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Engelbert Humperdinck
The heat is killing, and near the Taj Hotel poolside, a few musicians admire the garlands around their necks, sip champagne and cold drinks, and eagerly pose for photographs. The previous night, they had accompanied the evergreen Engelbert Humperdinck at a concert in New Delhi, and are now awaiting their show at Mumbai's Jamshed Bhabha Hall on June 7.

Half an hour later, we spot Engelbert approach the lift with one of the event organizers. He's dressed in jeans and a casual striped shirt, and dons designer sunglasses. The trademark sideburns instantly remind us of some of the photographs that adorned his album covers in the 70s.

For a man who's produced a string of hits since the late 60s, Engelbert comes across as extremely down-to-earth. There was a time when one of his songs had to be played on the radio everyday whether it was Release Me, The Last Waltz, Quando, Quando, Quando, Spanish Eyes, Ten Guitars, A Man Without Love, Winter World Of Love or There Goes My Everything. An impromptu medley of those songs runs through our minds as we shake hands with him, and we're greeted with a polite hello and a warm smile.

Interestingly, our conversation with the 69-year-old Madras-born Britisher doesn't begin with any of these songs, but with his latest album Let There Be Love, released by Universal Music. Beginning with an Engelbert-ised version of Nat King Cole's Let There Be Love, the album contains interpretations of popular songs, including Boz Scaggs's We're All Alone, Ben E King's Stand By Me, Bryan Adams's Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? and the Ronan Keating-popularised When You Say Nothing At All.

How did he choose the songs on this album? Engelbert replies: The funny thing is that I started recording in 1967 with the Decca label, which is attached to Universal. This is my first Decca album since then. Some of these, like the title track, are popular songs I've always wanted to interpret my own way. But there are also three new songs… (he takes out his reading glasses and reads from the CD)… You Inspire Me, My Confession' and Three Words Ain't Enough. In fact, You Inspire Me sounds like a standard, but it's a completely new song. Looking at the album cover, Engelbert comments, 'The cover of Michael Buble's It's Time seems to be inspired by this. But I like Michael. He's also recorded Quando, Quando, Quando, and I think he's done a fantastic job. I've met him, and he's a very nice guy.'

The mention of Quando, Quando, Quando prompts us to ask about the dance versions of this song and Release Me released in the late 90s. Engelbert explains: 'My son came up with the idea, as he thought the songs would attract the younger generation. He was right. The album was in the top 20 of the charts. The best thing about my journey is that people of different age groups follow my music.'

In fact, it was Release Me which catapulted Engelbert to fame. Though it had already spelt success for country singer Ray Price and rhythm 'n' blues exponent Esther Phillips, Engelbert's version stayed in the charts for a consecutive 56 weeks, preventing the Beatles' Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever from reaching the top spot. 'I never expected the song to become such a hit. But it cracked the UK charts. Once you have a number one in the UK, there's a good chance that the song will become a hit everywhere,' he says.

You can read the rest of our exclusive with Engelbert Humperdinck in the June 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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