Hits keep coming for Neil Sedaka

November 30, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

Editor's Note: Neil Sedaka is performing at 8 p.m. Saturday at Newlin Hall on the Centre College campus.

It's not unusual for Neil Sedaka to turn on the radio and hear one of his hit songs from 50 years ago. Sedaka's latest work may be filling the airwaves as well, with Clay Aiken, runner-up on the recent TV hit "American Idol," scheduled to release one of Sedaka's songs.

"Solitaire" will be released Dec. 15. Sedaka met Aiken when he was a celebrity judge on the show.

Fans of Sedaka's long career who attend his Norton Center show can look forward to hearing some of their favorites from the late 1950s and early '60s, as well as Sedaka's recent return his classical roots. They can expect to see a performer who enjoys his work.

"I love performing live. It's an immediate response. You don't get it from television or recordings. I love people. I enjoy meeting all kinds of people," he said in a telephone interview from his New York home.


Sedaka, 64, became a star at age 18 after Connie Francis recorded his "Stupid Cupid." The hits continued with songs such as "The Diary," "Oh, Carol," "Stairway to Heaven," "Calendar Girl," "Little Devil," "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen," "Next Girl To An Angel," and "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do."

The audience can expect a varied program, Sedaka said.

"I'll do the early hits from 1958 to 1963, and then do the '70s," he said.

Of his many hits, he considers "Laughter in the Rain" as his favorite.

"It was responsible for a great comeback for me in 1975. I had quit singing for 10 years, and I met Elton John, who invited me to join his record label."

Sedaka joined the Rocket label and launched "Sedaka's Back."

Audience members at the Norton Center performance also can expect to hear some of his latest work, "Classically Sedaka," which contains Sedaka's romantic lyrics set to music by Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

"I do classic pieces because I started as a classic pianist," said Sedaka, who began his training at age 8 at Julliard School of Music. By the time he was 16, Arthur Rubinstein voted him one of the finest classical pianists in New York City High School.

Sedaka is covering new ground with this recent turn in his work heard on "Classically Sedaka."

"I don't think anyone has ever put words to classical melodies. I did it for people who would not ordinarily go to classical music concerts, but they love the melodies, so I wanted to make this more listenable to the ordinary people."

Sedaka embarked on his rock and roll career because that was what his classmates were hearing on the radio. He soon met Howard Greenfield and they formed a successful songwriting partnership. Between 1959 and 1963, the songwriting team sold more than 25 million records. Their partnership lasted 30 years, making it one of the longest in music history.

Soon after Francis' recording of "Stupid Cupid," Sedaka signed a contract with RCA as a writer and performer of his own material. He flew around the world giving performances.

"I was the first American singer to go to many foreign countries in the '50s," he said, noting that he has recorded his music in five different languages.

Sedaka continues to spend a couple of weeks of every month on the road. After Danville, he will travel to Phoenix, Ariz., and he usually performs in Las Vegas five times a year. One of his favorite places to perform is London's Royal Albert Hall.

"It's a very busy schedule, but I do love it."

One of Sedaka's big hits, "Love Will Keep Us Together," which won a Grammy for Captain and Tennille in 1975 and won a Grammy as Song of the Year, might apply to his own life. He and his wife, Leba, have been married for 40 years. They have two children. Daughter Dara is a recording artist and vocalist for television and radio commercials, and son Marc is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. They recently became grandparents after the birth of twin girls to their son.

After all these years, Sedaka is glad to be in the limelight. "It's marvelous and flattering that after so many years, people are still coming to hear me sing," he said.

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