeRelease Me
Always Hear the Harmony: The Gospel Sessions Always Hear the Harmony: The Gospel Sessions
Engelbert Humperdinck Live Engelbert Humperdinck Live
Definition of Love Definition of Love
You Belong to My Heart You Belong to My Heart
Love is the Reason [DM]Love is the Reason [DM]
Red Sails in the Sunset Red Sails in the Sunset
I Want to Wake Up With You I Want to Wake Up With You
It’s All in the Game It’s All in the Game
Original Gold Vol. 2Original Gold Vol. 2
Original Gold Vol. 1Original Gold Vol. 1
Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck & the Royal Philharmonic OrchestraEvening with Engelbert Humperdinck & the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
An Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck An Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck
#1 Love Songs of All Time#1 Love Songs of All Time
At His Very BestAt His Very Best
The Engelbert Humperdinck Collection The Engelbert Humperdinck Collection
Live at the Royal Albert HallLive at the Royal Albert Hall
In the Still of the Night: 20 Beautiful Love SongsIn the Still of the Night: 20 Beautiful Love Songs
Dance Album [Bonus Track]Dance Album [Bonus Track]
The Best of Engelbert Humperdinck Live The Best of Engelbert Humperdinck Live
Merry Christmas with Engelbert HumperdinckMerry Christmas with Engelbert Humperdinck
Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck 2 [Live] Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck 2 [Live]
Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck 1 [Live]Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck 1 [Live]
The Dance AlbumThe Dance Album
16 Most Requested Songs16 Most Requested Songs
From the HeartFrom the Heart
Live in JapanLive in Japan
After DarkAfter Dark
You are So BeautifulYou are So Beautiful
Sings BalladsSings Ballads
The Magic of ChristmasThe Magic of Christmas
Magic NightMagic Night
Engelbert Humperdinck Sings the ClassicsEngelbert Humperdinck Sings the Classics
Love UnchainedLove Unchained
Christmas EveChristmas Eve
Engelbert I Love YouEngelbert I Love You
Step into My LifeStep into My Life
An Evening with Engelbert HumperdinckAn Evening with Engelbert Humperdinck
Yours: Quiereme MuchoYours: Quiereme Mucho
Hello Out ThereHello Out There
Engelbert Heart of GoldEngelbert Heart of Gold
Step into My LifeStep into My Life
Love is the ReasonLove is the Reason
Live in Concert/All of MeLive in Concert/All of Me
Remember I Love YouRemember I Love You
Getting SentimentalGetting Sentimental
You and Your LoverYou and Your Lover
Misty BlueMisty Blue
Don't You Love Me Anymore?Don't You Love Me Anymore?
A Merry Christmas with Engelbert HumperdinckA Merry Christmas with Engelbert Humperdinck
Love’s Only LoveLove’s Only Love
Engelbert Sings the HitsEngelbert Sings the Hits
This Moment in TimeThis Moment in Time
Love LettersLove Letters
The Last of the RomanticsThe Last of the Romantics
A Time For UsA Time For Us
Engelbert Sings For YouEngelbert Sings For You
Christmas TymeChristmas Tyme
After the Lovin’After the Lovin’
The World of Engelbert HumperdinckThe World of Engelbert Humperdinck
Engelbert Humperdinck His Greatest HitsEngelbert Humperdinck His Greatest Hits
My LoveMy Love
Engelbert King of HeartsEngelbert King of Hearts
In TimeIn Time
Live at the Riviera Las VegasLive at the Riviera Las Vegas
Another Time, Another PlaceAnother Time, Another Place
We Made It HappenWe Made It Happen
Engelbert HumperdinckEngelbert Humperdinck
A Man Without LoveA Man Without Love
Last WaltzLast Waltz
Release MeRelease Me