March 13, 1939, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, NY
Pop, Rock and Roll, Doo-Wop, Adult Contemporary
Contributions to music:
- The first songwriter-for-hire to establish himself as a rock solo artist in his own right
- His background in Brooklyn doo-wop and classical training helped him forge scores of worldwide pop hits for other artists
- One of the legendary "Brill Building" team of early-Sixties songwriters
- Scored a major comeback in the mid-Seventies by rcasting himself as an adult-contemporary artist
- Cited as a major influence by "piano rock" legends such as Elton John and Ben Folds
- One of the first singers to multi-track his voice to make it fuller
- BMI has listed "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" as one of the 50 most-played songs of the 20th century
It was a note sent home from a teacher, encouraging his parents to give him piano lessons, that started Neil Sedaka's career as a musician; by the age of 8, he had been accepted into New York's prestigious Julliard school, and by the age of 13 was writing songs with future Brill Building lyricist Howard Greenfield. By high school, he'd formed a doo-wop group called the Linc-Tones, which would go on to become the Tokens of "Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame. By the age of 18, Sedaka/Greenfield had joined producer Don Kirshner at Brill -- the first team to do so -- and written a hit, "Stupid Cupid," for Connie Francis.
Neil himself began to have solo success when he recorded "The Diary," which he'd written after Francis refused to let him read her journal. But it was his love for another Brill songwriter, Carole King, that led to his first big hit, 1959's "Oh! Carol." Written after painstakingly analyzing the top three hits in the country and then writing a pastiche of them all, it catapulted Sedaka into teen idol success. Several hits followed, both for Neil and the artists he wrote for, but the hectic pace (and the British Invasion) had pretty much killed his performing career by the mid-Sixties.
Sedaka continued to be in high demand as a writer, however, and his legacy had not been forgotten: fans like 10cc and Elton John helped him realize an amazing comeback as a performer in the mid-Seventies. (John signed him to his own Rocket label and sings on Neil's 1975 hit "Bad Blood.") An Adult Contemporary version of his old hit "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" became a hit, and while the music world had moved on again by the early '80s, leaving Neil out of the loop, his compositions have continued to be in demand; in 2004, Clay Aiken paid tribute to him on American Idol. Sedaka continues to record and perform today.
- Is the cousin of singer Eydie Gorme
- Arthur Rubinstein considered the teenage Neil one of the finest classical pianists in New York
- During his peak years with Howard Greenfield, wrote and completed one new song every day
- Has been married to his wife, Leba, since 1962
- Carole King wrote a flop reply to his single entitled "Oh! Neil"
- Enshrined at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Las Vegas
- Toni Tenille ad-libs the line "Sedaka is back" at the end of "Love Will Keep Us Together"
- Has a street named after him in Brooklyn, New York
- Songwriters Hall of Fame (1983)
- Hollywood Walk of Fame (corner of Sunset and Vine)
Top 10 hits
- "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" (1962)
- "Laughter In The Rain" (1975)
- "Bad Blood" (1975)
Other popular recordings:
- "Oh! Carol" (1959)
- "Stairway To Heaven" (1960)
- "Calendar Girl" (1961)
- "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" (1962)
- "Next Door To An Angel" (1962)
- "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" (remake) (1976)
"The Diary," "I Go Ape," "Run Samson Run," "You Mean Everything To Me," "Sweet Little You," "King of Clowns," "Little Devil," "Alice In Wonderland," "Bad Girl," "Let's Go Steady Again," "The Immigrant," "That's When The Music Takes Me," "Love In The Shadows," "You Gotta Make Your Own Sunshine," "Steppin' Out," "Amarillo," "Should've Never Let You Go"
Wrote or co-wrote:
"Stupid Cupid," "Frankie," "Where The Boys Are," Connie Francis; "I Waited Too Long," LaVern Baker; "Venus In Blue Jeans," Jimmy Clanton; "Ring Ring," ABBA; "Solitaire," The Carpenters, Clay Aiken; "Love Will Keep Us Together," "Lonely Night (Angel Face)," "You Never Done It Like That," Captain and Tenille
The Partridge Family, Sheryl Crow
Appears in the movies:
"Pão de Açúcar" (1964), "Rings Around The World" (1966), "The Playgirl Killer" (1968)