Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Engelbert Humperdinck (singer)
Engelbert Humperdinck, born May 2 1936 in what was then known as Madras, India as Arnold George Dorsey, is a well-known pop singer. He was raised in Leicester, and adopted the stage name Engelbert Humperdinck, after the German composer of the same name. Humperdinck has sold an average of five million records a year since the late 1950s and has established himself as one of the world's premiere live performers in a number of sold-out tours.
Growing up with ten brothers and sisters in a working-class family, Engelbert became interested in music at age 11, when he took up playing the saxophone. He was singing in nightclubs during the early 1950s, the first of which was a family ballad, according to Humperdinck. He moved to the United States during the mid-1950s.
Humperdinck quickly absorbed American culture and began his singing career around the time he arrived. Then, when he was lacking success, the record manager for the Decca Records in the United States had to pick out a new name for Dorsey to catch on with the public. Eventually, in the late 1950s, the name "Engelbert Humperdinck" was adopted and he had several hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His career, however, declined, partly due to the British invasion of the mid-1960s, and his career didn't reach its height until 1967.
Then, in 1967, Humperdinck cut a single, "Release Me", and the result was an almost instant success for the singer. The song quickly hit the number one slot on the British music charts, and this success reflected on the U.S. music charts as well. At its peak, the "Release Me" single sold an unprecedented 85,000 copies daily, but moreover, the slow, powerful ballad became Humperdinck's signature tune, and a staple among adult vocals fans.
Almost immediately, Humperdinck began to amass legions of devoted fans, many of them female. On these grounds, coupled with the fact that most of Humperdinck's recordings are love songs, some critics immediately dismissed the singer as a mere "crooner." While Humperdinck cannot be said to have made significant musical innovations, the freshness, energy, and range of Humperdinck's delivery set him apart from other show business Romeos. As Humperdinck told the Hollywood Reporter's Rick Sherwood, "if you are not a crooner it's something you don't want to be called. No crooner has the range I have-I can hit notes a bank couldn't cash. What I am is a contemporary singer, a stylized performer."
Career in the 1960s and 1970s
Throughout the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s, Humperdinck continued to produce million-selling albums of love songs, and developed increasingly more extravagant stage shows, sometimes over one hundred per year. While the mood of Top 40 radio quickly changed, Humperdinck's music, more akin to Broadway show tunes than post-Beatles rock, did not. Subsequently, Humperdinck's live performances became more crucial in reaching his fans, and the singer responded by producing lavish, energetic extravaganzas that set the standards for Las Vegas-style glamour. "I don't like to give people what they have already seen," Humperdinck was quoted as saying in a 1992 tourbook. "I take the job description of 'entertainer' very seriously! I try to bring a sparkle that people don't expect and I get the biggest kick from hearing someone say 'I had no idea you could do that!'"
By the late 1960s, Engelbert Humperdinck fan clubs had begun to sprout around the globe. By the next decade, the fan mania had grown to giant proportions, reportedly the largest such club in the world, with chapters including "Our World is Engelbert," "Engelbert...We Believe in You," and "Love is All for Enge." While an occasional fan ventured into the realm of obsession-several fanatics claimed to have been pregnant with the singer's offspring-Humperdinck's following of a reported eight million members guaranteed record sales with limited radio air play. "They are very loyal to me and very militant as far as my reputation is concerned," Humperdinck said of his devotees to Sherwood. "I call them the spark plugs of my success."
The release of the album After the Lovin' in 1976 was a relative watermark in Humperdinck's career. In addition, the album received a nomination for a Grammy Award, the first major nod Humperdinck had received from critical corners. Perhaps part of the reason behind Humperdinck's critical neglect stemmed from his lack of involvement with the recording of albums, whereas he had so much control over live presentation. Until the late 1980s, Humperdinck had little say in which songs were selected for each album, a fact that might have supported claims that he was little more than a pawn of his label's executives. Over the years, this arrangement slowly changed, giving Humperdinck full creative freedom. Humperdinck's albums began to cover more musical terrain than ballads alone.
1980s to present
By the 1980s, Humperdinck was fast approaching his fifth decade of life, yet he was still producing albums regularly, performing sometimes more than 200 concerts in a year, and he was still a source of attraction for his female fans. Despite all this, Humperdinck had managed to maintain a solid family life with his wife, Patricia. Perhaps a mixture of business and pleasure had contributed to this success: Humperdinck's four children are involved in their father's career in some way. A truly jet-set family, the Humperdinck/Dorsey clan shuttled between homes in England and Beverly Hills, California, where Humperdinck had purchased the Pink Palace, a lush mansion once owned by film star Jayne Mansfield.
In 1989, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as a Golden Globe Award for Entertainer of the Year. He had met Queen Elizabeth II and several American presidents. Still, he retained his element of humanism, and began major involvement in charity foundations. In addition to involvement with The Leukemia Research Fund, the American Red Cross, and the American Lung Association, Humperdinck contributed to several AIDS relief organizations. For one of these, Reach Out, Humperdinck even penned and performed an anthem for the organization's mission, called "Reach Out." As longtime friend Clifford Elson said of Humperdinck, "[h]e's a gentleman in a business that's not full of many gentlemen."
Well Known Songs
- Am I That Easy to Forget?
- Release Me
- The Last Waltz
- After the Lovin'
- Engelbert Humperdinck (composer), 1854-1921
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