The Island Today: Age no obstacle for Engelbert Humperdinck

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Engelbert Humperdinck never wanted to be a singer.

A career in music, yes, but he was extraordinarily shy.

The youngest boy of a family of ten children originally from Leicester, England, he grew up in Madras, India, where his father was stationed during World War II.

Humperdinck’s childhood was dominated by the love of his parents and siblings.

He knew he could sing harmonies, but the power of his own voice came as a surprise to him and other people.

“It’s just so loud, but I discovered I can be tender with it at the same time,” he said.

Like all great icons, Humperdinck is a man of great depth – masculine, yet sensitive, and shy inside, yet uninhibited onstage, where he plays the sex god to the hilt and still, at this stage of his career, manages to get away with it.

“My mother’s side of the family had the singing voice so I must have inherited that from her. My father was a man’s man – strong, athletic, charismatic. And I like to do all kind of men things. I love sports, golf, tennis, martial arts, soccer, skiing, but at the same time, yes, I do appreciate women,” Humperdinck says.

In a career spanning 50 years, Humperdinck has generated sales in excess of 140 million records, including 64 gold albums and 35 platinum, four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Las Vegas Walk of Fame and Leicester Walk of Fame.

He has performed for the Queen four times, several presidents and many heads of state.

Now, as part of his 50th anniversary tour, Humperdinck will perform at the Theatre at Westbury this coming Saturday, Sept. 9 at 8 p.m.

Humperdinck has recorded everything from the most romantic ballads to movie theme songs, disco, rock and even gospel.

His unique voice has charmed millions of fans around the globe, yet it’s not just the voice, but the man himself, with his endearing sense of humor and self-deprecating jokes.

And he has managed to strike a chord with a younger generation after appearing on MTV several times.

Humperdinck entered the world as Arnold George Dorsey.

At the age of 11, he started studying music and playing the saxophone.

When he was 17, he found himself playing at a pub that sponsored a singing contest.

Goaded by his friends to enter, he put down his sax and for the first time revealed another vocal talent — impersonations.

He quickly became dubbed Gerry Dorsey by fans after giving an incredible impersonation of the comedic icon the world recently lost, Jerry Lewis.

Dorsey was very popular on the UK music circuit and, in 1959, he released a single called “Crazybells/Mister Music Man” on Decca Records.

However, he contracted tuberculosis, which silenced him for six months and nearly ended his rising music career.

Upon regaining his health, Dorsey knew he had to end his former image to make a comeback as a strong, dynamic performer.

A former manager suggested a new name, Engelbert Humperdinck, taken from the Austrian composer who wrote “Hansel and Gretel.”

It was outrageous enough to be memorable.

And thus was born the soon-to-be legend, Engelbert Humperdinck.

Humperdinck exploded onto the music scene in the 1960s with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, yet his ‘60s did not so much swing as rage.

The shy, handsome boy catapulted almost instantly into an international star.

He became great friends with Elvis Presley, and the two legends often performed each other’s songs.

His first single, “Release Me,” went into the Guinness Book of Records for achieving 56 consecutive weeks on the charts.

It was No. 1 in 11 countries, and the song was re-released after being used for a UK national television commercial for John Smith’s beer.

The following decades saw Humperdinck touring the world to sell-out crowds.

He takes great pleasure in every moment on stage, a place where he can lose his inhibitions and no longer be the child who was once shy.

Humperdinck’s music has transcended time and his voice continues to touch people — serving to transport and inspire, to embrace and provoke feelings… ingredients that are no doubt the essence of his long-lasting success.

The Theatre at Westbury is located at 960 Brush Hollow Road in Westbury.

For tickets and more information, go to www.thetheatreatwestbury.com.

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