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Music / Neil Sedaka

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Neil Sedaka (born March 13, 1939) is a singer/songwriter active from 1957. He mostly writes his own songs and frequently collaborates with lyricists Howard Greenfield and Phil Cody.

He has written many well-known songs including "Stupid Cupid" (sung by Connie Francis), "Is This the Way to Amarillo" (sung by Tony Christie), "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tennille, and "Oh! Carol" and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" (sung by himself).

Neil Sedaka provides examples of:

  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Partial aversion, as his father was Turkish-Jewish. His last name is clearly a non-Ashkenazi name, being a variation on the Hebrew tz'daka ‘charity’.
  • Answer Song: "Oh Neil!" was Carole King's answer to "Oh! Carol"; the pair dated briefly and remained good friends for decades after.
  • Ascended Extra: His backing band on the albums Solitaire and The Tra-La Days Are Over renamed themselves 10cc and became stars shortly afterwards.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "Bad Blood" uses this in the unusual context of midtempo Soft Rock, giving it an unexpected Funk flavoring.
  • Break Up Song: Many, but the self-explanatory "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" is one of the definitive examples.
    Don't take your love away from me
    Don't you leave my heart in misery
    If you go then I'll be blue
    'Cause breaking up is hard to do
  • Call-Back: "Our Last Song Together", which really was the final song Sedaka wrote with Howard Greenfield, is loaded with lyrical references to Sedaka's early hits.
  • Caught in the Rain: "Laughter in the Rain".
    Strolling along country roads with my baby
    It starts to rain, it begins to pour
    Without an umbrella we're soaked to the skin
    I feel a shiver run up my spine
    I feel the warmth of her hand in mine
  • Childhood Friend Romance: In "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen", the narrator sings about being attracted to his childhood friend now that she turned 16.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: His own version of his song "Stupid Cupid", which was originally performed by Connie Francis.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: The Softer and Slower Cover of his own "Breaking Up is Hard to Do." The original was an uptempo look at a broken teen romance; the 1976 ballad version was a reflection years later of that same breakup, and realizing there was still a lot of good that could be taken from that relationship from years earlier. Both were major hits – No. 1 in 1962, top 10 (as well as #1 adult contemporary) in 1976.
  • The '50s: When he began his pop music career (1957).
  • Groupie Brigade: "Queen of 1964", about an old groupie who used to claim, amongst other things, that she once 'had' Mick Jagger (getting a kick and a black eye from Bianca Jagger for it).
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Jenny, the Queen of 1964.
  • Larynx Dissonance: Has a very high tenor timbre, especially obvious in "Laughter in the Rain".
  • Love Martyr: The premise of "Oh! Carol".
    Oh! Carol
    I am but a fool
    Darling, I love you
    Though you treat me cruel
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" is a cheerful-souding song about the pain of breaking up. The later slower and darker cover is a better match.
  • Obsession Song: "Betty Grable", although a pretty benign and innocent one.
  • The One Who Made It Out: "Wheeling, West Virginia" is sung from the point-of-view of a McQueen-esque movie star who's bored with the Hollywood life and pines for his hometown.
  • Precision F-Strike: "The bitch is in her smile" from "Bad Blood". Fairly mild, but still shocking coming from a guy with such a clean-cut image.
  • Protest Song: "The Immigrant", which was written about John Lennon's deportation struggles, as well as his own family's migration to America from persecution in Eastern Europe.
  • Rearrange the Song: The first version of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" is fast and upbeat. The re-released version is a Softer and Slower Cover.
  • Record Producer: Most of his early hits were produced by Al Nevins and Don Kirshner, who were also his music publishers. Most of his later career saw him produce or co-produce his material, though 1977's A Song went the "big name" route and was produced by George Martin (though, ironically, rather than becoming The George Martin for Sedaka, they just worked together on that one album).
  • Secret Diary: "The Diary", which is about the singer wanting to look into a girl's diary to see if she writes about him in it. The song was written after he asked Connie Francis (who he wrote songs for) for permission to see her diary for inspiration and she refused.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: He sang harmony with himself very often in his early days. Examples can be heard "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", "Little Devil", "Samson and Delilah" and "Our Last Song Together".
    • The early single "Laura Lee"/"Snowtime" goes even farther, with Sedaka becoming his own vocal quartet.
  • The '70s: When he emerged from his hiatus and had a revival in popularity.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Subject of the song "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" and "Next Door To an Angel".
  • The '60s: When some of his well-known songs came out. Took a hiatus when The Beatles emerged.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: In 1976, he released a slow ballad version of his 1962 hit "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". It reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, making him the first solo artist to reach the Top 10 with two different versions of the same song. note  This version also hit #1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart.
  • Special Guest: Elton John's backing vocal on "Bad Blood" is so prominent that the song is, for all intents and purposes, a duet.
  • Tenor Boy: He's one of the most prominent male high tenors in pop music, and his classic hits often had him in the role of the gee-whiz Guy Next Door.
  • The One That Got Away: "Solitaire"
    There was a man, a lonely man
    Who lost his love through his indifference
    A heart that cared
    That went unshared until it died within his silence
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: In many of his songs.
    • "Hey Little Devil", from F major to G-flat (or F-sharp) major at the end.
    • In Tony Christie's version of "Amarillo", the last chorus goes from A major to B-flat major.
  • 12-Bar Blues:
    • "Stupid Cupid", popularised by Connie Francis.
  • Used to Be a Tomboy: The subject of "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen".
    What happened to that funny face
    My little tomboy now wears satins and lace