This is an interview with Engelbert Humperdinck done when he toured India in 2005.

As he prepares for his first ever concert in India, evergreen singer Engelbert Humperdinck says he cherishes the memories of his childhood in Chennai, the city where he was born and lived for a decade.

“I”m looking forward to the concerts in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and wish I could have performed in Chennai as well. I have many memories of Chennai where I grew up,” the smooth-voiced Engelbert, now 69, said in an email interview.

“I remember our large bungalow, all those wonderful monsoon smells and the harbor with its ships and fishing boats. I almost drowned when I was six years old when I fell off a bunch of logs floating on an inlet near the harbour.

“My younger brother saved my life,” Engelbert said ahead of his tour of India next month for a series of concerts to raise funds for Bangalore-based NGO ACTS Trust that is working to rehabilitate victims of the Dec 26 tsunami.

And at an age when most people would be content to retire to a life of comfort, Engelbert — born Arnold George Dorsey on May 2, 1936 as the son of a British soldier posted in India — said he planned to do “more albums, more concerts, more television appearances, more travel”.

“More is the catch word,” he quipped, looking back at a chequered career that has included sales of 130 million copies of albums across the globe and earned him awards like a Golden Globe for entertainer of the year.

He attributed his long career of over four decades to “the grace of god and the fact that I still love to get up there on stage, looking my audience in the eye and give them my very best”.

Engelbert described his latest album “Let There Be Love” as “a bouquet of love songs with classics from Nat King Cole and more contemporary songs from Ronan Keating and Bryan Adams”.

“My executive producer Nick Battle and producer Simon Franglen spent many hours listening to my past albums to work out the feel of the new one. They all have a slight jazz feel and I am happy with the result,” he said.

At the same time, Engelbert was happy that his old hits like “Quando Quando Quando” and “Release Me” had been remixed to dance beats for a younger audience. “It makes me feel relevant and wanted. Most of all, it gives my big hits another dimension altogether,” he remarked.

When Engelbert was 10, his family moved from India to Leicester where he learnt to play the saxophone.
Young Arnold Dorsey discovered his vocal talent at a contest in a pub. He realized he could do impersonations, especially of the comedian Jerry Lewis, and these were so good that he became known as “Gerry Dorsey”.

It was as Gerry Dorsey that he became a hit on the British music circuit until he came down with a severe attack of tuberculosis. He recovered and his manager gave him the name Engelbert Humperdinck after the German composer who wrote the opera “Hansel and Gretel”.

The odd tongue twister of a name caught the people’s fancy and radio jockeys shortened it to “The Humper” when his songs began to climb the charts. Greats like Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Tom Jones and Dean Martin have accompanied Engelbert on stage and there was a time when The Carpenters were the opening act for his sell-out concerts.

Engelbert has many colorful tales about those and once quipped that Elvis had “stolen” the long sideburns and flashy jumpsuits from him.

“Those were the days, my friend. Elvis once wanted to steal some of my musicians. Actually he thought they were working for me part-time and since he liked their work, he wanted to take them on his tour.
“When he realized his mistake, he apologized,” said Engelbert, who has performed before Queen Elizabeth, several presidents and many heads of state.

“As for Tom Jones, it was his manager who gave me my stage name and signed me on. For many years people compared and contrasted our styles. But in the end I suppose we both did very well.

“And as for me, I am still kicking, still singing, still wanting to travel around the world. For singing is the only think I do well,” Engelbert said.