Engelbert Humperdinck Readies the Release of ‘The Man I Want to Be’ on November 24th via OK!Good Records
A Love-letter to His Wife of 53 Years, The Album Includes Songs by Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Willie Nelson, Jon Allen, Richard Marx, and more!
Iconic careers don’t come any bigger than Engelbert Humperdinck’s. One would be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t familiar with his multi-platinum selling hits such as “Release Me”, “The Last Waltz” or “After the Lovin'”. These and many other of his hits have contributed greatly to 150 million worldwide album sales by the “King of Romance”, as Engelbert is lovingly nicknamed by his legion of fans. Just having entered a new decade of his life, the very youthful Engelbert is also celebrating his 50th year in showbiz with the release of a brand new album The Man I Want to Be on November 24, 2017 via OK! Good Records. Not content with being a legacy artist, Engelbert demonstrates effortlessly with this album (his first album of original material in over a decade), that he is very much a relevant artist for today’s audiences as he has been over the last five decades of his career.
Doubling as a love letter to his wife Patricia of 53 years who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, The Man I Want To Be presents the singer in a much more contemporary style and introspective mood, covering topics such as self realization (“The Man I Want To Be”, “I Followed My Heart”, “Absolute Beginner”), remorse (“How Can You Live”, “Prodigal Son”), and melancholic nostalgia (“Photograph”, “I’m Glad I Danced With You”). A collection of love songs crafted by stellar array of songwriters like Willie Nelson (“Crazy”), Jon Allen (“The Man I Want To Be”), Richard Scott (“Just Like The First Time”), Steve Mac (“Absolute Beginner”), Richard Marx and Fee Waybill (“How Can You Live”), it also includes two unexpected covers – Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” and Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are”, definite highlights of the album. Much more than simple cover versions Engelbert gives the songs a much deeper reading, lyrically and musically. Another unexpected surprise is a duet with his nine year old granddaughter Olivia, “I’m Glad I Danced With You,” a bittersweet ode dedicated to his wife Patricia.
To celebrate his 50th anniversary in show business, his original label Decca Records released a comprehensive Greatest Hits package in May of 2017, which promptly became a Top 5 Chart record in his home country of England. Decca honored his celebrated career with an additional 11 CD box set which includes Engelbert’s first 11 albums recorded for the label.
Engelbert will be taking the new songs on the road, making them an integral part of his ongoing 50th Anniversary Live tour to destinations both domestic and all around the world. Still doing up to a 100 shows every year is proof positive that there is no stopping the man. A very special show focused mostly on the new album is being arranged for the beginning of 2018 in Los Angeles. In a departure from his usual big room shows this one will be in a much more intimate setting.
OK!Good Records previously released a double-CD of duets, Engelbert Calling, in September of 2014, which featured collaborations by Engelbert with fellow artists such as Elton John, Willie Nelson, Gene Simmons, Johnny Mathis, Charles Asznavour and many others, with Engelbert, making a number of promotional appearances on radio and television.
The Man I Want To Be was produced by Jurgen Korduletsch and will be released on November 24, 2017 via OK! Good Records.
Album Pre-Order links:
1. “Absolute Beginner” (Written by Steve Mac, Tia Sillers)
2. “The Man I Want to Be” (Written by Jon Allen, Jake Field)
3. “Just the Way You Are” (Written by Bruno Mars, Phillip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Khalil Walton, Khari Cain)
4. “How Can You Live” (Written by Richard Marx, Fee Waybill)
5. “Just Like the First Time” (Written by Richard Scott, Kelvin Andrews, Scott Ralph)
6. “Photograph” (Edward Sheeran, John McDaid, Martin Harrington, Thomas Leonard)
7. “I’m Glad I Danced With You (with Olivia)” (Louise Dorsey, Tony Toliver, Jim Martin)
8. “Prodigal Son” (Written by Tony Toliver, Jim Martin)
9. “I Followed My Heart” (Written by Jon Allen)
10. “Songs of Love” (Written by Joerg Evers, Louise Dorsey, Engelbert Humperdinck)
11. “Crazy” (Written by Willie Nelson)
12. “On Broadway” (Written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil)
13. “Welcome to My World” (Written by Ray Winkler, Johnny Hathcock)
14. “Our England” (Music by Les Reed OBE, Lyrics by Geoff Stephens)
Follow Engelbert Humperdinck:
Website – http://www.engelbert.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/OfficialEngelbertHumperdinck/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ehumperdinck
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/thisisengelberthumperdinck/
Engelbert Humperdinck on 50th anniversary tour, wife's Alzheimer's, refusing plastic surgery
Crooner Engelbert Humperdinck celebrates the 50th anniversary of his first hit record in 2017. In the past five decades, he’s traveled the world, performing love songs for millions of people. But, he admits, sometimes on stage his emotions get the better of him.
“There are many songs in my life that have had an emotional impact on my heart,” says the 81-year-old vocalist, calling from his home in Los Angeles. “Sometimes they hit me when I’m singing on stage. You know, no one really knows a person’s personal problems. If something is going on in your life, you have to overcome that on stage. But sometimes you can’t. Sometimes a lyric hits home and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
He's not exaggerating. In recent years, audiences noticed he occasionally would choke up on stage. At first, he said nothing about it. Then he announced this year that Patricia, his wife of 53 years, has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the past decade.
“It does strike home for me several times during my show,” he says. “People didn’t know before, but I guess they do now. Now they may get an inkling of what is going on with my heart.”
Humperdinck and his wife used to split their time between Los Angeles and a home in Leicester, England, where he grew up. These days, however, the couple sticks to California, and he gets back to England about two or three times a year.
“She’s doing OK,” he says. “She still knows me, thank God. She recognizes me and she smiles and she says hello sometimes. Her speech is not very good at this moment, but with treatment and hopefully the discovery of a cure in the near future, I hope and pray that all is well.”
Humperdinck usually keeps his private life out of the spotlight, but chose to go public for one reason.
"It's a terrible disease," he says. "It's very rife at this point, and we have to do something about it. I thought it was important to let people know."
The news adds a bittersweet tinge to a celebratory time in the British singer’s life. He’s on a world tour to mark the 50 years since his success with "Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)." Issued in early 1967, the ballad became an international smash hit. In England, it kept the Beatles' “Penny Lane” out of the No. 1 spot; in the States, it went to No. 4.
It was pretty impressive, particularly for an old-fashioned country tune in the hazy days of the late '60s.
“I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by,” says Humperdinck, who was born with the much less cumbersome moniker of Arnold Dorsey. “Without that song, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. It’s the one that put me on the map. It stopped the almighty Beatles from getting to No. 1. For this unknown to do that? That was something.”
It wasn’t merely a hit record. It launched an amazingly durable international career for Humperdinck. He became a Las Vegas institution. Back when adult contemporary radio was still called easy listening, he scored hits through the ‘70s with songs like “After the Lovin’,” “Another Time, Another Place,” "A Man Without Love" and “The Last Waltz,” all marked by his distinctive vocal style.
That voice — deep, masculine and effortlessly warm — sounds remarkably unchanged.
“It’s as strong today as it was yesterday,” Humperdinck confirms. “I don’t do any scales or anything like trained singers or opera singers do. I don’t even know how to do scales! What I do know is how to sing in a contemporary fashion.”
He also knows how to entertain. Humperdinck is the type of performer who doesn’t have to rely on hit records or trends or TV appearances to keep audiences turning out. Even today, he does about 80 concerts a year all around the globe. He's an old-school entertainer: He picks terrific songs and presents them with great flair. Additionally, he boasts a playful sense of humor, which means the sentiment at his shows never runs too thick.
“I had an apprenticeship of working in some council clubs in England, and that put me in good stead for my future in show business," he says. "It was very good training. You’d see other acts and how they’d handle an audience. You tend to steal a little bit from some people, and then eventually it becomes your own.”
Another part of the Humperdinck mystique? Good, old-fashioned sex appeal. With his thick dark hair, long sideburns and pouty lips, he was known for making heartsflutter. Even that hasn't changed too much.
"I'm very lucky in a lot of respects," Humperdinck says. "I haven't used the Beverly Hills knives to shape my face. I haven't changed my appearance. I've stayed as normal as I can. My skin is good to this day, thanks to good genes left to me by my wonderful parents."
Not even a little tuck here or there?
"No, no, no," he says. "I never want to do that. As you grow older, you get a little looseness in your neck. I'm not bothered by that. That's part of aging, part of life. And I'm very lucky with hair, it's all my own."
Retirement not in the plans
With everything in good working order, he's trying to enjoy the anniversary. Decca has released a terrific 11-disc set, “The Complete Decca Studio Albums,” which captures all his long-players from 1967 to 1973. A two-disc set that features some new recordings, “50,” reached No. 5 on the British charts. And there’s a new album due in October, so it seems he won't be slowing down any time soon.
"As long as people want me out there and I'm able to stand out on that stage, the platform, I'm happy to be continuing with this wonderful career that has been given to me," he says. "It's a blessing."
Engelbert Humperdinck celebrates 50 years at Hard Rock Rocksino
July 20, 2017 Nordonia Hills News
By Felicia Naoum
Engelbert Humperdinck, perchance still slightly coy, especially about giving away too many details about his upcoming shows, still has a lot to share. Humperdinck opened up to Nordonia Hills News to talk openly about his shyness, inspiration, how his first hit single “Release Me” was the precursor of his career, and how he has sustained longevity – 50 years in the music business. This once extremely shy English pop singer, who would hide behind curtains and coffee tables when singing, has since graced many stages around the world.
For Humperdinck, it has been 64 gold albums and 23 platinum albums, a Golden Globe, and stars that shine on the Hollywood and Vegas Walk of Fame to name a few of his recognitions. With such success and stamina, not many would expect shyness to be a factor that constitutes Engelbert Humperdinck. He appreciates all music does, especially in its commonality of connecting people everywhere. Today, Humperdinck finds great ease in the spotlight. His fans find that same ease in his performance. Come see his show July 30 at the Hard Rock Rocksino as he takes the stage to celebrate his 50-year career in music.
FN: According to your website, you were known to be very shy growing up and never thought of singing as a career. How did you overcome such shyness to sustain a public career for so many decades?
EH: I was very shy, and I would sing for my parent’s parties from behind a curtain or under a coffee table, but it was the applause that drew me out. I would belt it out from the darkness and security of my safe place, but all the time I was longing to be as brave as I was loud.
The spotlight eventually became my comfort zone. I always wanted to make my parents proud but it was most definitely the roar of the crowd, the rush from the curtain rising and falling, and the songs that I was lucky enough to have in my career, that kept me faithful to the road I traveled. I’m still shy, but with a name like Engelbert Humperdinck, I had to learn how to get over it and get on with it!
FN: Your first single, “Release Me” made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records, among many other successes like 140 million records sold, gold records, a golden globe, etc., how do such successes resonate with you?
EH: The shiny records on the walls and the milestones are due to so many factors. What amazes me, more than the number of records sold and cherished moments in time over the past 50 years, are the life stories that connect with the songs and the voices that always sing along.
It truly touches my heart to travel to places all over this world and find out that music really is a beautiful common thread. It weaves its way in and out of our everyday, but makes the memories that much easier to remember. Melodies and stories are my kind of elixir.
FN: Being that your career began almost 50 years ago, do you find it challenging to sustain yourself as an artist?
EH: Fifty years in any business would be a challenge, but I love what I do, and the creative fuel drives me to always work at my craft and not rest on my laurels. I find it hard to turn off , so I try and channel my energy into writing. The success of “Release Me” set some high standards for me right out the gate. The opportunity that led to my appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium was an absolute blessing, and I knew it. I was scared to death but eager to get my career going. That song started my life and the hard knocks years that lead up to it, helped me to sustain it, with the help of the fans who have supported me every step of the way.
FN:Who has inspired you musically throughout your career past, and present?
EH: I was inspired as a young man by the big band sounds. As a Dorsey, no relation, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, and that whole scene were instrumental , so to speak, to my first dalliance in showbiz. I loved the saxophone, and I did a paper route to earn money for my lessons.
Later, I listened to Nat King Cole and realized that the warm tones of an amazing vocalist were like putting butter on my bread. I was hooked on the rich quality, and I’ve been a fan for life.
His song “When I Fall in Love” was the first record I bought for my wife.
Today, I still set my car station to the 40s, but I love to hear great vocalist like Adele, who have the pipes, but also a style that is immediately recognizable. I also really appreciate the art of songwriting. Ed Sheeran is an amazing talent today, and the huge variety of singer-songwriter talent from the 60s and 70s are what fill my jukebox.
FN: It has been said that fans coined your stage name “Gerry Dorsey” after an impression you do of Jerry Lewis. Will the audience get to experience any impressions or special treats at your show?
EH: I did impressions for many years. There was a wealth of characters in show business when I first started, and it was considered a compliment for someone to impersonate you. I did it in a way that told a story of the wonderful, bigger than life legends I had met over the years.
I’ve racked up some really great tales to tell, and I was pretty good at it as I had listened to them all so much on the radio when I was in the army.
Once in awhile, I come out with the voice of a familiar friend but honestly, the impressions took too much time away from the songs, and I had a long set list….still do.
The show has some special throw-back moments as well as some surprises but that is all I shall say. Come and celebrate 50 years with me and see if you can still see that shy boy who sang behind the curtain when it goes up in your hometown.
Engelbert on SiriusXM
Channel: 70s on 7
Title: Engelbert Humperdinck plays favorites of the ‘70s
Description: Not his real name (Arnold George Dorsey) Engelbert Humperdinck is world renown. He has sold over 150 MILLION albums in his career. After the song ‘Release Me’ catapulted his career in ’67, there was no stopping. Now enjoying his golden years, he is still performing live around the world; with US dates planned for July. Engelbert has just released an 11 disc box set ‘The Complete Decca Studio Albums” and will play a wide selection of songs and artists that inspired him through the ‘70s including some of his most well-known.
On-Air Time: 6/29 Noon ET
Duration: 1 hour
Rebroadcast: 6/29 3pm; 6/30 1am & 10pm; 7/1 8am; 7/2 4am & 5pm ET and On Demand
Engelbert Humperdinck on Loose Women
ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK has revealed that his wife Patricia Healey has been secretly battling Alzheimer's disease for a decade.
PUBLISHED: 13:27, Thu, Jun 22, 2017 | UPDATED: 13:33, Thu, Jun 22, 2017. Express.co.uk
The music legend spoke candidly about the “hard” diagnosis for the first time during an appearance on Loose Women today.
The crooner told the ITV panelists he hoped to raise awareness of the condition and funding after seeing his spouse of more than 50 years live with it.
Speaking to Christine Lampard, Jane Moore, Stacey Solomon and Gloria Hunniford, Engelbert commented: “It’s been going on 10 years now.
“It’s been very hard for us to discuss it publicly, but many of the fans knew because she used to come to my shows.”
Engelbert continued: “They could tell something was radically wrong. I was never ashamed of the fact - I would make sure she could see me and hopefully recognise me. She does recognise me.”
The star, who wed the mother of his four children back in 1964, said that some of his songs really hit home when he is performing in light of the situation.
Engelbert went on: “I deal with such tender lyrics on stage. When such tender nerves are touched and you’re singing something so sentimental, your eyes well up and you do breakdown.
“The audience will sometimes not understand why. So maybe this, after 50 years, hopefully I can be a voice and be part of raising awareness and money for research. People in show business do that and I want to be one of them.”
During the latest instalment, Gloria, 77, was congratulated by her co-stars after it was revealed she was being awarded an OBE after founding the Caron Keating Foundation in honour of her late daughter.
Loose Women airs weekdays at 12.30pm on ITV.
Engelbert on Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4 - June 17th
Don't miss Saturday Live tomorrow (17th June) on BBC Radio 4 at 9am where Engelbert shares his Inheritance Tracks, with a rather fitting tribute to his dad for Father's Day.
Listen online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08tbffw
International Music Legend Engelbert Humperdinck Releases Brand New Single "I Followed My Heart" via OK!Good Records
Music legend and King of Romance Engelbert Humperdinck has released his new single “I Followed My Heart,” which is available for digital purchase and via streaming today, Friday, June 9th via OK!Good Records.
Today, Friday, June 9th the legendary and incomparable Engelbert Humperdinck celebrates his incredible 50 year career with the release of his new single “I Followed My Heart”. The OK!Good Records release, an original song written by British singer/songwriter Jon Allen for Engelbert, includes an exclusive new version of the single, “I Followed My Heart (Jon Allen & Tristan Longworth Version),” arranged and mixed by fellow OK!Good Records artist Jon Allen and mixed by Tristan Longworth.
Engelbert’s heartfelt new single “I Followed My Heart,” captures the elegance and charm that fans fell in love with over fifty years ago. The single beautifully showcases Engelbert’s distinctive silky vocals. He has personally dedicated this beautiful new song to his wife Patricia, stating “I'm dedicating this song to my beloved wife Patricia, whose strength and courage is truly extraordinary.”
The single’s original version is also featured on Decca’s current release titled “Engelbert Humperdinck: 50,” a two disc collection of Engelbert’s Greatest Hits, which reached the Top Five on The Official UK Albums Chart two weeks ago.
With a career spanning over five decades, Engelbert Humperdinck 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, his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and represented the UK in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. The 81 year old iconic singer is currently in the midst of his 50th Showbiz Anniversary World Tour,that celebrates a truly remarkable career which started with the release of his worldwide No.1 Hit “Release Me”.
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.
Engelbert Humperdinck’s “I Followed My Heart” is available now for digital purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. It is also available to stream on all major streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.
Engelbert on House & Family - Hallmark Channel
Times for June 8th
Cable: 10am ET/PT to 12 noon 9am Central to 11 am
Direct TV: 10am ET/7am PT - Direct carries the show live when it airs in NYC
Times for June 9th
Cable: 12 noon ET/PT to 2 PM 11am to 1 pm Central
Direct TV: 12 noon ET/9am PT
JUBILEE YEAR FOR ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK
BY DAVID BRINN
JUNE 5, 2017 21:36, Jerusalem Post
‘When you find a nice place to work and you get a good reception, you always want to come back.”
That’s how 81-year-old Engelbert Humperdinck explains his third round of sold-out shows in Israel in the past six years. When most of us are lucky to get out of bed in the morning, Humperdinck is still traveling around the world and crooning his extensive collection of pop and ballad standards on a regular basis.
“I don’t want to slow down. It’s my life, I love being on the road and giving concerts,” the British singer said in a phone conversation late last month from his adopted home in California.
And it’s been a very successful life.
Humperdinck has sold more than 150 million records across the world over the past 50 years since his 1967 breakthrough “Release Me.” He’s marked this year’s milestone by returning to his original record company, Decca, and releasing a two-CD compilation – Engelbert Humperdinck 50: The Legend Continues – that has sparked renewed interest in his career.
In addition, an ambitious 11-disc boxed set – The Complete Decca Studio Albums – was released last month, with many of the albums seeing their first digital hearing.
“It’s amazing to look back on 50 years of making music, and I’ve been pleased by how extremely well the album is doing in the charts. Decca is happy too, and it’s nice to be back with them,” said Humperdinck.
“We are thrilled with the response to Engelbert Humperdinck’s new album,” said Tom Lewis, director of A&R at Decca Records, in a statement. “It’s incredible to see the way he continues to connect with his fans – his voice has the ability to transcend generations.”
Along with the likes of Tony Bennett and Burt Bacharach, he’s been one of the handful of non-rock artists from the 1960s who have forged cross-generational appeal. Among his fans are Blur founder Damon Albarn, one of the masterminds behind Britpop favorites The Gorillaz, star producer Martin Terefe (Jason Mraz, Train) and Adele songwriter Dan Wilson.
Born Arnold George Dorsey in India to a British military officer and a music-teaching mother, Humperdinck resettled in Leicester, England, when he was 10, and began studying the saxophone. As a teen he entered a singing contest in a local pub, and discovering a new talent, put down his sax forever.
Renamed Gerry Dorsey, the young singer was making a name for himself throughout the UK in the early 1960s until coming down with tuberculosis, which sidelined him for the better part of a year. When he was healthy, he took on a new manager, Gordon Mills, who had some interesting ideas.
“When I first started singing, I didn’t know which direction to take – I sang rock & roll and all kinds of things. When Gordon came along, he started listening to songs for me to record and he directed me toward becoming a ballad singer and really stamped my style,” said Humperdinck in an earlier interview with The Jerusalem Post conducted before his 2011 shows.
It wasn’t just the style of song Mills changed, he also suggested a radical name change. With the other artists in his stable, Mills had done away with their given names and created new personas with names like Gilbert O’Sullivan (a play on Gilbert and Sullivan), Tom Jones (after a popular British film of the time). Englebert Humperdinck was the 19th-century composer of such operas as Hansel and Gretel.
“When Gordon first suggested it, I thought he was talking about forming a group with that name,” said Humperdinck, referring to the psychedelic rock band names of the day, like Strawberry Alarm Clock and Pink Floyd.
“I was a little taken aback when he said he wanted that name for me, but what can a starving singer do? I accepted it. You can’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
With an outlandish name, striking muttonchop sideburns and matinee-idol looks, it didn’t take long for the new Humperdinck persona to make an impact.
“Release Me” was so big that it prevented the momentous double-sided hit by The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” from reaching the number one slot in the UK. Englebert Humperdinck was suddenly a star on both sides of the Atlantic.
He even found himself with Jimi Hendrix in his band – for one night.
“Jimi hadn’t toured Europe yet, and they wanted to pair him with a name artist, so they put him on a bill with me,” said Humperdinck. “This was in Leicester, my home town. And my guitarist got sick and couldn’t play. ‘What am I going to do?’ I said, and Jimi answered, ‘don’t worry man, I’ll play for you.’” “I wish that show had been recorded. Having him behind me on guitar was like having three guitarists, he was that good.”
Aside from that fateful convergence, Humperdinck and the rock world didn’t intersect very much from then on. The expressive singer has defied trends and fads by sticking to his trademark tuxedoed balladry.
He told the Post last month that he’s encouraged that new generations of singers are keeping the musical tradition even as they add contemporary elements to the mix.
“There are some great singers in the market right now. I like Bruno Mars a lot, I think he’s great. And Ariana Grande as well – unfortunately the young lady had a mishap in my own country with that terrible tragedy in Manchester,” he said, referring to last month’s terrorist attack outside her show.
“It’s such a shame that these things happen. The job of an artist is to entertain and not get involved with politics. We give the people in the countries we are visiting a good show – that’s the purpose of an entertainer.”
And that’s what audiences will receive when Humperdinck performs on June 17 at the Congress Center in Haifa, June 19 at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem and June 20 at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv.
“I have a great eight-piece band that I’ve taken around the world. They know me so well that I don’t have to rehearse with them, we just do a sound check and we’re all set,” said Humperdinck, adding that he’s always happy to return to Israel.
“Every time I come back, I make sure to get around and check things out. I’ll be out there taking pictures for my memoirs.”
That’s one book that won’t have to embellish the facts to be a riveting read.
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.