In a career that spans six decades, singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka has gone from fame to obscurity, then back to fame again. A teen idol of the 1950s and early ’60s, Sedaka will perform in the Arena at Trump Taj Mahal on Nov. 30. Following in the footsteps of his grandmother, a concert pianist, Sedaka showed such musical promise that at age 9 he was accepted as a scholarship student to the Juilliard School of Music, studying to be a classical pianist.
“I think studying the classics gives you more creative freedom,” Sedaka says, “versus the early rock ‘n’ rollers who only knew four chords.”
After studying for several years to be a concert pianist, Sedaka discovered he could write music and sing. Eventually, Sedaka became a full-fledged songwriter with his first major hit when Connie Francis recorded Stupid Cupid in 1956.
“From then on I chose to perform and sing my own songs,“ he recalled. He obviously made the right decision because he’s managed to sell millions and millions of records since then.
During his first years of singing stardom, he rode the height of popularity with such hits as: Calendar Girl, Oh! Carol, Stairway to Heaven, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and many more that have become a part of people’s lives.
But in 1964, the direction of American music changed drastically when the Beatles launched the British Invasion, and it became hard for most male solo artists to continue to pursue their music careers. Fortunately, Sedaka was able to prevail by writing hit songs for other artists.
Today, claiming that, “All my songs are like my children,” Sedaka said if he had to name a favorite it would be Laughter In The Rain. He said, “That song is special to me because it marked my comeback song after Elton John rediscovered me in the ‘70s and put me on his label. I’ll always be grateful to him.”
Over the years, the accolades showered on Sedaka have been numerous, including his induction in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, a street named after him in his hometown of Brooklyn, and the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award.
Today, Sedaka, 74, claims music has changed over the years and so has he.
“I think musically we’ve lost the melodic content. As for me, I think I’ve grown, developed and reinvented myself. But no matter what I do, the piano is like a magnet that keeps drawing me back. The piano is my inspiration, and I think it’s what has kept me going all these years.”
In addition to his extensive worldwide tour schedule, Sedaka has just released The Real Neil, a CD of brand new material, including a few Sedaka classics. The CD also marks the official release of Manhattan Intermezzo, his first piano concerto. He’s also working on a new Broadway show.
“I do miss that feeling of involvement with the great music,” he said, “but I also have to continue to sing and write the kind of music that I do because that’s just as much a part of me.
“I love to perform,” he continued. “I find it the most exciting, addictive thing one can do. For me, getting a standing ovation in front of a live audience is still one of the greatest highs of all time. It never, ever goes away.”
For times and ticket information, call 1-800-736-1420. ••