Those who have followed
the career of Neil Sedaka are overwhelmed by a great sense of awe. This
59 year old youthful,
international superstar is a complete musician, because there has always been a duality between his classical roots and that of the rock ní roll singer song-writer. Born in Brooklyn, New York on March 13th 1939, Neil Sedaka began his interest in music at the age of four, by listening to the radio programme, The Make - Believe Ballroom. At the age of 8, Neil began playing the piano for five hours a day. A year later, Neilís music teacher at the Juilliard Prepí School, encouraged Mac and Eleanor to buy their son a piano. Neil had set his sights on being a Doctor of Classical Music. At the age of 13, whilst playing the piano at a hotel resort in the Catskill mountains, Ella Greenfield approached Neil suggesting that he should write songs, with her 16 year old son Howard, who wrote poetry. This was totally alien to Neil but on 11th October 1952, the two began to write over 500 songs in a partnership that lasted into the 1980s.
In 1956 whilst at the
Abraham Lincoln High School, Neil was selected as one of the best seven
New York high school
classical pianists by the legendary Arthur Rubinstein. Neil was awarded a scholarship at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. He was invited to tour Russia. When the host country learnt of his affiliation with Rock ní Roll, Neil received a telegram in Russian cancelling his tour.
Much to his motherís apprehension, Neil was dividing his time between pop music and classical studies. Sedaka thus started out as an intellectual tune smith who could always write sophisticated pop songs. In 1956 Sedaka formed a high school group called The Tokens. They were discovered by record producer, Morty Craft. Neil accepted his invitation to play the chimes on the Willows song, Church Bells May Ring. Craft then issued two Tokens singles which were regional hits. Neil had outgrown his group and went solo, releasing his first single on the Decca label. On Snowtime backed with Laura Lee, Sedaka had multi-tracked his lyrics and was one of the first artists to achieve this skill; which he says, he has subsequently refined by more acute timing. The next single Ring - A- Rockin' also failed to dent the national charts. In 1958, Morty Craft produced Neilís Stupid Cupid recorded by the first lady of rock ní roll, Connie Francis. Neil played the piano at the session. This was Neilís first international hit as a songwriter.
In 1958, whilst playing
at the Esther Manor near Monticello in New York state, Neil met 16 year
old Leba Strassberg
daughter of the owners, Esther and Irving. Neil knew he was going to marry Leba before he even spoke to her! Neil being ever true to his word did so at the manor in 1962. This highly competent businesswoman has been Neilís auxiliary driving force and his manager since the mid - 70s. Leba has said that, "Neil may not be the worldís greatest songwriter, singer or performer, but nobody can do all three better."
In 1958, Neil and Howie
became contracted to publishers Al Nevins and Don Kirshner as songwriters
at 1650 Broadway.
This music factory was the Brill Building and nicknamed Tin Pan Alley. It bristled with such talents as: Neil Diamond, Carol King and Paul Simon. Amid the song writing, Neil vigorously exercised his magic fingers with a piano pounding solo on stable-mate Bobby Darinís Bullmoose, flip side to Dream Lover. Neilís demo songs were sold to other artists, but he has always wanted to record his own voice.
Record producer Steve
Sholes who had discovered Elvis Presley for RCA, contracted Sedaka for
this internationally potent label. The hits were world-wide. The greatest
hit was Oh Carol! The lyrics were penned in honour of his former girlfriend
Carol (King). The tune was inspired by Brazilian composer Villa Lobos.
Neil was providing what the record playing public demanded, by innovatively
studying the musical qualities of the chart topper's word-wide. Breaking
up Is hard to Do, is his greatest copyright. This song was technically
innovative for the period because it contained a G minor7 chord change.
Sedaka had the intelligent perception to compose melodies that kept the
listener guessing by employing unexpected chord changes. His favourite
song from the first collection is, Calendar Girl because going through
the months of the year was so original.
By 1963 after selling some 25 million records, Neil was riding the wave of international success. However, in Britain and in the USA the wave toppled, due to what Neil calls the "British Invasion". Groups were replacing many solo artists. His record sales progressively dwindled. Like all stars, Neil knew that after five years, his popularity would fade. The singles were released less frequently until 1966. However, Neil was still writing technically excellent songs: more being released in the US than in the UK. Despite Neil wanting to deviate from the doo-wop Sedaka sound, RCA still restricted his creativity, feeling sure that they had gauged the public mood.
From 1963 to 1965, RCA
flew Neil around the world to capitalise upon his international success
by recording his hits in:
Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese and Hebrew. Famous songs of the host countries were cut and the Sedaka record collector is treated to the accompanying instruments native to each country. His phonetically learnt pronunciation was 99% perfect. Ironically, Neil recorded five LPs in foreign languages and only two in English. Other LPs were compiled from his hit singles. There were two very unusual LPs from 1964 and 1966 respectively, which lamentably, the American and British public have been denied. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, Neil cut an instrumental LP of his greatest hits along with the unknown track called Time Marches On. Neil played the piano accompanied by tropical instruments. Four songs were recorded in a studio setting at Chequers night-club in Sydney, Australia. The songs were sang in English, Italian and Hebrew.
This LP marked the end of Neilís contract with RCA. However, Neil would not typically accept a career change. Henceforth, Sedaka proved to be a tenacious artist who could draw upon his wealth of experience and musical ability. Neil and Howie worked as songwriters for Screen Gems Columbia. It was a frustrating time for a man who had been parading his talents in the worldís top night-spots to be confined to a piano in secluded surrounds. It was even more tantalising to record the demo records for other artists. For instance, Lesley Gore recorded, Magic Colours. Neil co-wrote and produced, When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door for the Monkees. Puppet Man was a hit for Tom Jones and The Fifth Dimension.
Australia still appreciated Neilís cabaret acts and provided an important source of income. This popularity, the involvement of SGC along with Neilís perpetual creativity, lead to the recording in a tiny New York demo studio of the heart wrenching Star Crossed Lovers. Whilst in recording oblivion, Neil was ecstatic when this song reached No.1 in Australia. Versions were released in French and Italian. Again Britain was not privileged to have this song grace our airwaves. The following year of 1969, naturally lead to the Australian LP project, Working on a Groovy Thing. Some of the songs were composed with the subsequently famous Carol Bayer-Sager. The multi-tracking Sedaka trademark and the rich unique sound, was a tribute to all the musicians and the Australian music industry.
By 1970 the singer - songwriter had returned to prominence. Inspired by Carol Kingís Tapestry album, Neil attempted a
comeback. Neil remembered the faithful British and brought his wife and two young children to London. Through SGC,
Sedaka still had contacts with RCA. Due to the positive response at his concerts, two albums of a matured "tuneweaver", who had proved that he could develop with the times, produced the Emergence and Solitaire albums. They were of limited commercial success. The hit single from the latter album was Thatís When the Music Takes Me. This was one of the first songs to which Neil wrote the lyrics. For this album, Sedaka had collaborated with Phil Cody, whose ability to paint pictures with lyrics, provided Neil with an additional quality and freshness, which he rightly perceived as contributing to his longevity. Sedaka deserved higher profile promotion and signed to MGM for The Tra La Days Are Over album, and was the second,
recorded with pop group 10CC. This title confirmed that Sedaka was a songwriter of the 70s and Standing on the Inside
asked for acceptance. The label was consumed by Polydor, which released an even greater hit album, Laughter in the Rain. The title track was the biggest 70ís single hit in the UK. At a party in Neilís Mayfair flat, Elton John offered to launch Neilís records in the USA on his Rocket label.
The album Sedakaís Back re-established Neil in North America. Although Sedaka was resolute in looking forward, he
re-recorded Breaking Up is Hard to Do as a ballad. This was musically unique. It made US chart history when in 1975, the
song reached the top ten. It was the only song of two versions to be a hit twice for the same artist! There were modernised versions of Beautiful You and Baby Donít Let it Mess Your Mind. His association with the Carpenters resulted in Richard adding a string arrangement to Standing on the Inside. In the early nineties, Neil dueted Laughter in the Rain, Stupid Cupid and I Go Ape with daughter Dara. The latter was a rap version! This was Sedaka versatility. In 1991, Love Will Keep us Together was reworked as a ballad. This song from the Tra La Days Are Over album, launched The Captain & Tennille as a 3 million seller. Being the most broadcasted song in the USA in 1976 earned Sedaka the coveted Grammy Award. Scores of other artists such as Tony Christie and Andy Williams had multi-million sellers with hitherto obscure Sedaka numbers like, Amarillo and Solitaire respectively. Consequently, in the USA, Neil set presidents with radio airplays. Out of the 140 songs which had been broadcasted over a million times in a year, three belonged to Sedaka. Neil was the first artist to gain six BMI Awards for 400 000 annual airplays per song.
In the 60s, Sedakaís television
and live performances were limited by comparison to his second career.
This was because Neil had been shackled to a single's career. Now with
greater creative control, he was able to co-produce records. Singles were
taken from albums, which in the 70s, were released on an annual basis.
Although Sedaka admitted that each song was written with a single in mind,
there were songs which this sensitive, kind and loving man, was writing
for his family. These included:
Lebaís Song - Anywhere Youíre Gonna Be, Superbird and My Son and I for Marc. Let Daddy Know for both Marc and
Dara. Second only to the Sinatraís, there was the 1980 US top 20 duet with his daughter, Should Have Never Let You go.
Dara wrote Nanaís Song for Lebaís mother, who is the loveliest lady one could meet.
Now in 1998, Neil is still recording and constantly touring, much to the delight of his fans worldwide.
Neil Sedaka Lyrics