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Engelbert: Still Creating His Own Brand of Heat

Engelbert Humperdinck
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Throughout his long career, Engelbert Humperdinck has always maintained that “applause is the food of the artist” and has expressed his appreciation for the fact that he has never been starved.

But here’s the thing -- even with a full plate of accolades, honors and awards; more than four decades of being a seasoned superstar who performs year after year to sold-out audiences around the globe; and possessing a dynamic entertaining ability, a golden voice, and handsome persona that allows him to continually sizzle on stage, the iconic singer admits that he’s still “hungry.” And when he appears at the M on July 27, it will be evident that he’s still stirring the pot – one in which he hopes to soon find himself in “hot” water once again.

“While I’ve had my share of hits and have been living off them for 43 years, like any other artist I’d like to have another hit, another poke at the charts,” says the down-to-earth Engelbert, who has long reigned as music’s “King of Romance,” having been dubbed that years ago by his legions of fans. “I’m in the process of recording a duets album and so far have completed duets with Sir Elton John, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson and Kenny Rogers. This album is a true labor of love. There are some more recordings to go but what a cast!”

Reported to be the fifth top-selling recording artist of all time with record sales in excess of 150 million, Engelbert’s fire in the belly started when he was a child  named Arnold George Dorsey growing up in Leicester, England, the ninth of 10 children and the youngest son in a close-knit family. A loner in the outside world who was always getting picked on by other kids, his one desire in life was to become somebody.

That strong ambition, accompanied by a powerful and beautiful 3 1/2 –octave voice, hard work, perseverance, and a series of fortuitous events, eventually led to his becoming an international luminary amassing 72 gold albums, 23 platinum albums, a Grammy, four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and an Honorary Doctorate of Music. In July 2011, he received his star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. And the numerous honors and accolades he has amassed during his 46-year career just keep coming, with the list far too long to enumerate.

What’s truly amazing about this artist who is on a one-name basis with the world is that while he has recorded albums in recent years that have charted, he has continued to flourish on the entertainment scene through four decades of changing musical trends -- with no hit single since 1978’s “After the Lovin’. What’s more, even in the face of hip-hop, house, rap and other eras of music, he has remained the quintessential romantic singer, staying true to who he is while also keeping up with contemporary times and giving romance a pulse.

“Romance will never leave this earth and I’m proud to be a part of it,” he says. “But people like me who are in the romantic field have a tough job because we have to keep it at a top level. Beat music doesn’t make the world go round but through ballads, love and romance definitely do.”

Still, if you think that Engelbert has had an actual recipe for success, think again. He acknowledges that his entire career, up until this moment in time, has been by accident --mixed in with a healthy dose of destiny, which he believes is a very big part of one’s life. 

”Everything has always happened by accident for me since the very beginning,” he relates. “I recorded ‘Release Me’ and then one of the artists who was supposed to be on a TV show called “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” got sick. I was asked to take his place and ended up singing the song on the show, after which I sold two-and-a-half-million records in six weeks in England alone. After that, ‘Release Me’ went around the world, giving me an international career. That’s what luck is all about – some people only get lucky in one country.”

As in anyone’s life, however, there were also those not-so-lucky-at-the-time circumstances that provided lessons to be learned and new paths to be taken. Engelbert acknowledges that he has played a big part in his own career, making his own decisions and planning his own shows, with only two or three of the latter over the years being produced by others. Even so, he admits that he has made “tons” of mistakes, particularly with management, having been ripped off several times. He is currently in the very capable hands his son, Scott Dorsey.

“When I make mistakes now,” Engelbert reveals,, “I rap myself on the head and say, ‘Stupid, don’t do that again.’ I don’t dwell on those things – it just brings you down. I just keep moving forward.  Luckily, I’ve never had to take too many steps backwards. I was able to maintain a high level in the entertainment world.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, Engelbert admits that he still gets butterflies before he goes on stage. When he comes off stage, if something has upset him during the show – such as the sound is bad or he feels he hasn’t given 110 percent of himself – he gets depressed   Part of his legacy, he feels, is the way he breathes when he sings. He can sing several lines before taking a breath, something that he says is just part of him. He chooses songs that he can relate to, believing that the honesty of its story comes through the singer’s eyes and not his mouth. Saying that he doesn’t think he could sing a song without feeling it, to him it has to have good melody, good lyrics, and good vibes that people will listen to

On the personal side, Engelbert enjoys his stardom, citing that the best thing about it is being recognized all over the world. Taking the good road of fame, he claims, provides comfort and joy in a life that’s a world of fantasy. No longer feeling like he’s living in a fishbowl like he did in the early days of his career and having become more confident in his life, he has been able to cope with and push aside the shyness that always plagued him. When it comes to the people in his life, his biggest beefs are incompetence and those who take advantage of his kindness, mistaking it for weakness. He doesn’t tolerate phonies and says that those associations don’t last.

While he admits that he’s not a very communicative person and that people have to read into him as opposed to his telling them what he’s feeling, there is no mistaking the message he imparts in his music and live performance.

“There’s no greater pleasure for me than walking on stage,” Engelbert sums up.  “God has given me life, health, and a good living. As long as I can make a good living, I’m happy and content. As the song goes, ‘music is my first love…and it will be my last.’”

His appetite for life and performing goes on.

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