(photo credit: Courtesy)
If it wasn’t for Elton John, Neil Sedaka probably wouldn’t be performing to a
packed audience on Saturday night at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv.
nothing to do with the Rocket Man’s own triumphant show earlier this year at
Ramat Gan Stadium but rather with an opportunity John provided to Sedaka – one
of his main pop inspirations as a youth – in 1974.
writer and singer of dozens of Top 10 songs in the late 1950s and early 1960s
like “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and “Oh Carol,” Sedaka had floundered in the
rock ‘n’ roll era and found himself an “oldies” act while still in his
“I was still writing all the time, and I felt that there was still
much more creativity and work in me. But things didn’t change for me until I met
Elton in 1974. He turned out to be a big Neil Sedaka fan, and he signed me to
his new record label Rocket Records,” recalled Sedaka recently in a relaxed
phone conversation with The Jerusalem Post
ahead of his show here.
ensuing album, Sedaka’s Back
, returned Sedaka to the charts with a vengeance,
with the hits “Laughter in the Rain” and the upbeat duet with John, “Bad Blood.”
And right around the same time, The Captain and Tenille’s version of his song
“Love Will Keep Us Together” proved to be another blockbuster. More than a
decade since scoring his last major hit, the baby-faced piano player with a
voice to match was once again riding high.
That chart success didn’t last
either, but John’s intervention helped to cement Sedaka’s reputation as a
contemporary hit maker that has enabled him to continue performing around the
world until today as one of pop music’s veritable giants.
Growing up in
Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York, as the son of US Jewish immigrants, the
child prodigy Sedaka overcame another obstacle on his way to teen fame as a pop
star – his parents’ insistence that he stick to classical music.
nine, Sedaka began attending the Juilliard School of Music’s Preparatory
Division for Children on Saturdays. But when he was 13, he had a fateful
encounter with his neighbor and future songwriting partner, Howard
“Howie’s mother heard me playing classical music, and one day
she came over and said that her 16-year-old son was a poet and that he’d be
coming over to ask me if I wanted to write songs together,” said
“I remember the day exactly, October 11, 1952. He knocked at my
door. I told him I didn’t know how to write songs and didn’t have any
inclination. I’m so glad he convinced me otherwise because we ended up writing
over 300 songs together over the next 20 years.”
At first, his parents
fought against the change in direction, Sedaka recalled.
‘Thousands of people can sing and write songs, but you’re a child prodigy at the
piano.’ But after I wrote my first big hit – a song called ‘Stupid Cupid for
Connie Francis in 1958 when I was 19 – everything changed. We never saw so much
money in our lives. I bought my older sister a home and bought my mother a mink
coat. And later I was able to retire my father from driving the taxi. It’s nice
to play a Beethoven sonata, I told them, but it’s also nice to get up and travel
the world and sing your own songs.”
A half century later, Sedaka is still
living his dream.