Born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 13, 1939, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka performed and composed (with lyricist Howie Greenfield) hits like "Stupid Cupid," "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do," and "Calendar Girl." In the 1960s, Beatlemania slowed down Sedaka's performing career, but he came back in the 1970s with "Laughter in the Rain" and "Love Will Keep Us Together" (a hit for The Captain & Tennille).
Famed singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka was born on March 13, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York. By the age of 8, Sedaka was already a piano prodigy. In 1956, he was awarded a scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York City, where he continued to divide his time between pop music and classical studies. In 1952, while playing at a resort in the Catskill Mountains, he was introduced to 16-year-old Howie Greenfield, a young poetry writer. The two began a songwriting career that would continue through the 1980s.
Music Career Takes Off
In 1956, Neil Sedaka formed a high school group called The Tokens. They were discovered by record producer, Morty Craft who issued two Tokens singles that became regional hits. Shortly after, Sedaka went solo, releasing his first single on the Decca label, Snowtime. In 1958, Sedaka penned his first international hit, Stupid Cupid recorded by Connie Francis.
In 1958, Sedaka and Greenfield joined the talent at 1650 Broadway, which included Neil Diamond, Carole King and Paul Simon. Record producer Steve Sholes contracted Sedaka for RCA, where he created such hits as Oh! Carol (written for former girlfriend Carole King), Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and Calendar Girl.
By 1963, after selling some 25 million records, Sedaka was riding the wave of international success. However, Beatlemania had taken hold and record sales progressively dwindled. From 1963 to '65, Sedaka spent his time traveling the world to record his hits in Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese and Hebrew. When his contract with RCA ended, he and Greenfield continued as songsmiths for Don Kirshner's Screen Gems Columbia.
Later Projects: The 1970s - 2000s
In 1970, inspired by Carole King's Tapestry album, Sedaka staged a comeback in London. After producing a few albums with limited commercial success, he released his breakthrough hit Laughter In The Rain. The title track was a huge success in the UK, prompting Elton John to re-launch Sedaka's records in the U.S. on his Rocket label. The result was the hit album Sedaka's Back. The record's success was followed by Sedaka's first Grammy for Love Will Keep Us Together performed by The Captain & Tennille. In the late 1980s, Sedaka was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Throughout the 1990s, Sedaka continued to reinvent himself. In 1991, he recorded Laughter In The Rain, Stupid Cupid and I Go Ape as duets with daughter Dara, the latter as a rap song.
In June 2004, Sedaka was honored by the National Academy of Popular Music and the Songwriters Hall of Fame with a Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding work in furthering the successes of songwriters. That same year, American Idol's Clay Aiken recorded a cover of Sedaka's "Solitaire," which made it to the No. 4 spot on the Hot 100 Singles chart. Not long after, Sedaka commenced a 10-city concert series in the United Kingdom. The tour ended in 2006 and was later released by Eagle Records as Neil Sedaka: The Show Goes On—Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
After 50 years in the music industry, in April 2007, Sedaka released a retrospective album, The Definitive Collection, which landed at No. 22 on the Billboard chart—the first time since 1980 that the famous singer-songwriter had appeared on the chart. That same year, a tribute entitled "Neil Sedaka: 50 Years of Hits" was held in his honor in New York City, featuring special tributes by Elton John and Barry Manilow and performances by artists such as Renee Olstead, Clay Aiken and Natalie Cole. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Elton John AIDS Foundation, headquartered in New York City.
In recent years, Sedaka has returned to classical music, releasing "Joie De Vivre" and "Manhattan Intermezzo," his first symphonic composition and first piano concerto, respectively. In 2010, he recorded both compositions with the London Philharmonic in London, England. Now in his 70s, Sedaka doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, despite boasting a career spanning more than a half a century.
Neil Sedaka and his wife of more than 50 years, Leba Strassberg, married in 1962. The couple has two children: daughter Dara, who has followed her father into the recording industry, and son Marc, who makes a living as a screenwriter. Additionally, Neil and Leba are the proud grandparents of three: twins Amanda and Charlotte (born in 2003), and Michael Emerson (born in 2005), all of whom belong to Marc Sedaka and his wife, Samantha.
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