ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK

Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey, May 2, 1936, Madras, India) is a well-known pop singer who rose to international fame during the 1960s and 1970s, after adopting the name of the famous German opera composer Engelbert Humperdinck as his own stage name.

Early years
He was one of ten children of British Army officer Mervyn Dorsey and his wife Olive. His family migrated to Leicester, England, when he was 10, and a year later he showed an interest in music and began learning the saxophone. By the early 1950s he was playing in nightclubs, but is believed not to have tried singing until he was 17 and friends coaxed him into entering a pub contest. His impression of Jerry Lewis prompted friends to begin calling him Gerry Dorsey, a name he worked under for almost a decade.

His budding music career was interrupted when he served in the British military in the mid-1950s, but he got his first chance to record in 1958 with Decca Records. His first single, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," was not a hit, but Dorsey and the label reunited almost a decade later with far different results. Dorsey continued working the clubs until 1961, when he was stricken with tuberculosis. He regained his health and returned to club work with little success, but in 1965 he teamed with former roommate Gordon Mills who had become a music impresario and the manager of Tom Jones.

He had his first real success in July 1966, in Belgium where he and four others represented England in the annual Knokke song contest, and in October he was on stage in Mechelen. In that period, Humperdinck was already No. 1 in the Belgian charts, six months before the release of Release Me. Belgian Television then made a video clip in the harbour of Zeebrugge.

Changes and chart topping

Aware that Dorsey had been struggling several years to make it in music, Mills suggested a name change to the more arresting Engelbert Humperdinck, borrowed from the composer of such operas as Hansel and Gretel. Mills also arranged a new deal with Decca Records. In early 1967 the changes paid off when Humperdinck's version of "Release Me," done in a smooth ballad style with a full chorus joining him on the third chorus, reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and went to number one in Britain, keeping The Beatles' adventurous "Strawberry Fields Forever" from entering the top slot in the UK. "Release Me" spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 in a single chart run

Even in a year dominated by psychedelic rock music, the success of "Release Me" may not have been that surprising, considering Frank Sinatra's chart comeback that began a year earlier, and stablemate Tom Jones's success with a ballad or two in the interim, both of which probably opened some new room for more traditionally-styled singers. "Release Me" was believed to sell 85,000 copies a day at the height of its popularity, and the song became the singer's signature song for many years.

Humperdinck's deceptively easygoing style and casually elegant good looks, a contrast to Tom Jones's energetic attack and overtly sexual style, earned Humperdinck a large following, particularly among women. "Release Me" was followed up by two more hit ballads, "There Goes My Everything" and "The Last Waltz", earning him a reputation as a crooner that he didn't always agree with. "If you are not a crooner," he told Hollywood Reporter writer Rick Sherwood, "it's something you don't want to be called. No crooner has the range I have. I can hit notes a bank could not cash. What I am is a contemporary singer, a stylized performer."

The hits kept coming. He was successful with "Am I That Easy to Forget". "A Man Without Love," "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize," "The Way It Used To Be," "I'm A Better Man," and "Winter World of Love" before the 1960s ended. In the 1970s he scored with such albums as The Last Waltz, The Way It Used To Be, A Man Without Love, and Engelbert Humperdinck. His own television program, was less successful, being cancelled after six months.

Beyond the 1960s

As his kind of balladry became less relevant, and a few Broadway influences found their way into his music, Humperdinck concentrated on selling albums and on live performances, developing lavish stage presentations that made him a natural for Las Vegas and similar venues. He still had hit singles however, and "After the Lovin'", a ballad recorded for CBS subsidiary Epic, became one of the biggest hits of his career in 1976 and won him a Grammy Award nomination.

It was a conscious effort to update his music and his image. "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!'" He also defended his fan mania, which helped him continue to sell records when radio play dried up for him. "They are very loyal to me and very militant as far as my reputation is concerned," Humperdinck had told Sherwood. "I call them the spark plugs of my success."

But he later revealed that he had little if any say in the selection of songs for his albums, a fact that had sometimes brought into question whether he was his own or his manager's or record label's pawn. As his career moved on, however, Humperdinck began gaining more creative freedom, and his albums accordingly brought several kinds of songs into his reach beyond syrupy ballads. But he kept romance at the core of his music regardless, and he's long since been tagged by fans as "the King of Romance."


1980s to present

By the 1980s, approaching his fiftieth birthday, Humperdinck continued recording albums regularly and performing as many as 200 concerts a year, yet maintained a strong family life. He and wife Patricia raised four children (Bradley, Scott, Jason and Louise) who are said to have become involved in their father's career, even as the family alternated between homes in England and in southern California.

In 1980 Sunday School teacher Kathy Jetter won a paternity ruling that Engelbert was the father of her daughter Jennifer born in 1980 and he has made paternity payments for her since then although he has declined to meet her. Diane Vincent also claimed that Engelbert was the father of her daughter Angelique and while Engelbert has never admitted the child was his he was forced to make a one-off settlement payment for her upbringing.

He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989 and won a Golden Globe Award as entertainer of the year, while also beginning major involvement in charitable causes such as the Leukemia Research Fund, the American Red Cross, the American Lung Association, and several AIDS relief organisations. He wrote a song for one group, the theme anthem for Reach Out. "He's a gentleman," longtime friend Clifford Elson has been quoted as saying of him, "in a business that's not full of many gentlemen."

The 21st century

Humperdinck