Neil Sedaka

BORN: May 13, 1939 in Brooklyn NY

If Neil Sedaka had been born a bit earlier, he probably would have felt quite at home as a straight Tin Pan Alley tunesmith. Rock and roll had taken over by 1960, though, so he made a niche for himself as one of the Brill Building's most pop-oriented writers. Unlike most of the Brill Building heavyweights, he sang most of his hit records (which were composed in association with Howard Greenfield). And he had a lot of them in the late '50s and early '60s: "Oh Carol," "The Diary," "Stairway to Heaven," "Calendar Girl," "Next Door to an Angel," and "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen." "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do," a number one hit in 1962, was probably his best-known tune.

Sedaka was a promising pianist as a youngster, and was once selected by Arthur Rubinstein to play on New York City's classical radio station; he also studied at New York's prestigious Juilliard school. At the same time, he set down rock & roll and doo wop roots by singing in an early version of the Tokens. After he had his first songwriting success with Connie Francis' "Stupid Cupid" in 1958, he got a deal with RCA in the late '50s as a solo artist. Sedaka's own hits were well-crafted, but were probably the most innocuous, saccharine smashes to come out of the early Brill Building crowd. His rather thin, high vocals were boosted by multi-tracking, which was still a novel technique at the time.

The big hits stopped rolling in for Sedaka a good year or so before the Beatles became popular in America. He concentrated more on the songwriting end of the business for the next decade, continuing to write with Greenfield and scoring occasional successes. He made an unexpectedly successful comeback in England in the early '70s, where three of his albums were co-produced by Graham Gouldman of 10cc. By the mid-'70s he was recording for Elton John's Rocket label, and got a number one hit with the ballad "Laughter in the Rain" in 1974. That and "Love Will Keep Us Together," which he and Greenfield wrote for the Captain and Tennille, did much to get MOR pop off the ground, and consequently make many wish that Sedaka had never re-emerged.

Sedaka got another number one hit, "Bad Blood," in 1975, with Elton John helping out on background vocals. A slow remake of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" made the Top Ten the following year, and although he would never enter the Top 40 after 1980, he was assured of a successful career as a perennial on the MOR circuit. — Richie Unterberger (All Music Guide)