To say Neil Sedaka’s musical career got off to a fast start would be an understatement.
“I started writing at 13 years old and had hit records by LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter and Connie Francis,” said Sedaka. “And then when I was 19, I decided, rather than give away the songs to other singers, I auditioned for RCA Victor as a singer-songwriter and they signed me to a contract.”
But as quickly as his star rose, it fizzled in the 1960s, a decade of upheaval and cultural shifts.
“I was out of work for 12 years. You know, the music business is very trendy and fickle. I had the opportunity to meet Elton John when I was living in England and he was starting a record company and signed me. The first single, after 12 years, was ‘Laughter in the Rain’ and it went to No. 1 on the charts here in America,” he said.
Sedaka will be in Bowling Green Saturday night to perform with Orchestra Kentucky at SKyPAC. He also has a new album called The Real Neil – a mixture of new songs and his classic hits, featuring just the piano and that distinctive voice. One of those classic songs, "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", topped the charts twice.
“I’m one of the few that had a hit with the same song twice. I recorded it as a rock-n-roll song in 1962 as I wrote it,” said Sedaka. “And then I did it several years later as a slow ballad and it was a hit once again.”
“I wanted to show in Real Neil the pure form of the song, how I write at the piano with no embellishment.”
The only song featuring multiple instruments on his new album is "Manhattan Intermezzo", a recording made of a performance with the Royal Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall. Saturday night, Sedaka brings the piece to Kentucky.
“I’m exceptionally proud of the last track, which is my piano concerto. I call it ‘Manhattan Intermezzo’ and I’ll be performing it with Jeff Reed and his wonderful orchestra in Bowling Green. The piece is very, very New York,” said Sedaka. “Being a New Yorker I wanted to express the spirit of New York and the combination of ethnic groups of New York. The Latin, the Oriental the Russian, et cetera and so forth. It’s about a 20 minute piece.”
“Jeff Reed came with me to the Albert Hall in London two years ago when we debuted the Manhattan Intermezzo, so it’s going to be a nice reunion again with him,” said Sedaka. “It’s a mutual admiration, we really admire each other.”
Sedaka’s career has many highlights. He’s written and recorded a bevy of No. 1 hits and the likes of Elvis, Frank Sinatra and the Carpenters have sung his songs. But he’s also quick to point out the lean times and offers this advice for young musicians: get out and play.
“There’s an advantage if they can write songs and can sing and write in front of as many people as possible – family, school. You get a wonderful feedback when you do that and you seem to develop and grow in front of live audiences.”
Neil Sedaka has performed in front of thousands of live audiences through his years in music and does it again Saturday night in Bowling Green.