Engelbert Humperdinck reflects on latest album and 50 years in music

Multi-platinum legendary British singer and songwriter Arnold George Dorsey MBE, better known as Engelbert Humperdinck, speaks to Headliner about his new album All About Love – which he released to mark his 87th birthday – and shares his most memorable musical moments from his five decades in the business.

When it comes to describing the career of Leicester-born, now USA-residing Engelbert Humperdinck, ‘a life in music’ is simply an understatement. After starting out as a performer in the late 1950s under the name Gerry Dorsey, he later adopted the name of German composer Engelbert Humperdinck as a stage name, and found success after he partnered with manager Gordon Mills in 1965. His recordings of the ballads Release Me and The Last Waltz both topped the UK Singles Chart in 1967, selling more than a million copies each - a feat not to be sniffed at during the height of popular music’s golden era.

Subsequent hits secured him as one of the best-selling artists of the ‘60s in the UK, while the following decade saw him experience significant North American chart success. Having garnered a reputation as a prolific concert performer, Humperdinck embarked on a musical journey that would see him head out on tour nearly every single year for the rest of his life. Many years later, he would even go on to represent the UK at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, which he tells Headliner was “a great honour”.

Humperdinck’s latest record, All About Love, is a collection of his own versions of some of the greatest love songs of all time. For an artist who has seemingly never stumbled in his songwriting, and who collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music world on his 2021 album Engelbert Calling – including Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick, Gene Simmons of KISS, Willie Nelson, Cliff Richard, and the late Olivia Newton John – recording this latest project was all in a days’ work.

The first single is a cover of Barry White’s 1974 original My First, My Last, My Everything, onto which Humperdinck added his own country spin, and Headliner was curious to find out why this classic was selected to kick off the album.

“It's one of my favourites,” says Humperdinck, joining Headliner on a Zoom call from L.A. He’s in good spirits, and talking about his craft clearly comes very naturally. “I spoke to my producer and said I wanted to put a country touch on all the songs. I recorded vocals at Igloo Music in Burbank, and then all the tracks were put down at Blackbird Studios in Nashville with some absolutely fantastic musicians.”

I just want to keep doing what I love to do, for as long as I can.

True to his collaborative roots, he also decided to put two exciting duets on the album: Besame Mucho with Lupita Infante, and A Man Without Love with Angelica Maria. “These two lovely ladies were introduced to me by my producer,” he says. “Angelica Maria is the sweetheart of Mexico, and after I had a hit with A Man Without Love in the early years, she then had a hit with it in Mexico, so the collaboration made a lot of sense - she is wonderful to work with.

“Lupita Infante is another big star over there. Besame Mucho is the greatest love song written in a long time, and I'm going to put that in my show. Both songs have some Spanish in them, so I’ve been learning the language and will be using it to sing the songs a month from now when I head to Chile to do some concerts.”

Despite being a classic singer songwriter at heart, Humperdinck remains very much connected to the music community, and while his age might suggest otherwise, he is certainly not shy of using social media to stay in touch with his army of loyal fans.

Having recently performed the Bee Gees’ timeless love ballad How Can You Mend a Broken Heart on his YouTube Live, Humperdinck’s followers soon requested that he record his own full version. He headed straight to the studio to do just that: “Each week I do Tuesday Music, where I inform my audience about what I'm doing that particular week, and what I’ve got coming up,” he says. “I love keeping in touch with fans around the world; I often read their comments and sometimes pick somebody out to talk to directly on my YouTube, which is really nice.”

One of Humperdinck’s songs which saw a recent revival is I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, which football fans will recognise as the adopted chant of East London football club, West Ham F.C.

The song features in the latest Brad Pitt film, Bullet Train, yet it’s not the only medium where his music has appeared recently. Superhero TV series The Umbrella Academy featured his 1968 track Quando, Quando, Quando, while popular Disney+ series Moon Knight brought A Man Without Love to a modern audience.

“Since A Man Without Love in Moon Knight especially, I have had a lot of young faces show up at my shows; I guess a lot of them wanted to know what an Engelbert Humperdinck looks like,” he chuckles. “It’s wonderful to see them in the audience, and I'm very lucky that I've got an across the board age group that comes to my shows.”

Incredibly, the two years during the pandemic were the only years of his career that he did not head out on tour - that’s every year since 1967. He really does live for the music, and continues to do so in his late 80s, enjoying performing just as much as he did 50 years ago.

“You’ve got to keep creating new material for your market, and keep the fans interested,” he remarks with authority. “Although when I do the classics at my shows, I see people going crazy and singing along with me, which really makes the show run wonderfully.”

Proud career moments for an artist of such calibre are in abundance, no less: “I’ve got a star on the Walk of Fame right outside the Roosevelt Hotel in L.A, as well as one on the Walk of Fame in Leicester, my hometown. Those are the sort of things I treasure,” he says. “And of course, it was wonderful for the late Queen to award me the MBE.”

And his biggest ever audience? A quarter of a million people in New Zealand, where a song that he recorded at the very beginning of his career, Ten Guitars, has almost become the country’s national song: “Everybody from the three year olds to the 80 year olds sing that song to this very day, and I recorded it 56 years ago!” he says, almost still in disbelief.

<b>Credit:</b> Greg Gorman

Credit: Greg Gorman

When he’s back from his current tour, Humperdinck will without a doubt be back in the studio recording and working with other artists, and it’s not unfair to say that as one of the most successful, enduring artists of the last 60 years, it really is all he knows.

“I've been very fortunate, because people tell me I don’t look my age,” he sums up with a wry smile. “I feel as though I’m still in my 50s, so when I’m on stage, I'm still dancing around and doing all that stuff. Usually as you get older, your vibrato gets slower. Mine has almost disappeared, and it's become more of a commercial sound in today's market, so I think I’ve been very lucky in that respect. I just want to keep doing what I love to do, for as long as I can.”

Listen to the full interview with Engelbert on Headliner Radio, here:

Image credit (All About Love campaign): Craig Sotres