For the last five decades, legendary international superstar Engelbert Humperdinck, long known as the “King of Romance,” has been crossing the oceans of the world to entertain. And he hasn’t missed the boat yet – more than 150 million records sold, 72 gold albums and 23 platinum albums have reportedly made him the fifth top recording artist in the world while his dynamic and consummate performing style have garnered him sold-out concerts all over the globe to millions of adoring fans spanning four generations. As he celebrates his 50th anniversary in show business this year, it’s apparent that his ship had not only come in for the long haul but, for the record, it’s far from ready to be dry-docked.
More to the point, the perennially youthful, handsome, and magnetic artist with the powerful golden 3 ½ octave voice, who will be bringing his 50th Anniversary World Tour to the Orleans September 23-24, still strives to be in “hot” water. Never one to sit on his laurels, he is in the midst of riding a new wave in his career with an “Engelbert 50” CD, which entered the UK Billboard charts at Number 5 and includes two beautiful new original songs, and an 11-CD Decca Records box set of the first seven years of his recording life, which entered the charts at Number 20. In addition, he is in the midst of recording a CD of all original music, save a few cover tunes, which will be released in late October or early November and could potentially chart a new course for him.
“The new CD is going to be an amazing album,” the romantic balladeer enthuses. “The two songwriters from England who wrote the two original songs on my ‘Engelbert 50’ album are writing for it as are Les Reid and Barry Mason, who gave me some of the biggest hits of my career and enabled me to sell millions and millions of records. Johnny Harris, who arranged songs like ‘Quando, Quando, Quando’ for me back in those days is also back. And Jeff Sturges, whom I’ve known since 1973, still arranges for me, too. I will have a big surprise for audiences in Las Vegas.
“This 50th anniversary celebration year has been amazing so far,” he continues. “I’m getting a great deal of support from my audiences. I can’t believe the great response to my show and my singing. And my audiences have crossed the age barrier – there are so many young faces. The reaction from the crowd is unbelievable – they are more enthused than ever. “
For anyone who has ever attended an Engelbert concert and witnessed the rock star reaction he receives from beginning to end, with people rushing the stage and standing 20-deep for the last few songs of every show, one can only imagine. Yet for all the adulation and fame, Engelbert has remained remarkably down to earth.
“I’ve never been a swelled-headed person even though I’ve achieved so much,” he explains, “I didn’t make it right away. It took time for me to get successful and I learned how to control ego and conceit from taking over. I’ve always tried to remain humble and thankful.
“When I was a little boy, I knew there was something there that had to be exposed to the world,” he adds. “I dreamt a lot. I didn’t realize that someday I would meet and become friends with the people and be on the shows I listened to on the radio, such as Dean Martin and ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ But I always dreamt about it. I wanted to be a musician and started playing the saxophone at 11. But when I was 17 and entered a singing contest, I found out that the instrument was in my throat and not in my hands.”
The second youngest and youngest son of 10 children born to a colonel in the British Army and his wife, Engelbert, then called Arnold George Dorsey, began the first 10 years of his life in India where his father was stationed before moving back to their home in Leicester, England. As a youngster, he was very familiar with music, His mother had a beautiful operatic voicer and played violin and the family used to sing together. By the age of five, Arnold was singing harmony, which was taught to him by his eldest sister. But the young lad was so shy that he would only sing behind a curtain or from under the coffee table.
While some of that shyness still remains today, especially in his offstage moments, Engelbert notes that time and experience have eased it to a degree. Still, he admits that in regards to that, when he walks on stage, it’s like another person takes over his body.
“It’s the mask I wear,” he reveals. “I put it on and I walk on stage and everything changes.”
While he may have to masquerade to hide his reticence, there is nothing but pure openness and sincerity in his performance. Engelbert has long believed that the honesty of a performer comes through his eyes. Onstage, he is a thespian of song, an art that comes naturally to him.
“When I sing a song, the lyrics hit home to me in many ways,” he acknowledges. “I try to keep my performance as real as possible. There is nothing contrived about me”.
Admittedly, he does feel more confident than he did in the past with 50 years in show business depicting that he has something that has sustained his career as well as 50 years of apprenticeship behind him. He reveals that he never stops learning, even picking up little things from the artists of today as to what makes music contemporary. Happily, melody is coming back and he also sees a rebirth of romantic music. A true musician in every sense of the word, although he doesn’t write as many songs as he did in the past, he will dream about a melody and awaken and sing it into his cell phone. He also dreams about arrangements.
“That’s what’s kept me on top of the business – being creative,” he maintains.
When he’s off the road, Engelbert tries to keep himself active as well. He also recently made public the fact that his beloved wife, Patricia, has been struggling with Alzheimer’s for the past 10 years and he likes to spend time at home so that she knows he is around. He is grateful for all the healing prayers being sent her way and is hopeful that there will soon be a cure to help her and others suffering from the dreaded disease.
As for his other desires for the future, he is simply hoping for some smooth sailing.
“I want to do nothing more than I am doing now,” he sums up. “I just want to carry on in entertainment and be the person I want to be and more.”