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Still crooning his way to the top
LIKE listening to his middle-of-the-road ballads, speaking to Engelbert Humperdinck is akin to taking a trip down memory lane.
The 80-year-old - who will be in town next week to play a show - has many rock and roll tales to share after being in the business for close to half a century.
Like how he learnt a lot from watching his close friend Elvis Presley strut his stuff on stage. "I stole many things from him but the only thing he stole from me was my sideburns," jests Humperdinck, on the trademark mutton chops they both sport.
The Leicester native, who was born Arnold George Dorsey before his then-roommate Gordon Mills (who went on to manage Humperdinck and Tom Jones; and wrote many of their hits including Jones' signature tune It's Not Unusual) suggested changing it, shot to fame in 1967 when his version of the lovelorn ballad Release Me made it to the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic.
The single remained in the UK chart for 56 weeks and earned the crooner an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for that feat. It also kept The Beatles' Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever from the top spot.
"For that to happen in anybody's life, it has to be one of the biggest things ever; it was amazing and it started my career," he recalls.
Incidentally, Humperdinck didn't stay too far away from The Fab Four either. "We all lived in the same area in London within a half mile radius," he reminisces, "I used to see them driving in and out from where I lived."
The balladeer also takes credit for discovering soft rock duo The Carpenters: "I was the first one to give them their big break. I put them on my show as my opening act and they played to 20,000 people in Canada."
While those acts have all become part of music history, Humperdinck's career is still going strong after nearly five decades. He has released a whopping 80 albums and his other hits include The Last Waltz (1967) and After the Lovin' (1976).
His newest work Engelbert Calling marks the first time he is collaborating with other singing legends. On the album, he duets with the likes of Elton John, Kenny Rogers and Lulu.
He is already looking forward to making a follow-up with younger stars. "I would like to collaborate, maybe with Bruno Mars, Adele or Lady Gaga," Humperdinck notes.
Having played to as many as 250,000 people in a concert and witnessed many proposals being made as he crooned his trademark love songs, Humperdinck has seen it all but has no plans to stop anytime soon. "I love what I do and I want to keep doing it," he explains.
A new record is also in the works to celebrate his 50th anniversary in music next year. "It's all hush-hush at the moment but it will be very special," he hints.
Staying on the road and playing about 90 shows a year has helped Humperdinck stay relevant while reaching out to a new generation of fans.
But he also attributes the longevity and success of his career to the core message of his music. "It is all about romance and love. It has been for all these many years and it has sold me about 150 million albums around the world."
Despite his successful career and legions of adoring fans, Humperdinck reveals that he is still nervous before going onstage.
"I'm terrified and have cold hands and feet backstage," he admits. "But after three or four minutes, I'm okay and that is a good sign because it shows that I'm not complacent."
- Engelbert Humperdinck performs at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands on July 15 at 8pm. Tickets from S$108 to S$248 are available at Sistic and the venue's box office.