Engelbert Humperdinck

2014 Engelbert Humperdinck

Norma Jeane Mortenson eventually changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Frances Ethel Gumm changed her name to Judy Garland. What name did Engelbert Humperdinck change his to?

Well, he changed it to Engelbert Humperdinck! He was born Arnold Dorsey in 1936, and since Dorsey was a pretty big music name as he was growing up, you have to wonder why he didn't stick with it. Instead, he took the name of a 19th-Century German composer best known for the opera Hänsel und Gretel. Since the mid-1960s, he could have called himself anything, and his good looks, onstage charm and rich voice would still have endeared him to his legion of fans.

Engelbert was born in India, while his father was in the military there. The family relocated to Leicester, England as he was approaching his teens, and young Arnold took up the saxophone. His first vocal performance, on a dare, was an impersonation of Jerry Lewis. Once people knew he could sing, they forced him to give up the sax and start belting out tunes. He might have hit the big time a few years sooner, but a bout of tuberculosis set him back in the early '60s.

When he first became known to American fans, it was as the melancholy mirror image of Tom Jones. Engelbert's first Top Ten single, from the summer of 1967, was 'Release Me (And Let Me Love Again).' He and the 'other' dark crooner from Great Britain took the American charts for their own through roughly 1970, with Tom Jones singing the saucy tunes, and Engelbert caressing his fans' ears with the songs of romantic tragedy. He logged big hits with 'There Goes My Everything,' 'The Last Waltz,' 'Am I That Easy to Forget' and 'A Man without Love.' There were as many tears as ticket stubs on the floor at Engelbert concerts in the late '60s.

With sold-out shows and adoring (female) fans'”though guys could handle him as a real working-class guy who could sing'”Engelbert maintained the respect of a large portion of the ticket-buying community, even as his Top 40 chart success faded. One final blast of vinyl popularity remained, though, as Engelbert earned a gold record for his 1976-77 Top Ten hit, 'After the Lovin'.'

Though Engelbert has a stronghold in Adult Contemporary music, he has shown amazing versatility during his 40 years as a charting performer. Now that he is selling far more tickets than records, Engelbert has an even closer relationship with the fans who flock to see him on stage. He has not stopped experimenting with new music, though. Back in the '60s, Engelbert engaged Jimi Hendrix as an opening act at one point, and in 2000, he stepped out to record the well-received THE DANCE ALBUM. The dance version of 'Release Me' earned Engelbert a trip to the Top Ten Dance charts about the time he turned 65.

There is no telling what will happen when Engelbert is on stage. Women scream and throw intimate clothing at him. Seeing that, in itself, is worth the price of a ticket.


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