Best known as a contemporary romantic balladeer, Engelbert Humperdinck’s passion for life and music appears endless.
The 82-year-old legendary entertainer is returning to Christchurch on March 2 with his The Man I Want To Be Tour and says he loved visiting New Zealand. “It’s very near and dear to me. I love New Zealand. I’m not just saying that because I’m coming there… I love it mainly because they love my music.”
First released 52 years ago on Engelbert’s Release Me album, Ten Guitars is considered by many as the unofficial anthem of New Zealand. Engelbert was delighted how popular the song became. “It’s massive over there. When I’m there I have to sing it a couple of times. I sing it once (myself) and then the audience sings it.”
With over half of a century in the musical business, the father of four and grandfather of eight says he has no plans to stop. “I’m not ready to sit in front of the fire place and put my knees up and keep watching TV. No, no, no.
“I’m still very active and my stage performance is very active… it’s almost like it used to be in the years gone by.”
Engelbert says people “are usually surprised at the way I move on stage”. “To be honest I don’t feel (and people tell me) I don’t look my age, thank God. I’m still moving and dancing around on stage – it’s no problem for me.”
Described often in the media as a “sultry swooner”, Engelbert has had his fair share of female attention when on stage but says “that was a thing of the past”.
Asked if he still has underwear thrown at him, he replied “No. Occasionally somebody might do it to get attention it’s a thing of the past and I’m glad because none of those panties fit me,” he laughs. He puts his agility and good health down to exercise and losing 31lbs. “I’ve just finished doing a TV special in Hawaii (which is going to be released pretty soon) and I thought ‘I must look how I used to in the old days’ so I went on a strict diet and slimmed down.”
His daily routine consists of half an hour on the treadmill in the morning as well as hitting the gym. “I think you should respect your body because without your body working correctly, you have no life.” The veteran singer entered the world as Arnold George Dorsey. He was born and grew up in Madras, India, as the youngest of 10 children. His family moved to Leicester, England where his music career began.
During his career he has generated sales in excess of 140 million records, including 64 gold albums and 23 platinum, four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe, and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Las Vegas Walk of Fame. He has performed for the Queen four times and many dignitaries around the world. He put out his latest studio album, The Man I Want To Be in November last year with two notable covers from Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars.
Engelbert says he likes to keep up-to-date in today’s music world. “I listen to programmes like The Voice and other talent shows. I listen to the music because the people that are singing it are usually singing what is happening in today’s world… so I keep up with my musical learning in that respect.”
On his New Zealand tour he will be showcasing new music as well as original hits including Quando Quando Quando, Release Me, A Man Without Love, The Last Waltz and Am I That Easy To Forget. He says his latest album was also a love letter to his, wife of 52 years Patricia Healy, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
A strong believer in holistic and eastern medicine, Engelbert says she now has round the clock care at their California home but continues to fight the disease. “She does understand what you are talking about although she can’t reciprocate.”
He says her treatment consists of holistic medicine and acupuncture. “Actually you know she’s making progress… very slow… and one has to be patient and keep the prayers coming in. Eastern medicine seems to be taking an effect on her which is good.”
With a long career in the music industry, Engelbert says he’s had a few regrets – the biggest being a choice in management. “I’ve made some bad decisions in my career… for instance management, which has hindered me in my career.”
With his eyes firmly on the future, Engelebert has a message for his Christchurch fans. “You can tell them I’m happy to be coming back to their wonderful country and I hope the people who come and see my show enjoy the programme I am bringing them.”