Neil Sedaka Biography
Neil Sedaka (born March 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American pop singer, pianist, and songwriter often associated with the Brill Building. He teamed up with Howard Greenfield to write many major hit songs for himself and others. Sedaka's voice is in the tenor range.
Sedaka was born to a Turkish Jewish immigrant to Brooklyn and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother. He began performing on the piano as a youth and played on a classical music radio station, as well as studying at Juilliard. He also began experimenting with doo wop and rock and roll, singing and playing in an early version of The Tokens. His composition "Stupid Cupid" was a 1958 success for Connie Francis and Sedaka was signed to RCA Records as a solo performer. A string of hits followed, ending in 1963.
The best-known Billboard Hot 100 hits of his early career are "Oh! Carol" (#9, 1959), "Calendar Girl" (#4, 1960), "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" (#6, 1961), and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (#1, 1962). "Oh! Carol" references Sedaka's Brill Building compatriot and former girlfriend Carole King. King soon responded with her own answer song, "Oh, Neil," which directly references his song (and his full name). A Scopitone exists for Calendar Girl.
Between 1960 and 1962, Sedaka had eight Top 40 hits. But he was among the early 1960s performers whose careers were waylaid by the British Invasion and other sea changes in the music industry. His singles began to decline on the US charts, before disappearing altogether.
In 1973, Sedaka helped ABBA write the English lyrics of the song "Ring Ring" for the Eurovision contest. He began working in England with Elton John, who signed him to his Rocket Records label. Following a decade-long fallow period, Sedaka returned to the public's attention with a flourish, topping the charts twice "Laughter in the Rain" and "Bad Blood" (both 1975). Elton John provided backing vocals for the latter song. Sedaka and Greenfield also co-wrote "Love Will Keep Us Together", a No. 1 hit for The Captain and Tennille and the best selling record of 1975. The song, if listened to carefully, reveals the lyric "Sedaka is back" in the coda (sung by background singers).
In 1976, Sedaka recorded a new version of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." The chart-topping 1962 original was fast-tempo and bouncy teen pop, but the remake was much slower and in the style of a jazz/torch piano centered arrangement. It reached #8 on the pop charts, thus becoming the second artist to hit the US Top Ten twice with two separate versions of the same song. (The Ventures had hits in 1960 and 1964 with recordings of Walk-- Don't Run. Coincidentally, Sedaka's record label boss Elton John would later accomplish the feat twice, with 1991's Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me and 1997's Candle in the Wind.)
Sedaka's second version of Breaking Up is Hard to Do topped Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. The same year, Elvis Presley recorded the Sedaka song "Solitaire". In 1980, Sedaka had a #19 hit with "Should've Never Let You Go," which he recorded with his daughter, Dara.
Sedaka is also the composer of the popular Is This The Way to Amarillo, a song he wrote for Britain's Tony Christie. It reached #18 on the UK charts in 1971, but hit #1 when reissued in 2005, thanks to an amusing cameo-filled video starring comedian Peter Kay. Sedaka recorded the song himself in 1977, when it became a #44 hit. On April 7, 2006, during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Neil Sedaka was presented with an award from the book Guinness World Records: British Hit Singles and Albums as the writer of the Best-Selling Single of the 21st century for "Amarillo".
In 2006, Sedaka continues to perform regularly. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in October 2006.
In 1985, Sedaka composed songs for the anime series Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. These included the two opening themes "Zeta - Toki wo Koete" (originally written in English as "Better Days are Coming") and "Mizu no Hoshi e Ai wo Komete" (originally written in English as "For Us to Decide", but the English version was never recorded), as well as the ending theme "Hoshizora no Believe" (originally written as "Bad and Beautiful"). Due to copyright issues, the songs were replaced with other music for the North American DVD release.
In 1994, Sedaka provided the voice of a parody character of himself in the now-closed Epcot show Food Rocks, named Neil Mousaka.
In 1962, Neil Sedaka married his wife, Leba, and they are still together. They have two children: daughter Dara, a recording artist and vocalist for television and radio commercials and son Marc, a screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, California.