A last waltz for Engelbert Humperdinck

The 88-year-old balladeer is bringing his farewell tour to South Africa

05 July 2024 - 12:49
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The balladeer Engelbert Humperdinck
The balladeer Engelbert Humperdinck
Image: Supplied

“Who wants to go to the Engelbert Humperdinck show?”

At first I thought they were joking when my friends posted the question on our “Concerts” WhatsApp group. But no! The 88-year-old balladeer is still singing is on his way to South Africa as part of his 'The Last Waltz” farewell tour.

Not that we should be surprised that the old crooner is still kicking it with his favourite tunes, such as Last Dance, Release Me, Quando Quando Quando, Can't Take My Eyes Off You and Spanish Eyes. If Joe Biden can trade golfing insults at 81 and Jacob Zuma can reignite his political career at 82, Humperdinck can surely sing a little ditty or two at his advanced age.

But don't let him hear you call him a “crooner”; he told Hollywood Reporter writer Rick Sherwood: "[I]f you are not a crooner it's something you don't want to be called. No crooner has the range I have. I can hit notes a bank could not cash. What I am is a contemporary singer, a stylised performer.”

Humperdinck was born Arnold George Dorsey on May 2 1936 in what was then referred to as Madras, British India, but is now known as Chennai, India. His parents, Olive and Mervyn Dorsey, a British Army officer, had 10 children. Humperdinck was 10 when his family moved from India to Leicester, England.

By the 1950s, Humperdinck was performing on the saxophone in nightclubs, but all that was put on hold when he was conscripted into the British Army in the mid-50s.

Live at the Amsterdam Arena in the Netherlands.

In 1965 Humperdinck adopted his curious stage name, which was borrowed from the famous German composer Engelbert Humperdinck.

Humperdinck told the story behind this pseudonym which transformed him from Arnold Dorsey into Engelbert Humperdinck to uInterview magazine. “I guess I was a struggling young man who was looking for an opportunity to get into show business. I had a name that wasn’t making it, so the manager, Gordon Mills, who was building a stable of singers — I was one of three — gave each one of us a composer’s name: Gilbert O’Sullivan, Tom Jones and myself.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Some Humperdinck facts:

  • He's had a long-standing feud with Tom Jones. They shared a manager but had a falling out in the 1970s. Their lowest point came in 2015 during an interview with Metro when Sir Tom was asked about a possible reconciliation, and demurred: “It's as I say — once a c**t, always a c**t.”
  • When asked who would play him in a biopic about his life, Humperdinck suggested Harry Stiles.
  • As a tax exile, he is only permitted to stay in the UK for a maximum of 90 days a year, while the rest of the year he lives in Los Angeles.
  • In 2012, Engelbert Humperdinck represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with Love Will Set You Free. Although he didn’t win, he garnered widespread acclaim.
  • He collaborated with numerous legendary artists throughout his career, including Elton John, Willie Nelson, and Cliff Richard. 
  • His music spans a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, country, and traditional standards.

“The Last Waltz Farewell Tour” By Engelbert Humperdinck is on in Pretoria at the Sunbet Arena on July 12 and in Cape Town at GrandWest on July 14. Click here for tickets

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