Neil Sedaka

  • Singer, musician and songwriter born in Brooklyn New York in 1939.
  • Sedaka’s second grade teacher thought that he had musical skills, and the teacher recommended that he take piano lessons. His mother took a second job to pay for an upright piano, and he learned to play. At eight years old, he was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music’s Preparatory Division for Children, and he attended classes on Saturdays for twelve years, studying classical piano. When he was thirteen years old, a neighbor heard him play, and Sedaka was introduced to the neighbor’s sixteen year old son, Howard Greenfield. Sedaka and Greenfield began to write songs together. After graduating from high school, Sedaka and Greenfield were hired to write songs, inspired by show tunes and later by popular music of the day.
  • In the mid-50s, Sedaka joined a musical group called the Linc-Tones (renamed The Tokens) with friends from high school. They had several minor regional hits. In 1957 Sedaka started a solo career. He recorded three singles – they did not chart, though Ring-a-Rockin got him an appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. This led to a recording contract, and in 1958, he released his first charting single, The Diary, written by Sedaka and Greenfield. It reached #14 on the Hot 100 chart. It was included on his debut album in 1959 – Rock with Sedaka. Sedaka and Greenfield wrote twelve songs for the album. The single I Go Ape was a minor success in the U.S., but it reached #9 on the UK Singles Chart.
  • Sedaka and Greenfield wrote songs for other artists in addition to Sedaka, including numerous hits for Connie Francis and Jimmy Clanton. Anxious that his solo career would stall, Sedaka bought the three hottest singles of the time and listened to their song structure, hoping to write another hit for himself. It worked – in 1959, he released Oh! Carol, which reached #9 on the Hot 100 and #1 in Italy, his first song to top a singles chart.
  • This led to a string of hits from 1960 to 1963. Eleven songs charted in the top 40 of the Hot 100 during this time, including his first #1 song on the Hot 100, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Other top ten hits included Stairway To Heaven, Calendar Girl, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen and Next Door To An Angel. Sedaka also recorded music in other languages, which made him very popular outside of the U.S. He recorded singles in Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Yiddish and Hebrew.
  • The British Invasion led to a steep decline in Sedaka’s music career. He maintained a place in the industry by writing for other artists – songs by Sedaka were recorded by the Monkees, The 5th Dimension, Frankie Valli and others. As he entered the 70s, he attempted to revive his career, starting in international markets first. He had several hits in Australia, and in 1972 he moved to England and recorded there. He began a co-writing relationship with a new partner, an American named Phil Cody, and they co-wrote many songs recorded by Sedaka when his career returned to success in the mid-70s. While in England, he established a relationship with Elton John, who signed Sedaka to his record company when John discovered that Sedaka no longer had a record label commitment.
  • From 1974 to 1976, Sedaka returned to the Billboard Hot 100 with a string of seven top 40 hits. He topped the chart twice during this time, with Laughter In the Rain and Bad Blood. By the late 70s, his popularity had run its course. His final top 20 hit was in 1980, with Should’ve Never Let You Go. He released many studio, live and compilation albums during the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s and performed concerts throughout these years. During the COVID-19 lockdown and in his 80s, he streamed free live performances on his social media platforms.
  • There were no Grammy awards for Sedaka, though he was nominated five times, including Song of the Year for Captain & Teneille’s Love Will Keep Us Together, which he co-wrote with Greenfield. It was one of the last songs he wrote with his long-time writing partner from the early years. Here is Sedaka performing his biggest sixties hit, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.

1 thought on “Neil Sedaka”

  1. Loved reading about Neil Sedaka. I have loved his music for years and I didn’t realize he got his start at such an early age. It is a shame he never received a Grammy because he deserves one after writing so many great songs.

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