It seems that all New York City boys who were teens in the late 1950s developed a knack for doo-wop music. Dion and the Belmonts hailed from the Bronx, the Crests originated in Manhattan, and Neil Sedaka was Brooklyn-born. What set Sedaka apart from these contemporaries was his career as a child prodigy on the piano; he studied from age eight at the Juilliard School of Music. His other distinctions come from the length and breadth of his pop career.
When a Brooklyn teen has been named by Artur Rubinstein as an exceptional classical pianist, how does he fit in at school? He starts writing pop songs. Neil Sedaka began writing with a neighbor, Howard Greenfield, when Sedaka was 13 and Greenfield was 16. They wrote a song a day, and once they signed a songwriting contract, they began working in the Brill Building, now known as one of the great sources of early 1960s pop songs.
Sedaka's first big songwriting success was 'Stupid Cupid,' a 1958 hit for Connie Francis. At that point, Sedaka opened a door that the other Brill Building songwriters (including Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich) could not unlock: he became a major recording artist. Here he put his doo-wop background (as a founder of the Tokens) to work in such Top Ten songs as 'Oh! Carol' and 'Stairway to Heaven' (no, it is not that 'Stairway to Heaven'). Unlike the doo-wop groups of his time, Sedaka did not have a backup group; he multi-tracked his own voice. With lines like 'sha dooby down dooby doo down down, kama kama . . .' how could he miss?
He didn't miss. 'Breaking Up Is Hard to Do' hit #1 in 1962. While the hits dried up for him as a performer when the Beatles took over the charts, Sedaka could still sell tickets to his shows, and he wrote 'Workin' on a Groovy Thing' for the 5th Dimension in 1969. He maintained a fabulously popular performing career in England, and he was selling more tickets there in the 1970s than any number of British artists. As a friend of John Lennon and Elton John, Neil Sedaka was poised for a comeback.
Sedaka was recording for Elton John's label, Rocket Records, when he exploded onto the American scene again. He went to #1 with 'Laughter in the Rain' in February, 1975, and at the end of that year, 'Bad Blood' reached #1 as well and gave Sedaka his first U.S. gold record. He also wrote 'Love Will Keep Us Together,' the Captain and Tennille's 1975 Grammy winner for Record of the Year.
He cracked the Top Twenty as late as 1980, with 'Should've Never Let You Go,' a duet with his daughter, Dara. Looking back, Sedaka's 1000-plus compositions have earned him a spot in the Songwriter's Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 'Breaking Up Is Hard to Do' is one of the 50 most-performed songs of the 20th Century.
With these achievements under his belt, Neil Sedaka has the talent and courage to continue expanding his repertoire. Now performing classical piano works when he is not singing his classic pop, Sedaka continues to sell out shows. If you have tickets to see him, you are in for a treat, as there are few legends of his stature still performing.
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