Celebrity Entertainer: Neil Sedaka

Neil SedakaThe history of rock and roll would be incomplete without the innumerable contributions of Neil Sedaka. For over fifty years, Sedaka has written, performed, produced, and inspired countless songs, which continue to stand the test of time.

Neil Sedaka was born in 1939. At eight he had already begun his classical piano training at New York’s Juilliard School of Music; but, eager to gain acceptance from his high school peers, Sedaka also began performing rock and roll. Introduced to Howard Greenfield by Greenfield’s mother, he began one of the most prolific songwriting partnerships of the last half century with twenty-five million records sold between 1959-1963, helping create the “Brill Building” sound.  He soon recorded the chart- toppers “The Diary,” “Oh! Carol," “Stairway to Heaven,” “Calendar Girl,” “Little Devil,” “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen,” “Next Door To An Angel,” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” songs that have become part of people’s  lives and instantly take listeners back to special moments. His music became distinguished for a unique recording style involving multi-tracking his own voice to achieve a rich sound.

In 1964 the direction of American music changed drastically when The Beatles launched “The British Invasion,” but even at this time he was able to write hit songs for such artists as Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, The Monkees and The Fifth Dimension. Sedaka’s journey continued in the UK with the release of his album “Emergence” in 1972. Elton John then signed Sedaka to his new record label Rocket Records and re-introduced him to American audiences. In Rolling Stone Magazine, Sedaka was hailed as “the new phenomenon.” The song “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” was re-released as a ballad in 1975, and made music history by becoming the first song recorded in two different versions by the same artist to reach Number One.  Continuing to this day as a prolific singer/songwriter, Sedaka has been inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and has had a street named after him in his hometown of Brooklyn. In 2004, the Songwriters Hall of Fame honored Sedaka once again with the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award for furthering the success of songwriters.

Inspired by his grandchildren, Sedaka released “Waking Up Is Hard To Do,” a collection of Neil Sedaka hits that have been reinvented as children’s songs. “Waking Up Is Hard to Do” was a family collaboration, in which his son Marc adapted four of his father’s classic songs, and Sedaka’s five-year-old granddaughters made their recording debut as his backup vocalists. Since the release of the CD, Imagine Publishing has begun releasing a series of books based on these songs. In September 2010 saw the release of "Waking Up Is Hard To Do.” Its follow-up, “Dinosaur Pet,” featuring Marc's new lyric to “Calendar Girl," was released in May 2012 and debuted at Number 5 on The New York Times bestseller list.

Sedaka has returned to his classical roots, composing his first symphonic piece “Joie De Vivre,” and his first piano concerto “Manhattan Intermezzo.” In October 2010, Sedaka recorded these two pieces with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London at the famed Air Studios in London.  “Laughter in the Rain,” the critically acclaimed musical that chronicles Sedaka’s rise, fall, and rise again, just concluded its tour through the United Kingdom. Produced by Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield, “Laughter in the Rain” garnered exceptional reviews for Philip Norman’s book and Wayne Smith’s star-making performance as Sedaka.  He is very hopeful it will be launched this year in The West End.

Sedaka has been married for fifty years to his wife, Leba, and they have two children: daughter Dara is a recording artist and vocalist for television and radio commercials, and son Marc is a successful screenwriter in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Samantha, made Sedaka a grandfather, for the first time in 2003 with the birth of twins, Amanda and Charlotte, and for the second in 2005 with the birth of Michael Emerson.

All of these ventures will no doubt add to his legend—that of a consummate musician, an extraordinary vocalist, and an ageless songwriting talent.