Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heaven Is...

It’s happened again. I’ve become absolutely fond of a new singer. I knew basically nothing about Neil Sedaka before I test-listened to him (like I do to many artists) a few weeks ago. I remember I was actually talking on the phone with my granny while listening to Sedaka’s early hits. It was probably Stairway to Heaven playing when I suddenly noticed a very special thing: this guy had something a lot more interesting in his singing voice than 99,9% of people have! Well, first of all, he sounded very much like Les McKeown (from Bay City Rollers)– a cheerful, melodious, and even slightly nasal sound. I listened to more of Sedaka’s old songs and soon found his amazing lower vocal register, as well as his awesome higher range. As I listened to those absolutely catchy melodies, great songs, and Sedaka singing gorgeous harmonies with himself I was swept away. Then I heard his early 70s stuff.. There was no turning back. I was in love.

Neil Sedaka was born in New York in 1939. He was considered a prodigal child, attended The Juilliard School and became an excellent pianist. Sedaka started writing songs at the age of 13 and singing at the age of 19. He worked a lot with Howard Greenfield in the early 60s writing songs for himself and others. Sedaka’s early hits include Calendar Girl, Breaking up Is Hard to Do, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Oh! Carol (written about ex-girlfriend Carole King), and others.

In the mid-60s Sedaka’s success on the charts decreased, his record contract with RCA ended and was not renewed, and as it became customary that bands wrote their own songs, Sedaka was left with little work in the songwriting sector. However, in the early 70s, ambitious Sedaka revived his recording career as he started working on new material in England with the four guys that would soon become known as 10cc. The collaboration resulted in Sedaka returning to the charts in both UK and US. Sedaka also worked with Elton John in the mid-70s. Sedaka's 70s hits include for example Solitaire, Laughter in the Rain, and Bad Blood.

During his 50-year career Sedaka has recorded music in five different languages, topped the charts with two versions of the same song (Breaking up Is Hard to Do), had a hit record with his daughter Dara (Should've Never Let You Go), and his songs covered by such artists as The Carpenters and Elvis Presley, among other things. People all around the world consider Sedaka a genius and demand him to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sedaka, who will turn 70 years old on March 13th, still tours (The United Kingdom this summer) and sings with his voice still sounding incredibly beautiful – how is that possible? I guess a piece of heaven on earth just can't possible fade..

Sedaka’s voice is the most beautiful thing I’ve heard in a long time. Now the question is how long.. Will I end up dropping my current #1 favourite singer to #2? I haven’t decided yet but time will surely show me. Somehow it would seem inappropriate to place Sedaka as #2 but I don’t wish to abandon my current #1 just yet. Gee, maybe I just shouldn’t think about these ranks so much..

I love Neil. I can’t stop listening to him, his beautiful voice, and his beautiful melodies. To me Neil Sedaka is the ultimate American pop icon. I love his early pop & roll hits, and I love his later singer-songwriter pop hits (and non-hits). I’m looking forward to getting more of his records, and I even might go to England in the summer to see him live.. It’s silly but I can’t help it. I’m in too deep now..

Here are some picks from YouTube, mostly live performances. It’s just a couple of samples – if you don’t own/know Sedaka’s greatest hits (and preferably more), get/listen to them now!

Calendar Girl ("music video" from the early 60s!)
Calendar Girl (live with Chris and Adam from Fountains of Wayne - great fun! Compared to Neil FoW certainly is "a new group..")
Next Door to an Angel (video may not be the best but the song is perfect)
Laughter in the Rain (so beautiful – I’m speechless)
Is This the Way to Amarillo (with Tony Christie live at Royal Albert Hall)
Solitaire (live, don't know where)

Neil Sedaka's Official Website

P.S. As you already know, Kyle Vincent is Sedaka's next-generation powerpop version! I love Kyle, too.

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