United Kingdom: 2nd rehearsal Eurovision 2012 / Engelbert Humperdinck - Love Will Set You Free
The arrival of international legend Engelbert Humperdinck in Baku had been an eagerly anticipated moment for the media. The United Kingdom representative got his first impressions of the Crystal Hall and stage today.
Engelbert took to the stage for his first rehearsal early in the evening local time. The performance has a male and female balletclassical dancer who move around the stage elegantly during the performance. There is a guitarist sat on a stool behind Engelbert.
The dancing adds to the atmosphere of the performance. The setting is very dimly lit to begin with, focusing only on the guitarist and then Engelbert. Colours interchange on the backdrop throughout the song and there are spotlights shining down on the stage.
Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey, 2 May 1936) is a British pop singer, best known for his number one hits "Release Me" and "The Last Waltz", as well as "After the Lovin'" and "A Man Without Love". On 1 March 2012 the BBC announced that Humperdinck would represent the United Kingdom in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, to be staged in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May.
As Arnold Dorsey, Humperdinck was one of ten children born in Madras, India, to British Army NCO Mervyn Dorsey and his wife Olive. Humperdinck is an Anglo-Indian, his mother being of Indian heritage. His family moved to Leicester, England, when he was ten. He soon showed an interest in music and began learning the saxophone. By the early 1950s he was playing saxophone in nightclubs, but he is believed not to have tried singing until he was seventeen, when friends coaxed him into entering a pub contest. His impression of Jerry Lewis prompted friends to begin calling him "Gerry Dorsey", a name he worked under for almost a decade.
Though Humperdinck's music career was interrupted by his national service in the British Army Royal Corps of Signals during the mid-1950s, he got his first chance to record in 1958 with Decca Records after his discharge. His first single, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", was not a hit, but Humperdinck would record for the same company almost a decade later with very different results. Humperdinck continued working the nightclubs until 1961, when he was stricken with tuberculosis. He regained his health and returned to nightclub work, but with little success.
Changes and Release Me
Engelbert Humperdinck (centre right) poses after a concert in a Belgian café, "Club Nr. 1", October 1966
In 1965, Humperdinck teamed up with his former roommate,[where?] Gordon Mills, who had become a music impresario and the manager of Tom Jones. Aware that Humperdinck had been struggling for several years to become successful in the music industry, Mills suggested a name-change to the more arresting Engelbert Humperdinck, borrowed from the German 19th-century composer of operas such as Hansel and Gretel. Mills also arranged a new deal for him with Decca Records.
Humperdinck enjoyed first real success during July 1966 in Belgium, where he and four others represented England in the annual Knokke song contest. In October of the same year, he was on stage in Mechelen. Humperdinck also made a mark on the Belgian charts with "Dommage, Dommage" and an early music video was filmed, with him in the harbour of Zeebrugge.
In the mid 1960s Humperdinck visited Bert Kaempfert at his house in Spain and was offered arrangements of three songs - "Spanish Eyes", "Strangers in the Night" and "Wonderland by Night". He returned to London where he recorded all three songs. Realising the potential of "Strangers in the Night" he asked manager Gordon Mills if it could be released as a single, but was refused since the song had already been requested by Frank Sinatra.
In early 1967 the changes paid off when Humperdinck's version of "Release Me", recorded in a smooth ballad style with a full chorus joining him on the third refrain, made the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and number one in Britain, keeping The Beatles' adventurous "Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane" from the top slot in the UK. Another groundbreaking video showed Engelbert tied up with a lasso. "Release Me" spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 in a single chart run. "Release Me" was believed to have sold 85,000 copies a day at the height of its popularity, and for years, it was the best known of his songs.
Humperdinck's easygoing style and good looks, a contrast to Tom Jones's energetic and overtly sexual style, earned Humperdinck a large following, particularly among women. His hardcore female fans, who included the young Princess Anne, called themselves "Humperdinckers". "Release Me" was succeeded by two more hit ballads, "There Goes My Everything" and "The Last Waltz", earning him a reputation as a crooner, a description which he disputed: "If you are not a crooner," he told The Hollywood Reporter writer Rick Sherwood, "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."
By the end of the 1960s, Humperdinck's roster of songs included "Am I That Easy to Forget", "A Man Without Love", "Les Bicyclettes de Belsize", "The Way It Used To Be", "I'm A Better Man", and "Winter World of Love". In 1968 the single "A Man Without Love" reached number two in the UK Singles Chart and the album of the same name reached number three. He also recorded, during this time, a number of successful albums that would form the bedrock of his fame, such as Release Me, The Last Waltz, A Man Without Love, and Engelbert Humperdinck. His own television programme, The Engelbert Humperdinck Show, was less successful, being cancelled after six months.
Eurovision Song Contest
On 1 March 2012 the BBC announced that Humperdinck would represent the United Kingdom in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, to be staged in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 26 May. Humperdinck would sing a song produced by Grammy award-winning producer Martin Terefe and co-written by Sacha Skarbek. The song was recorded in London, Los Angeles and Nashville, Tennessee and was mixed by Thomas Juth in London. When Humperdinck's participation was announced, he was set to become the oldest singer to ever participate in the contest at the age of 76. It was announced shortly afterwards, however, that Natalya Pugachyova, who was already 76, would represent Russia as part of the band Buranovskiye Babushki, and would take the record as oldest singer in the contest. Humperdinck would still be the oldest male singer (the oldest person to appear on stage was Djivan Gasparyan, as a backing artist, for Armenia in 2010). The song, "Love Will Set You Free", was released on 19 March. At the draw to determine the running order in Baku, the United Kingdom was drawn to perform first.