American pop singer, songwriter and pianist Neil Sedaka has been in the music industry for more than 50 years. During his long career, he has written numerous songs and is known for his partnerships with lyricists Howard Greenfield and Phil Cody. During the late 1950s to early 1960s, Sedaka scored a number of Billboard Hot 100 hit singles, including “The Diary” (1958, #14), “Oh! Carol” (1959; #9), “Stairway to Heaven” (1960; #9), “Calendar Girl” (1961; #4), “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (1961, #4), “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (1962; #1) and “Next Door to an Angel” (1962; #5). However, after “Next Door to an Angel,” he experienced a set back and moved to England in the early 1970s to revive his career. After the success of his U.K. albums “Solitaire” (1972) and “The Tra-La Days Are Over” (1973), Sedaka made his victorious return to the U.S. with “Sedaka's Back” (1974). The album generated his next No. 1 hit, “Laughter in the Rain,” as well as the Top 40 hits “The Immigrant” and “That's When the Music Takes Me.” His subsequent album, “The Hungry Years” (1975) spawned the hit song “Bad Blood.” To date, Sedaka remains an active recording artist and performs in concerts tirelessly throughout the world. He has also achieved success in Australia, Japan, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Sedaka was given a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to recording. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983.
Sedaka has been married to Leba Strassberg since 1962. They have two children together. Sedaka is a close personal friend of Connie Francis and has written many hit singles for her. The New York Native was named “King of Brooklyn” at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival in 1994.
Childhood and Family:
Neil Sedaka was born on March 13, 1939, in New York, New York, to Mac Sedaka (taxi driver) and Eleanor Sedaka. His father was the son of Turkish Jewish immigrants and his mother was of Polish Russian Jewish lineage. He was raised in an apartment in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. When Neil was in his second grade music class, his teacher discovered his musical potential and sent a note home suggesting he take piano lessons. His mother worked part time at a department store for six months before she could buy him a second hand piano. In 1947, the eight year old boy received a piano scholarship to the esteemed Juilliard School of Music's Preparatory Division for Children, which he began to attend on Saturdays. At age 13, he began writing songs with Howard Greenfield, an aspiring poet and lyricist whom Neil later worked with professionally. Neil graduated from Lincoln High School in Brooklyn in 1956. He was then accepted to the college division of Juilliard.
On September 11, 1962, Neil married Leba Strassberg. The couple has a son named Marc, who is a screenwriter. His daughter, Dara, is a recording artist and vocalist for television and radio commercials.
In 1955, Neil Sedaka and some classmates formed a vocal group called The Tokens (formerly known as the Linc-Tones). The group recorded its first hit, titled “While I Dream,” in 1956 but Sedaka quit a year later to pursue a solo career. His first solo single, “Laura Lee,” recorded for the Decca label, was released in 1957. It was followed by “Ring-a-Rockin'” (recorded for the Guyden label) and “Oh, Delilah” (recorded for the Pyramid label) in 1958. However, none of the singles emerged as a hit. Despite the initial unsuccessful attempts, Sedaka's aptitude as a solo singer attracted the attention of RCA Victor, which signed him to a recording deal.
Released in 1958, Sedaka's first single for RCA, “The Diary,” rose to No. 14 on the Billboard charts. The follow up single, “I Go Ape,” (1959) was a relatively minor success in the U.S., where it peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard chart, but had higher chartings in the U.K., where it successfully made the Top 10. Both “The Diary” and “I Go Ape” were included in Sedaka's major debut studio album, “Rock with Sedaka” (1959), which was produced by Al Nevins. The third single from the album, “All I Need Is You,” was released in Italy on the RCA Italian label. The 12 songs on the album were co-written by Sedaka and his friend Greenfield. Meanwhile, in 1958, Sedaka and his songwriting partner Greenfield also enjoyed success with “Stupid Cupid.” Performed by Connie Francis, the song went to No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. They would write many other hits for Francis, including “Fallin'” and the theme to the film “Where the Boys Are,” in which she starred in.
Sedaka released the single “Crying My Heart Out for You” in 1959, but the song only charted at No. 111 on the U.S. Billboard chart. In Italy, it peaked at No. 6. His next big hit arrived when he released “Oh! Carol,” a song about singer/songwriter Carole King. Co-written with Greenfield, the song went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959 and became an international hit. In the U.K., the song rose to No. 3. After release of single, it was included in his 1961 album “Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil and His Other Hits,” a follow up to his album “Circulate” (also 1961). In addition, “Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil and His Other Hits” contained the hits “Stairway to Heaven,” “You Mean Everything to Me,” “Run Samson Run” and “Calendar Girl,” which became one of the most popular songs ever released by Sedaka. The title track, “Little Devil,” (also 1961) rose to No. 11 on the U.S. Billboard charts and has been translated into Italian, German and Spanish.
“Neil Sedaka Sings His Greatest Hits” (also known as “Greatest Hits 1959-1963”) was released in 1963. Among the 12 hits of the albums were “Sweet Little You” (1961), “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (release in 1961), “King of Clowns” (1962) and “Next Door To An Angel” (1962). The single “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (1962) topped the Billboard Hot 100 on August 11, 1962. Also in 1963, Sedaka and artists Paul Anka and Sam Cooke released the album “Three Great Guys,” which was comprised of 12 songs of 4 songs each. Sedaka's songs were “This Endless Night,” “Too Late,” “Without Your Love” and “Another Day, Another Heartache” (with Stan Applebaum and His Orchestra).
Sedaka's career gradually declined following the success of “Next Door to Angel.” “Alice in Wonderland” (1963) peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 10 and “Let's Go Steady Again” charted at No. 26. Subsequent minor successes were “The Dreamer” (1963; #47), “Bad Girl” (1963; #33), “The Closest Thing to Heaven” (1964; #107), “Sunny” (1964; #86), “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart” (1964; #104), “Let the People Talk” (1964; # 107), “The World through a Tear” (1965; #76), “The Answer to My Prayer” (1965; # 89) and “We Can Make It if We Try” (1966; #121). By the end of 1966, he had been let go by RCA. During this time, however, Sedaka remained in the limelight as a songwriter. After his publisher Aldon Music was acquired by Screen Germs, two of his songs were recorded by The Monkees. He also wrote The Cyrkle's version of “We Had a Good Thing Goin'” and “Workin' on a Groovy Thing,” a Top 40 R&B hit for Patti Drew in 1968 and a U.S. Top 20 hit for The 5th Dimension in 1969. “Make the Music Play” was included on the Frankie Valli charting album “Timeless.” In 1968, Sedaka starred as Bob in the Canadian horror film “Portrait of Fear” (formerly “Playgirl Killer”), directed by Erick Santamaria. Costars of the film included William Kerwin, Jean Christopher and Andrée Champagne.
Despite his lessening chart attraction in the U.S., Sedaka found major success in Australia and the U.K. during the late 1960s thanks in part to his concerts. His single “Star Crossed Lovers” (1969) became a major hit in Australia, where it peaked at No. 5, and gave the artist his first charting single since 1966. Also in 1969, he recorded a new LP of original material called “Workin' on a Groovy Thing,” with support from Aussie label Festival Records. The single “Wheeling, West Virginia” climbed to No. 20 on the Australia Single chart in the early 1970.
In 1971, Sedaka was reunited with RCA Victor and released the album “Emergence.” Singles from the album included “I'm A Song (Sing Me),” “Silent Movies,” “Superbird” and “Rosemary Blue.” With the help of friend and music promoter Don Kirshner, “Emergence” was released in the U.S. as his comeback, but the effort was not successful. Before long, Sedaka left New York and moved the family to England.
After a successful English tour in early 1972, Sedaka launched “Solitaire” (1972), again with RCA. The single “Beautiful You” rose to No. 43 in the U.K. and “That's When the Music Takes Me” hit No. 18 there. The title track “Solitaire” was later covered by and became a hit single for Andy Williams (1973) and The Carpenters (1975).
In 1973, Sedaka released the album “The Tra-La Days Are Over” under MGM Records. The album marked his next record to be produced at Strawberry Studios in England in collaboration with Graham Gouldman, Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Eric Stewart of the band 10cc after “Solitaire.” It spawned two hit singles with “Standing on the Inside” (1973, #26 UK) and “Our Last Song Together” (1973, #31). His song “Love Will Keep Us Together,” which Sedaka co-wrote with Greenfield, became a No. 1 hit single for Captain and Tennille (1975) and gave the American duo a Grammy for Record of the Year.
In 1974, Sedaka returned to the U.S. with the album “Sedaka's Back,” which was released on Elton John's Rocket Records. It produced the No. 1 hit single “Laughter in the Rain,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100. It was co-written by Sedaka and Phil Cody. The next single, “The Immigrant,” dedicated to musician John Lennon, spent a week at No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart and peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single was the previous release “That's When the Music Takes Me,” which hit No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. A No. 23 hit on the Billboard 200, the album eventually received gold certification in the U.S.
In 1975, Sedaka launched the album “The Hungry Years” in America. The single “Bad Blood,” a duet with Elton John, became his next No.1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975 and also charted at No. 25 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart. The song was certified gold and marked the most commercially successful individual U.S. single released in his career. Sedaka's remake of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary. “The Queen of 1964,” from his British released “Overnight Success” album, went to No. 5 in the U.K. in March 1975.
1976 saw the single “Love in the Shadows” rise to No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another duet with Elton John, “Steppin' Out” (also 1976), climbed to No. 36. His charted singles throughout the 1970s include “You Gotta Make Your Own Sunshine” (#36 Hot 100; # 45 US AC), “Amarillo” (1977; #44 Hot 100, #4 US AC), “Alone at Last” (1977; #104 Hot 100, #17 US AC) and “Letting Go” (1979; #107 US Hot 100).
In the 1980s, due to a change in record companies, Sedaka had to record cover versions of other artists' oldies. His charted singles during this period were “Should've Never Let You Go” (1980, #19 Hot 100, #3 US AC), “My World Keeps Slipping Away” (1981; #36 US AC), “Your Precious Love” (1984; #37 US AC) and “Rhythm of the Rain” (1985; #37 US AC). He sang a duet with his daughter, Dara Sedaka, on “Should've Never Let You Go” and “Your Precious Love.”
Sedaka is still recording. His new albums in 2010 include “The Music of Life” and “Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil and His Other Hits/The Many Sides of Neil Sedaka.” He also performs in concerts around the globe and many of his songs have been included on movie and television soundtracks.