Despite long-held popular belief, every so often it IS nice to fool Mother Nature.
Such was the case last month for international superstar Engelbert Humperdinck, who had flown in the face of impending monster Hurricane Lane to Honolulu and happily found himself singing in the rain to filled-to-the-brim packed houses inside the Hawaii Theater instead.
Ostensibly, his performing two sold-out concerts and filming a TV special over two nights was subject to a weeklong ongoing “whether” report – as in whether or not the dire forecast of the worst storm to hit Hawaii in 40 years was going to prevent those events from happening. But despite its looming triple threat of major winds, heavy downpours, and surging surf, thankfully the slow-moving Lane veered west, its worst missing the island of Oahu on which Honolulu is located. The shows went on as scheduled as the wind and rain from the downgraded tropical tempest were lighter than expected, allowing the capacity crowds to get to the theater.
”I have always wanted to do a special in Hawaii,” the legendary singer, who will be performing at the Orleans September 22 and 23, says. “Sometimes you have to take chances in life. The people subjected to that weather have the courage to live there so I felt that I should have the courage to visit there. However, I truly felt and told everyone that the storm was not going to hit Oahu even though they all thought it would. I told them they should listen to me next time. I must have had an angel on my shoulder.”
Now, having weathered that storm, Engelbert is on the verge of issuing his own triple threat. He is preparing to make waves with the PBS special he filmed in Honolulu, which will air in December; his first Christmas album in almost 40 years to be released in mid-October, and an original single to be released soon, most appropriately titled “Angel on My Shoulder.”
For the latter, Engelbert will be donating his share of the proceeds to Alzheimer’s research, his wife, Patricia, having suffered from the disease for the last 10 years. One of the writers of “Angel on My Shoulder” is Bill Martin, who co-wrote “Puppet on a String.” The single comes on the heels of the great success of the CD Engelbert released for his 2017 50th anniversary called “The Man I Want To Be.” The album, on OK Good Records, is a love letter to Patricia although the songs resonate with everyone. In his show at the Orleans, he will be performing numbers from that CD as well as new songs, his tried-and-true major hits, and some songs from his new Christmas CD, “Warmest Christmas Wishes,” also on OK Good Records, which entered the Billboard charts at Number 57 in pre-release.
Engelbert’s own memories of Christmas when he was growing up are wonderful ones. The ninth of ten children born to a colonel in the British army and his wife while stationed in India, his recollections of being raised in a large family with everybody singing around the Christmas tree have made it a very special time for him to share.
“In India, the season had a tropical flavor and there was no snow anywhere to be seen,” he recalls. “Because of the culture, the smell of rose petals and flowers filled our home. The house had a Christmas scent of its own. When my family moved back to England when I was 10, the snow there added a little magic to the holiday. I was also able to watch Christmas movies. England is cold and it gets dark early. People put lots of lights up; it is very Christmassy there --Europe has good Christmas spirit. In those days, when we got a present we loved, we slept with it under our pillow. We always got something useful be it a football, a cricket ball or box, or new shoes.”
“There are some original songs on my new CD, one of which is called ‘Around the Christmas Tree’-- it will be a standard,” he maintains. “Another one is called 'Christmas for the Family.’ There is a song called ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ by Chris Rea and a German song that I love called 'Silently Falls the Snow' for which my daughter, Louise, and I wrote the lyrics. The CD is a mix of classic and contemporary. There are also standards like ‘Silent Night,’ which was arranged by my former musical conductor and dear friend, Jeff Sturges. It was the last thing he arranged before he passed away a couple of months ago and it is fantastic. My producer, Jurgen Korduletsch, and I chose all the songs on the CD together.”
With so much going on in his life and career and still touring the world to perform, what is it that gives Engelbert his incredible energy on a daily basis?
“I try to be inspired every day of my life,” he responds. “And I try to make my shows different every year, even down to a different shirt that I wear. It’s important to keep my audiences interested and I have to have something to look forward to myself. Still, in terms of being the man I want to be, I’m still searching. I’m one of the greatest archeologists. I’m always digging for something. When you know who you are and what you are doing, you have to keep digging. I’m never content with my life, my performances, or the quotes and poems I write. I’m always editing myself. I feel that things can always be improved."
One thing he says that has caused him to respect himself a lot more is his recent 30-pound weight loss that brought his waist size down from a 44 to a 34. He was determined to lose the weight for his PBS special and accomplished it. The tall, dark and handsome singer who looks 20 years younger than his chronological age of 82 and who feels that age is just a number, is extremely disciplined and proud of the fact that he lost the weight himself and not in a clinic. He is pleased when he looks at himself in the mirror and doesn’t see the paunch around his middle. And he is working daily to keep it off.
“From the moment I open my eyes around 6:30 or 7 a.m., I start my breathing exercises and stretching,” he reveals. “I then have a cup of coffee and do my crossword puzzle. I then spend time on my treadmill and other machines in my sweatbox -- it’s like a greenhouse with a gym inside it -- after which I spend half an hour in the sauna. After that, I eat breakfast, which is a protein shake. I do have a big lunch -- that is my biggest meal of the day. The important part is to continue this when I’m on the road so that I keep myself ready for the job. In that case, I can always rest in the afternoon. I do my sound check before dinner.”
As for what he feels has endeared him to the global public for more than 51 years and has people rushing the stage to get close to him at the end of every concert in rock-star fashion, Engelbert believes that it is the fact that he is an honest performer.
“I don’t give a run-of-the-mill performance,” he explains. “I do it from my heart every time and the honesty come through my eyes when I perform. What do people look at when you look at them or speak to them? – your eyes. The whole audience feels I am looking at them. My legacy is my music and the way I portray it. I am a thespian of song. I act out the lyrics with my face and body.”
On the subject of retirement, Engelbert says that it has never entered his mind for one moment because he doesn’t feel the age he is nor does he act it or speak like it.
"When God calls me, that's when I stop,” he says. “Until then, I'm going to just keep going."
After all, thousands upon thousands of people around the world agree that there’s just no getting over the Hump