As was revealed last week on Eurovisionary, veteran performer Engelbert Humperdinck will perform for the United Kingdom at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest on 26 May in Baku. We take a look at a major music industry star of the last 45 years.
Engelbert Humperdinck was born Arnold George Dorsey in 1936 in Chennai (formerly Madras) in India, into a British Army family. He was one of ten children. His father was British while his mother had Indian heritage.
When he was ten, Engelbert and his family moved back to the UK, to the East Midlands city of Leicester. In the 1950s he learnt to play the saxophone and performed regularly in local pubs and clubs. He was spotted by an agent one evening doing impressions of American comedian Jerry Lewis. The agent changed his name to Gerry Dorsey, a name he used for 10 years.
After service in the army, a friend suggested he changed his name again to the now familiar Engelbert Humperdnck, taking his name from the German composer of the opera Hänsel & Gretal. His first success came when he participated with four other British performers at the 1996 Knokke Song Contest in Belgium. Other entrants were Eurovision performers Ronnie Tober and Katja Ebstein. Further performances followed in Belgium, including the hit Dommage, dommage.
In 1967 his UK career took off with two number ones The Last Waltz and Release me. This latter single became the biggest seller of 1967 and kept the Beatles off the top spot. Over the next five years, a further 13 top 40 singles followed, ensuring he became a household name.
By the 1980s, Engelbert was to be found in California, recording a large number of albums and performing an estimated 200 concerts a year. Chart singles started to elude him, but he achieved a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Golden Globe for entertainer of the year in 1989. Also in that year, Engelbert recorded a Christmas album Star of Bethlehem. The tracks were all written by Dieter Bohlen. In 1996, Engelbert recorded the song Lesbian Seagull for the film Beavis & Butthead do America.
On the release of the story that Engelbert would be in Baku, he initially couldn’t believe the amount of publicity it received, even making the headlines at CNN. He added: "I have been in the business for 45 years and with my experience and the amount of countries I have visited in Europe, I can bring this home. I play these countries frequently and I hope I have scored some points with them."
He said: "Representing my country means a great deal to me. I represent my country wherever I go. In every way, shape and form I wave the flag. This has just given me a big thrill."
Engelbert is a keen viewer of Eurovision and doesn’t mind that some people sneer about it. He said: "I jumped at doing this. To all the naysayers, I say I have been up against it before, when I first started against major artists like The Beatles. People used to mock my name but at least they were still talking about me."
On why the BBC decided to approach Engelbert, he said: "I’m not sure. I guess there has been a lot of buzz going around about me in the industry because I am back in the studio recording my new album. It is very exciting for me."
He will perform a song penned by Grammy winner Martin Terefe, who has written for James Morrison and Mary J Blige, and Ivor Novello-winning Sacha Skarbek, who co-wrote James Blunt’s massive hit You’re Beautiful.
The United Kingdom will perform in the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest on 26 May.