This week Neil Sedaka is 80 years old.
The New York-born singer songwriter has had a career spanning over 60s years. He showed musical interests at school and followed in the footsteps of his cousin Eydie Gorme. His school teacher once sent a note home to Neil’s mother suggesting he take up piano lessons then in 1947 he auditioned successfully for a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. His mother urged him to learn classical music, but Neil preferred pop.
In 1952, a neighbour heard Neil playing at home and introduced him to her son, Howard Greenfield, who loved to write poetry and lyrics. Neil was a founding member of The Tokens in 1957 but it was short-lived and he and Howard began writing songs together and ended up working as songwriters in the legendary Brill Building where they would write and compose songs all day, some of which were recorded by Sedaka and some by other acts.
Their first UK hit, as songwriters, were for Connie Francis who hit with Stupid Cupid, a song they intended for the Shepherd Sisters, but Connie was in the Brill Building and heard the song. She walked into the room where they were and demanded the song for herself. She got it. They also composed her follow-up, Fallin’.
They have written hits for Jimmy Clanton (Another Sleepless Night), Emile ford (What Am I Gonna Do), Tom Jones (Puppet Man) and Captain and Tennille (Love Will Keep Us Together). Other acts that have covered Neil’s originals are Tony Christie (Is This the Way to Amarillo), Partridge Family (Breaking up Is Hard to Do), Andy Williams and The Carpenters (Solitaire). In 1972 Stig Anderson asked Neil to write an English lyric for a Swedish group he was managing with the intention of entering it for Eurovision. That song was Ring Ring and the group became ABBA. The song was entered for Eurovison and came third.
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 and in 2002, Peter Kay mimed to a video of Amarillo for his TV show Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights. Three years later he decided to update the video by added a number of celebrities and submitted it for Comic Relief. The result was that it went to number one and stayed there for seven weeks.
Let’s remember Neil’s live version at the Royal Albert Hall with a surprise guest.