Neil was born in 1939 in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of Turkish-Jewish taxi driver, and his mother, Eleanor (Appel) Sedaka, was of Polish-Russian descent. Encouraged by his mother to learn to play the piano from an early age (8), he won a piano scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music's Preparatory Division for Children and studied classical music. Neil loved to listen to pop and when he was introduced to a neighbour’s son, Howard (Howie) Greenfield, the two boys got on and were soon writing pop songs together. Neil (music) was thirteen and Howard (lyrics) 16. He formed the doo wop group called the Linc-Tones in 1956, and they sang on the street corner for nickels and dimes. They were signed by Morey Croft's Melba Records and Neil and Howie wrote their first recording. Unfortunately despite a name change to 'The Tokens', and some airplay the single flopped. The group split up soon after.
Neil and Howie were now employed in the Brill Building as song writers. In 1958, Neil wrote "Stupid Cupid," for Connie Francis.
Two years later she repeated the chart success with another Sedaka composition, "Where the Boys Are.” Neil and Howie wrote many more songs for Connie Francis.
Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records) was also impressed by the song writing duo and bought some for LaVern Baker and Clyde McPhatter.
Neil had a good singing voice and when Don Kirshner heard him he signed him to Aldon Records on the advice of Doc Pomus. Neil had a range of tenor to alto and recorded his first solo single, The Diary in 1959 which sold well. The inspiration for the song came from the session when Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield were playing their compositions for Connie Francis. Ms Francis kept making notes in her diary but when Neil Sedaka asked her if he could read them, she refused. His ungallant action gave him the idea for the song.
Two other hits followed and in the same year, ‘I Go Ape’ and ‘Oh! Carol,’ saw Neil Sedaka at the top of the charts.
Working with Neil in the Brill Building was fellow song writer Carol King and ‘Oh! Carol’ was written for his former girlfriend. Carol reciprocated with ‘Oh, Neil.’
Despite his obvious success Neil felt his singing was too high pitched and reedy and so developed vocal multi-tracking, which would later become a widely used practice. In 1960 Neil had another hit with "Stairway To Heaven" (1960).
Later Neil was inspired to write ‘Calendar Girl’ (1961) and ‘Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen’ (1961) for his then close friend, Annette Funicello.
‘Calendar Girl,’ ‘Little Devil,’ and ‘Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, were all hits in the following year and Neil continued the run of success in 1962 with ‘Breaking Up Is Hard to Do’ and ‘Next Door to an Angel.’
By 1963 Neil Sedakas’s recording career began to slow down as musical tastes were changing. This do not stop himself and Howie from writing hits for other acts, including the Fifth Dimension's "Working on a Groovy Thing" and Davy Jones’ "Rainy Jane".
The song writing partnership dissolved in 1963 when Neil was beginning to enjoy a popular revival in the UK. Neil composed Is This The Way to Amarillo,’ for Britain's Tony Christie and it reached the top twenty in the UK.
Neil scored his own UK hits with ‘Laughter in the Rain' (1974) and 'Love Will Keep Us Together.'
His new success and new friends including (Sir) Elton John, helped Sedaka get back into the US charts and Sedaka's Back (1972) and The Hungry Years (1975) went gold.
‘Laughter in the Rain’ (1974) became top of the US charts and Captain and Tenille's version of ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ (1975) also topped the US charts. Sporadically Neil had more hits with ‘Bad Blood’ (1975), a bluesy reworking of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" (1976) and ‘Love in the Shadows" (1976).
Neil toured with the Carpenters but was asked to leave the tour when he proved too popular with the audiences. In 1980 Neil Sedaka and his daughter Dara recorded ‘Should've Never Let You Go’’ which reached #19 on the pop chart. Neil Sedaka continues to perform regularly.
Worth a listen:
The Diary (1958)
Oh! Carol (1959)
Stairway To Heaven (1960)
You Mean Everything to Me (1960)
Calendar Girl" (1960),
"Little Devil" (1961)
Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" (1961)
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (1962)
Next Door To An Angel" (1962).