Ever since his 1967 hit “Release Me” made him a universally known name, iconic international superstar Engelbert Humperdinck has crisscrossed the oceans many times over, leaving his romantic musical footprint on the landscape of countries all over the world. Today, 56 years later, his journey to the shores of those lands goes on, testimony to the fact that he has always kept his eyes on the horizon, a master of his own ship ensuring that it never gets stuck in the changing tides.
Though it may not have always been smooth sailing, Engelbert has worked hard to keep the wind at his back. From that, he has emerged as one of the most enduring and beloved artists of modern times. Call it his own brand of global warming but this legendary entertainer, who only wants to keep spreading love and peace in the world with his life’s blood -- his music—consistently attracts sold-out adoring crowds who stand 10-20 deep at the stage at the end of his show; has fan clubs all over the continents; and has garnered a wealth of awards, honors, and accolades as long as your arm.
Add to that the fact that recent TV series and movies featuring his songs (“Moon Knight,” “Umbrella Academy,” and “Bullet Train” and an offer to use his music in another new movie) have brought to his concerts younger audiences whom he quips “come to see what an Engelbert Humperdinck is.” It all accounts for the fact that in surviving decades of changing trends in music, he has never steered himself wrong by staying true to himself and his brand while constantly learning and growing.
“It’s all about living in the Now,” Engelbert, who will be appearing at the Orleans on December 2nd, emphasizes. “Some weeks ago, I awoke very early in my hotel room feeling some anxiety because I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do in my show that night. I asked for help and put it out into the universe. I knew what I wanted to do but I needed assistance in putting it together. My answer came within the hour. I remembered something Mike Stone, the number one Martial artist in the world, my trainer, and good friend, had said to me -- ‘Everything is Now.’ Those words changed everything for me. They had a tremendous impact on me. You should never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Tomorrow isn’t promised.”
“An actor can take his time getting ready for a scene,” he explains further. “When you are a stage performer, you don’t have that time. You have to do everything right away. All the emotions immediately come to you. You live the lyrics and feel the moment. You have to know what you are saying and it’s not just willy-nilly or something you can recite. It’s something you feel and react to. I’ve always said that the honesty of a performance comes through the performer’s eyes.”
Nicknamed the “King of Romance” early in his career by fans and press, the rise of this megastar from his humble beginnings is encapsulated in his newest project, a documentary called “Engelbert Humperdinck: The Legend Continues.” People came from far and wide to see the film’s premiere at a theater in L.A. on November 14th and gave it an immensely enthusiastic reception. It is available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray.
As for the handsome down-to-earth entertainer who refers to himself as “a thespian of song” and who looks, acts, performs, and has the energy of someone 20 years younger than his 87 years, he was disappointed in one aspect of the project.
“It was filmed about six or seven years ago and I was about 45 pounds heavier than I am now,” he reveals. “I couldn’t believe it was me. But I thought about it and realized that I was going through traumatic times and I really wasn’t caring for myself. I was eating and drinking all the wrong things. I didn’t really care for myself because I was busy caring for someone else – my wife who had Alzheimer’s -- and trying to perform and do business at the same time.”
“You have to see it to change it,” he adds, referring to his weight. “I am now more conscious of my body and my appearance. I care about how I look in front of the public. I’m 6’1” and I weigh 200 pounds.”
Although he tried every possible treatment available to cure his beloved wife, Patricia, of the Alzheimer’s she had suffered from for many years, Engelbert lost her in February 2021 to complications from COVID-19. Since then, he says that the only time he’s really happy is when he walks out on stage. He pays tribute to Patricia every show by dedicating to her a beautiful ballad he wrote 30 years ago called “Everywhere I Go.” Losing her is also reflected in a personal deepening of the meaning of the lyrics he sings in every song, which he emits to his audiences.
Singing and writing poetry are both a panacea for Engelbert and the documentary proved to be a release as well. He says that when recording something for posterity, one doesn’t think about it or get emotional about it. However, its true impact on him came upon his viewing it.
“I am the narrator and it’s me telling my life story,” he expresses. “I explain certain things and some parts are emotional for me.”
The British icon, who among all his other honors now has an MBE (the Honor of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday Honors List 2021), after his name, relates that he chose to go in the romantic direction with his music early in his career.
“I wanted to be a balladeer,” he muses. “I wanted to tell stories that mean something, stories that people could relate to and bring out feelings that involve them as well. A lot of my songs hit home. People have gotten married or engaged or fallen in love to my music. It’s nice to be someone who creates relationships without even knowing it and does somebody some good. It’s also nice to have music that people can relate to and can say, ‘That’s a Humperdinck song.’ Some have learned English by listening to my music.”
When “Release Me” hit in January of 1967, it hit huge. After Engelbert performed it on a British TV show called “Sunday Night at the Palladium, it sold 86,000 records a day and eventually hit 127,000 sales a day, ending up in the Guinness Book of Records for its incredible 56 weeks on the charts. “Release Me” went to number one in 11 countries.
“Gordon Mills, my manager at that time, found the melody and he played it for me,” Engelbert recalls. “It was actually a saxophone instrumental by a musician named Frank Weir. I told Gordon that it sounded great – I fall in love with a song just hearing the melody. We found the lyrics – the song was written in 1949 and had been recorded five times, the last time by Etta James although Ray Price had had a hit with it. I had never heard his version but I listened to Etta James’ version. Hers was R&B so I changed it and gave the song a country feel.”
“All of my hits were recorded in London, England, but most of them were Italian melodies,” he adds. ”Lyrics were written for them. The Italians had great melodies.”
The rest, as they say, is history with platinum and gold hits coming one after the other and more than 140 million records sold. Today, continuing to produce new music, Engelbert’s next recording project is in tandem with Cleopatra Productions, who also produced his documentary. He won’t reveal what it is but will only say that the format is out of the box for him.
“I love challenges,” he reveals, noting that he has always been a go-getter and a bit of a dreamer. “Everything I attempt is a challenge. Nothing comes easy.”
As for the awesome reception he gets from the crowds who rush the stage like he is a rock star at every show, Engelbert waxes philosophical.
“I have an unbelievable following and I’m going to carry on,” he sums up. “I don’t know where that reaction comes from but I don’t analyze it for fear that it might go away. But it’s magic for me. I’ve had a magical career.”
And he’s still making waves. The legend continues.