NEIL SEDAKA, Match 13, 1939-

Neil Sedaka is an American institution, having achieved considerable success in two music fields—singing and songwriting—over an extended length of time. Despite widespread references to his limitations—a rather limited vocal technique and a tendency to graft the worst elements of formulaic Tin Pan Alley writing onto his pop-rock compositions, the sincerity and warmth communicated both by Sedaka’s voice and material, further augmented in his own recordings by virtuoso production work, have resulted in an enviable recorded legacy.

Since both parents were accomplished pianists, it was inevitable that Sedaka’s childhood would include musical training. Despite classical piano training at Julliard, he displayed a pronounced preference for pop material. He began writing songs with fellow Lincoln High School (Brooklyn) student, Howard Greenfield. Their close proximity to the music publishers and record companies in Manhattan enabled them to eventually secure jobs as staff composers (Sedaka handling the music, Greenfield the lyrics) with Aldon Publishing Company. The firm’s owners, Don Kirshner and Al Nevin, were successful in pitching the duo’s material to emerging pop star, Connie Francis. They first supplied her "Stupid Cupid" (MGM 12683; 1958; #14), followed by "Fallin’" (MGM 12713; 1958; #30), "Frankie" (MGM 12793; 1959; #9), and "Where the Boys Are" (MGM 12971; 1961; #4).

Aldon also pedaled Sedaka to the labels as a vocalist, securing a contract with RCA (he had recorded previously with the Tokens for Melba in 1956). He immediately scored with a string of successful singles—including the Top Ten recordings, "Oh! Carol" (RCA 7595; 1959), "Stairway to Heaven" (RCA 7709; 1960), "Calendar Girl" (RCA 7829; 1960), "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" (RCA 7957; 1961), "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" (RCA 8046; 1962; #1), and "Next Door To An Angel" (RCA 8086; 1962)—which continued up to the British Invasion. Although his singing career lost momentum, his songwriting partnership remained fruitful throughout the 1960s, resulting in hits like the 5th Dimension’s "Workin’ on a Groovy Thing" (Soul City 776; 1969) and "Puppet Man" (Bell 880; 1970), also a Top Thirty single for Tom Jones (Parrot 40064; 1971).

Reunited with his old boss on Kirshner Records, Sedaka attempted to revive his recording career in the early 1970s. Discouraging sales led to dissolution of his professional relationship with Greenfield; he began writing songs with lyricist Phil Cody, first testing them with the public during a concert tour of England. His warm reception there led to the release of a couple of albums, Solitaire (Kirshner 117; 1972) and The Tra-La Days Are Over (1973) However, success eluded him in the U.S. until the release of Sedaka’s Back (Rocket ; 1974), driven by the number one single, "Laughter in the Rain" (Rocket 40313; 1974). More hit recordings followed, including "Bad Blood" (with Elton John; Rocket 40460; 1975; #1) and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (Rocket 40500; 1975), a torch-style reworking of his 1962 up-tempo teen anthem.

Although his chart successes dropped off again—a notable exception being his duet with daughter Dara, "Should’ve Never Let You Go" (Elektra 46615; 1980)—Sedaka remains a highly visible entertainer, both live and on television variety programs.

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