November 29 is a very significant date in The Beatles’ history for George Harrison, which we discuss with Engelbert Humperdinck, along with highlighting songs from Engelbert’s new Reflections EP, which includes the song “You,” featured in his first video ever.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE:We are both back in the U.S. from Asia now. Welcome back for our third Goldmine interview in the past three years.
ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK: Thank you. We did several countries in twelve days. We went to Singapore to Bangkok to Manila to Tokyo and on to Hawaii, traveling one day, working the next day. I really didn’t know what time I was on when I walked on stage. I have been to these countries many, many times before, but this time all I could see was the city out of my hotel window. I saw the restaurant that I ate in and the theater that I played in. I never saw anything of the culture, with the people and the way they live, this time.
GM:Fortunately you have experienced the culture previously. Before we talk about your new EP Reflections, let’s reflect on a song celebrating its 50th anniversary, which is “Something,” by The Beatles, from their Abbey Road album, which also served as the flip side of John Lennon’s composition “Come Together” from that album. In the U.S. on November 29, 1969, the single reached the No. 1 position and “Something” became the most successful Beatles flip side for George Harrison. You recorded a wonderful version of “Something” the following year on your We Made it Happen album.
Flip side: Something
A side: Come Together
Top 100 peak date: November 29, 1969
Peak Position No. 1
EH: I’ve always liked George’s music. In the 1960s George was writing a lot, and spent time in India, so some of his music had a sitar effect to them. I wrote a song called “Stay,” which is one of the first songs that my manager Gordon Mills took to the record company to see if he could get me a contract but they refused me under my birth name of Gerry Dorsey. Then Gordon changed my name to Engelbert Humperdinck, said I was going to be bigger than Tom Jones, who he also managed, with the same song, “Stay,” with the sitar sounds inspired by George, to another A&R person, who happed to be Dick Rowe. The song didn’t go anywhere, but it helped get me to get my record contract, and George had something to do with it. Then I finally paid tribute to George when I recorded “Something.” “You’re asking me will my love grow. I don’t know. I don’t know,” is a great lyric, isn’t it? I know that Paul and John had their share of songwriting but George was a pretty good writer himself, too.
GM:George’s final Top 40 single on the Apple label was called “You.” On your new Reflections EP, it begins with a different song called “You” and you filmed your first video ever for this, wearing four different shirts throughout it.
EH: That’s the way they wanted to do it. We did it on Houdini’s premises so maybe it was magic how the shirts changed. I personally wouldn’t have done it that way. I would have kept everything very close and intimate, more in the face than in the body. I believe the song requires you to read my eyes and not my clothes.
GM:It is a beautiful song and loving tribute to your wife Patricia. When we met in Daytona Beach early this year, at your concert I was introduced to another of your songs, new at the time, “Angel on my Shoulder,” released as a single, donating your share of the proceeds to Alzheimer’s research. I am so happy that it is included on Reflections and is one of my favorite songs of 2019.
EH: It was co-written by an Englishman named Bill Martin, along with Garry Davidson, and I believe it was written a long time ago and was sitting on the shelf for quite a while until I got ahold of it and recorded it. I do believe it came at the right time of my life. I have been doing a lot of praying lately because of my wife’s condition. We made it public so that other people in the world would know of her condition and would pray for her. The more prayers coming to her are more beneficial to her health, I think. It is a wonderful use of social media to learn what people can do for you. She has been ill now for almost ten years and she is starting to talk again, which is rather unusual. For instance, her caregiver will ask, “What’s the matter Patricia?” and she will say “I’m cold.” She can express herself, which is very, very unheard of after ten years with Alzheimer’s. I am very thrilled. I do believe in miracles, and the optimism expressed in that song.
GM:Another song on Reflections about growing older is “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” written by Toby Keith. I saw him last year here in Daytona Beach as the final act in a three year series at the Daytona International Speedway called Country 500. It was a feel good and patriotic event for Memorial Day Weekend 2018. I love your version of this song and am always pleased in hearing you deliver a country song’s performance.
EH: Oh, thank you very much. You know I live by those sentiments. When I heard this song in Clint Eastwood’s movie The Mule, it stole my heart and I thought, this song is for me, so I asked my producers to record that song. I recorded it, put it in my shows, and have been working it every place I have been in the world and it turns out to be the largest applause I may get all night. It is unbelievable. I guess they know about my age. I’m 83 and some don’t believe it. I try to keep my body in good condition. I dropped thirty pounds in preparing to do a TV show in Hawaii, where I wanted to look more like my younger self, and I feel so much better for it.
GM:You sound and look wonderful, the main reason why we know you are older is that we have been listening to your music and have been buying your records for over fifty years, since the 1960s, and speaking about that, you have updated “Ten Guitars.”
EH: The reason for that is “Ten Guitars” has been a very important song in my career. It was the flip side of “Release Me,” and Gordon Mills, as its writer, must have collected a whole bunch of money for it because that single was one of the biggest sellers of 1967 and stopped The Beatles from having their thirteenth No. 1 in England and it became like a national anthem in New Zealand. To this day, if I work in New Zealand, I have to sing “Ten Guitars” at least three times on stage. Not only do all the older people know it, but the kids know it too.
GM:Speaking about kids, how is your granddaughter Olivia doing?
EH: I am going to tell you that little girl now, who you saw in the video at Daytona Beach, has probably grown four inches since then. She is eleven years old and is 5’ 7” tall. It was at the end of her ninth birthday when she recorded the song, “I’m Glad I Danced With You,” for my The Man I Want to Be album, which we have a different version on the new EP. She is now unbelievable. Her singing is far beyond what you could imagine. She’ll be twelve in March. I told Bruno Mars that he was going to be a big star. Let me tell you something, this young lady will be equally of that stature.
GM:I look forward to promoting her music when it is ready. Before Asia, you and I had to postpone our session, due to the fires in California. How are you and your family doing?
EH: We survived fine but the damage is so unbelievable for the people losing their properties and the wonderful things that they had saved from over the years.
GM:This Goldmine article will be published on November 29. Not only is that the 50th anniversary of “Come Together”/”Something” reaching No. 1 in the U.S., but sadly November 29 is also the 18th anniversary of George Harrison’s passing. For you, November 29 begins a three night return to Las Vegas, where you can do three shows for three nights without travel.
EH: I am looking forward to doing the three nights over there. At one time I would do a month at a time, over fifty shows, with two shows a night, but I’ve been there, done that, and I’m happy that it is just three shows now, and the rest of the traveling is worldwide, getting to see those people who haven’t been able to see me before.
GM:That includes me. Thank you for all the traveling you do to reach the audiences. After hearing your music in our home, in my car, at the record store where I worked while in college, and on the radio all these years, it was great to finally experience seeing you here in person in Daytona Beach.
EH: Did I sound OK? Did I hit all my notes right?
January 11, 2019, Peabody Auditorium, Daytona Beach, Florida
GM:Definitely. The only issue I had were people in the audience, near me, singing, when I really just wanted to hear you. The songs are familiar, so that happens, and they are beautiful and timeless. Have a wonderful time this weekend in Las Vegas and next week begins a month of Christmas music including your Warmest Christmas Wishes collection from last year. The photos included in the CD booklet of you and Patricia and the family throughout the years are just so beautiful and touching.
EH: Thank you. It was so nice speaking with you again. I appreciate it.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, writing the In Memoriam and Fabulous Flip Sides series. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.