Engelbert Humperdinck (singer)
Engelbert Humperdinck performing in Las Vegas, 2009
|Birth name||Arnold George Dorsey|
|Also known as||Engelbert, Gerry Dorsey|
2 May 1936 |
Madras, British India
|Genres||Adult contemporary, soft rock, traditional pop, easy listening|
An audio sample from "A Man Without Love" (1968)
|Problems listening to this file? See media help.|
Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey; 2 May 1936) is a British pop singer, best known for his number one hits "Release Me" and "The Last Waltz", as well as "After the Lovin'" and "A Man Without Love".
Born in Madras, India, as a child Dorsey moved to Leicester, England, where he took an early interest in music. Initially playing the saxophone in nightclubs, he soon moved into singing, releasing his first single, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", in 1958. After struggling with tuberculosis, in the mid-1960s Dorsey returned to his musical career, adopting the stage name "Engelbert Humperdinck" after the German 19th-century composer of operas. Signed to Decca Records, he gained early success in Belgium after representing England in the 1966 Knokke song contest there. Returning to the United Kingdom, he released a string of singles that proved commercially successful both domestically and in the United States. Gaining a devoted fan following, he also fronted a short-lived television series, The Engelbert Humperdinck Show.
Ever since, Humperdinck has continued producing music, to varying critical and commercial success. He represented the United Kingdom in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he came in 25th place out of 26 with 12 points.
Early life 
Arnold Dorsey was born in Madras, India, as one of ten children to British Army NCO Mervyn Dorsey and his wife Olive. Dorsey's family moved to Leicester, England, when he was ten. He soon showed an interest in music and began learning the saxophone. By the early 1950s he was playing saxophone in nightclubs, but he is believed not to have tried singing until he was seventeen, when friends coaxed him into entering a pub contest. His impression of Jerry Lewis prompted friends to begin calling him "Gerry Dorsey," a name he worked under for almost a decade.
Though Dorsey's music career was interrupted by his national service in the British Army Royal Corps of Signals during the mid-1950s, he got his first chance to record in 1958 with Decca Records after his discharge. His first single, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," was not a hit, but Dorsey would record for the same company almost a decade later with very different results. Dorsey continued working the nightclubs until 1961, when he was stricken with tuberculosis. He regained his health and returned to nightclub work, but with little success. During this period, he is believed[by whom?] to have written and composed a selection titled "This And That," which Tom Jones was to record early in his own career.
Changes and Release Me 
In 1965 Dorsey teamed up with his former roommate,[where?] Gordon Mills, who had become a music impresario and the manager of Tom Jones. Aware that Dorsey had been struggling for several years to become successful in the music industry, Mills suggested a name-change to the more arresting "Engelbert Humperdinck," borrowed from the German 19th-century composer of operas such as Hansel and Gretel. Mills also arranged a new deal for him with Decca Records. Dorsey performed under this name from then on, though in Germany, he only used Engelbert as his stage name after Humperdinck's family disallowed his use of the last name on stage.
Humperdinck enjoyed first real success during July 1966 in Belgium, where he and four others represented England in the annual Knokke song contest. In October of the same year, he was on stage in Mechelen. Humperdinck also made a mark on the Belgian charts with "Dommage, Dommage" and an early music video was filmed, with him in the harbour of Zeebrugge.
In the mid-1960s Humperdinck visited famed German songwriter Bert Kaempfert at his house in Spain and was offered arrangements of three songs--"Spanish Eyes," "Strangers in the Night," and "Wonderland by Night," an instrumental version of which last Kaempfert himself had already recorded and released. He returned to London where he recorded all three songs. Realising the potential of "Strangers in the Night" he asked manager Gordon Mills if it could be released as a single, but was refused since the song had already been requested by Frank Sinatra.
In early 1967, the changes paid off when Humperdinck's version of "Release Me," recorded in a smooth ballad style with a full chorus joining him on the third refrain, made the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and number one in Britain, keeping The Beatles' adventurous "Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane" from the top slot in the UK. Another groundbreaking video showed Engelbert tied up with a lasso. "Release Me" spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 in a single chart run. "Release Me" was believed to have sold 85,000 copies a day at the height of its popularity, and for years, it was the best known of his songs.
Humperdinck's easygoing style and good looks, a contrast to Jones's energetic and overtly sexual style, earned Humperdinck a large following, particularly among women. His hardcore female fans, who included the young Princess Anne, called themselves "Humperdinckers." "Release Me" was succeeded by two more hit ballads, "There Goes My Everything" and "The Last Waltz." This earned him a reputation as a crooner, a description which he disputed, telling Rick Sherwood, a writer for The Hollywood Reporter, "If you are not a crooner, it's something you don't want to be called. No crooner has the range I have. I can hit notes a bank could not cash. What I am is a contemporary singer, a stylised performer."
In 1968 the single "A Man Without Love" reached number two in the UK Singles Chart and the album of the same name reached number three. By the end of the 1960s, Humperdinck's roster of songs included "Am I That Easy to Forget," "A Man Without Love," "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize," "The Way It Used To Be," "I'm A Better Man," and "Winter World of Love." He also recorded, during this time, a number of successful albums that would form the bedrock of his fame, including Release Me, The Last Waltz, A Man Without Love, and Engelbert Humperdinck. His own television programme, The Engelbert Humperdinck Show, was less successful, being cancelled after six months. As of early May of 2013, The Engelbert Humperdinck Show was not known to have been syndicated in the United States when it was originally produced; such an oversight, if committed, might have contributed to its short duration.
1960s & 1970s 
By the start of the 1970s, Humperdinck had settled into a busy schedule of recordings, and a number of signature songs emerged from this period, such as, "We Made It Happen", "Sweetheart", "Another Time, Another Place" and "Too Beautiful To Last".
As his kind of balladry became less popular, and after he adopted some Broadway influences, Humperdinck concentrated on selling albums and on live performances, developing lavish stage presentations that made him a natural for Las Vegas and similar venues.
In 1976 Humperdinck recorded "After the Lovin'", a ballad produced by Joel Diamond and released by CBS subsidiary Epic. The song, a top ten hit in the US, marked another peak in his career; nominated for a Grammy Award, it went Gold, and won the "most played juke box record of the year" award. The album of the same name reached the top twenty on the US charts, and was a Double Platinum hit for the singer. Diamond went on to produce a series of albums recorded by Humperdinck for Epic, including This Moment In Time from 1979 (the title song topped the US adult contemporary charts) and two Christmas albums (Diamond and Humperdinck remain good friends to this day).
It was a conscious effort to update his music and his image. "I don't like to give people what they have already seen," Humperdinck was quoted as saying in a 1992 tourbook. "I take the job description of 'entertainer' very seriously! I try to bring a sparkle that people don't expect and I get the biggest kick from hearing someone say, 'I had no idea you could do that!'" He also defended his fan mania, which helped him continue to sell records when radio play largely ended for him. "They are very loyal to me and very militant as far as my reputation is concerned," Humperdinck had told Sherwood. "I call them the spark plugs of my success."
But he later revealed that he had little if any say in the selection of songs for his albums. As his career moved on, however, Humperdinck began gaining more creative freedom, and his albums accordingly brought several kinds of songs into his reach beyond syrupy ballads. But he kept romance at the core of his music regardless, and his fans have long tagged him, "the King of Romance".
1980s & 1990s 
By the 1980s, approaching his fiftieth birthday, Humperdinck continued recording albums regularly and performing as many as 200 concerts a year, yet maintained a strong family life, even as the family alternated between homes in England and in southern California.
In 1988 Humperdinck filed a libel suit against the National Enquirer. The origin of the libelous statements was said to be Kathy Jetter, the mother of Humperdinck's illegitimate child, and were made in an affidavit filed by Jetter in New York Family Court in an effort to increase child support payments from Humperdinck. Jetter lost the action. Jetter had successfully brought a paternity suit against Humperdinck following the birth of her daughter Jennifer in 1977.
Humperdinck was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 and won a Golden Globe Award as entertainer of the year, while also beginning major involvement in charitable causes such as the Leukemia Research Fund, the American Red Cross, the American Lung Association, and several AIDS relief organisations. He wrote a song for one group, the theme anthem for Reach Out. "He's a gentleman," longtime friend Clifford Elson has been quoted as saying of him, "in a business that's not full of many gentlemen."
In 1989 he recorded the album Step Into My Life (released as Ich Denk An Dich in Germany). All the songs on the album were written by Dieter Bohlen, and some were written with Barry Mason. The album contained the singles, "Red Roses For My Lady," "I Wanna Rock You In My Wildest Dreams," and a version of Dieter Bohlen's first hit, from the album Modern Talking, "You're My Heart, You're My Soul."
Humperdinck sang The Star-Spangled Banner before the start of the 1996 Daytona 500. Humperdinck performed the song "Lesbian Seagull" for the 1996 film Beavis And Butt-Head Do America. In the movie, the song is sung by one of Beavis's and Butt-Head's teachers, Mr. Van Driessen(Mike Judge provided Van Driessen's voice in the animated cartoons). The song appeared on the official movie soundtrack.
The 21st century 
Humperdinck hit the top five of the British album charts in 2000 with Engelbert At His Very Best, and returned to the top five four years later, after he appeared in a John Smith's TV-advertisement.
In the spring of 2003 Humperdinck collaborated with Grammy Award-winning artist-producer Art Greenhaw to record the roots gospel album Always Hear the Harmony: The Gospel Sessions; joining Humperdinck on the album were The Light Crust Doughboys, The Jordanaires and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. The critically acclaimed album was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album of the Year", while Humperdinck was photographed with generations of fans at the 2004 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, where he was an honoured Nominee guest.
In August 2005 Humperdinck auctioned his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on eBay to raise money for the County Air Ambulance in Leicestershire, where he spent much of his British youth. In September 2007 Humperdinck released The Winding Road, a tribute to British composers.
During the recording of the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, Humperdinck was asked by Damon Albarn to perform on a selection. However, after listening to the proposed selection, his manager declined the offer without Humperdinck knowing. Humperdinck later stated in an interview that his manager declining the collaboration offer was, "the most grievous sin ever committed," and that he would have gladly collaborated with the Gorillaz if he had known they asked. He has since stated that he fired his management and now has his son as his manager. He also said at the end of the interview: "I'd really like to rekindle that suggestion again and bring it back. Hopefully they will ask me again. My son Scott will definitely say yes".
On 25 February 2009 Leicester City Council announced that Humperdinck would be given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester alongside author Sue Townsend and former professional footballer Alan Birchenall. 19 December 2009 saw Humperdinck perform at Carols in the Domain, a popular Christmas event held in Sydney, Australia. 17 October 2010 found him in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the prestigious Orchestra Hall, in a performance arranged by the booker Lilly Schwartz. In November 2010 he returned to Australia for a number of concerts, while adding a new studio album, Released, to his discography.
As of 2012[update] Humperdinck is reported to be working on a new studio album of duets, due to be released in 2013. Details of the collaborations have not been released, except for a duet between Humperdinck and Sir Elton John, already recorded in Los Angeles.
Eurovision Song Contest 
On 1 March 2012 the BBC announced that Humperdinck would represent the United Kingdom in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, to be staged in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May. His song was called "Love Will Set You Free" and was unveiled on 19 March. It was produced by Grammy award-winning producer Martin Terefe and co-written by Sacha Skarbek. The song was recorded in London, Los Angeles and Nashville, Tennessee and was mixed by Thomas Juth in London. When Humperdinck's participation was announced, he was set to become the oldest singer to ever participate in the contest at the age of 76.
Personal life 
In 1964, Humperdinck married showjumper Patricia Healey. They have four children (Bradley, Scott, Jason and Louise). In addition to being a popular singer, Humperdinck is also a successful real-estate entrepreneur and businessman. He invested in prime real estate properties in Hawaii, Mexico and United States. Back in the 1970s, he bought the famous Pink Palace (once the residence of Jayne Mansfield) in Los Angeles, which he re-sold in 2002 for $4 million.
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