What if I told you that one of the most prolific songwriters / singers / performers of rock and roll’s early years – a man who reinvented his career over and over and over again, whose music could be heard throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s – is inexplicably NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet?
I’m talking about Neil Sedaka.
If you knew how many tracks are part of his rock and roll career, you too would be surprised that he has not received enshrinement yet – as a singer, or as a writer, or as an early influence.
He came out of the Brill Building songwriting conglomerate, teaming up with Howard Greenfield on songs that had more musical oomph than your usual teen idol tracks … that, and he could write tracks about fellow Brill Building songwriters, like “Oh Carol” – a song referencing songwriter Carole King – and have it become a hit.
That partnership between Neil Sedaka and Harold Greenfield spawned a number of Top 40 rock and pop hits in the pre-Beatles era, including this classic.
And at the same time, his songs were turning into Top 40 hits for other artists, such as this track by Connie Francis.
And in 1962, Neil Sedaka reached the top of the charts with this awesome doo-wop meets Tin Pan Alley track, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”
The hits kept right on coming, with tracks like “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen” also crashing into the Top 10.
Then, unfortunately, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones crossed over to America, and Sedaka’s career took a nosedive. He kept writing and performing, for sure, but his songs had nowhere near the punch of his early 1960’s output.
That’s not to say that his tracks weren’t hits for other artists, including this track by Tony Christie that topped the U.K. charts.
Oh yeah, and he co-wrote this track by some up-and-coming husband-and-wife singing-performing duo called the Captain and Tennille… wonder whatever happened to them…
And then … in 1974 … look who fights his way back to the top of the pop charts. His track “Laughter in the Rain” dominated the Top 40, and it certainly showed that – truly – Sedaka was back.
Another number one track, “Bad Blood,” came with the help of a guest duet between Sedaka and Elton John. Certainly you hear Elton John in the background, don’t you?
And in 1976, Sedaka went back to his old catalog – dusted off his 1962 #1 hit “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” – and turned it into a soulful, emotive ballad that soared into the Top 10 again.
I’m going to throw one more track into this mix, this was from 1980 and featured Neil’s duet with his daughter Dara Sedaka. It’s a minor hit in the USA, but it did top the charts worldwide. And it’s a helluva ballad, for sure.
How Neil Sedaka is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still a mystery to me. The fact that he could craft this stunning ballad, with all the melodic twists and turns in it, still amazes me.
But then again, maybe there’s an induction for Sedaka and Howard Greenfield as a songwriting team – or Sedaka as a performer – or Sedaka as an “early influence” – at some point in the future.
That would certainly be nice.