Maybe Tom Jones is jeal­ous be­cause I sell more records

The King of Ro­mance talks to KATHRYN SPENCER about his great­est hits, Strictly, his wife’s Alzheimer’s… and a cer­tain Welsh crooner

Daily Express - - Richard & Judy -

SIT­TING in his pent­house suite at the Hil­ton in Lon­don’s Park Lane, En­gel­bert Humperdinck looks far bet­ter than any 82-year-old de­serves with his tanned, un­lined face, not vis­ited, he in­sists, by plas­tic surgery.

Af­ter a re­cent two-stone weight loss, he’s look­ing trim too, with a mus­tard-coloured shirt tucked into smart brown trousers, and this taste­ful en­sem­ble is en­livened by a dis­creetly flashy gold ring and watch.

Only his hear­ing, it seems, be­trays his years as the avun­cu­lar and qui­etly spo­ken Humperdinck oc­ca­sion­ally has trou­ble un­der­stand­ing ques­tions. “I’m just turn­ing up my hear­ing aid,” he vol­un­teers at one point. “Say that again, dear.”

The singing voice, how­ever, is as fine and rich as ever, as demon­strated by his new al­bum Warm­est Christ­mas Wishes, which the world-fa­mous crooner is cur­rently in the UK to pro­mote for the fes­tive sea­son.

It is more than 50 years since the man born Arnold (later Gerry) Dorsey be­came a star when his sin­gle Re­lease Me topped the charts for six weeks in spring 1967, con­sign­ing The Bea­tles’ dou­ble A-sided sin­gle Penny Lane/Straw­berry Fields For­ever to the num­ber two slot.

This seem­ingly overnight suc­cess came af­ter years of try­ing and Humperdinck re­calls: “You know what? I never thought Re­lease Me could knock the almighty Bea­tles off be­ing num­ber one. They were go­ing to have their 13th num­ber one and Re­lease Me stopped that hap­pen­ing.

“Not only here but across the pond. It went num­ber one around the globe, it gave me a pub­lic ca­reer im­me­di­ately and I was able to dis­trib­ute my al­bums around the world af­ter that.”

The song that con­sol­i­dated his star­dom was The Last Waltz, num­ber one for five weeks in Septem­ber 1967. “The Last Waltz was played around the world in ev­ery dance hall,” he re­flects. “Peo­ple were go­ing home to­gether af­ter danc­ing to my song.

“I guess that’s why I was given the ti­tle King of Ro­mance.”

This is ironic be­cause The Last Waltz is about a love rat un­ro­man­ti­cally dump­ing an old lover for a new one. Humperdinck smiles: “I don’t think peo­ple ever read through those lyrics the way they were sup­posed to. They just liked the melody and the sound.

“When you an­a­lyse the lyrics, it’s the other way round – ‘I don’t love you any more’.”

The song re­turned to the lime­light last month when ex-crick­eter Graeme Swann danced a ro­man­tic waltz to it on Strictly Come Danc­ing. Humperdinck sent his per­sonal con­grat­u­la­tions and will ap­pear and sing a song on Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two next week.

He says he would never com­pete on the show but ad­mits he did once briefly con­sider it. “No, I don’t think I can han­dle that. I don’t think I could do it. I’m not a great dancer.”

His friend, good ri­val

WALTZ­ING: En­gel­bert per­forms on TV in 1968 and con­tem­po­rary was, of course, Tom Jones. The two shared a man­ager called Gor­don Mills and at one time even owned prop­erty to­gether.

How­ever, they fell out decades ago af­ter Humperdinck quit Mills for a new man­ager and re­port­edly feuded over who was the most suc­cess­ful singer.

Humperdinck, ever the gen­tle­man, re­grets their es­trange­ment and would gladly bury the hatchet but Tom refuses. In­deed Jones said a cou­ple of years ago of Humperdinck: “Once a **** , al­ways a **** .”

Humperdinck says sadly: “It would be my plea­sure to shake his hand and say, ‘Wel­come back into our friend­ship’ but I don’t think it is go­ing to hap­pen.” So why did they fall out? “I don’t know. Some­thing went wrong and I think he got a bee in his bon­net about some­thing. I don’t like to dis­like or hate peo­ple. I think life is too short. I can open my heart to any­body.”

Do you think he might have been jeal­ous of your voice? “I don’t know. It doesn’t mat­ter whether I’m a big­ger record seller than he is,” he boasts dis­creetly.

“It didn’t mat­ter to me, but it may have mat­tered to him, I don’t know.” A duet isn’t in the off­ing, for sure.

The pair had more in com­mon than good looks and vel­vet voices. De­spite be­ing hap­pily mar­ried, both em­barked on many li­aisons with other women. Humperdinck looks con­trite over how he used to be­have. “I re­ally don’t like to talk about it these days. I think if I thought the grass was greener, it re­ally wasn’t.”

HUMPERDINCK says that’s long in the past. He re­grets his wom­an­is­ing and the hurt it caused. He is devoted to Pa­tri­cia, his wife of 54 years, who suf­fers from Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

“I’m a one-woman man and I want my wife back so badly men­tally and phys­i­cally. I’m striv­ing with all my heart and soul to make it pos­si­ble for her to get her fac­ul­ties back.” He gen­uinely be­lieves her con­di­tion has im­proved in the past year and that she will one day re­cover. A Ro­man Catholic, he be­lieves the prayers of fans have helped as well as var­i­ous med­i­cal pro­ce­dures. But she re­mains ill.

“We nor­mally spend Christ­mas in Le­ices­ter but, un­for­tu­nately my wife can’t travel so we will cel­e­brate it in Amer­ica.

“Hope­fully by next year she will be ca­pa­ble of walk­ing on a plane, do­ing what you and I can do… to sit in a seat and eat and drink and go to the bath­room. I think she’s go­ing to get bet­ter. She’s just begin­ning to talk to me again. I be­lieve in the power of prayer.

“I have a lot of fans who love her and they’re pray­ing for her. That’s one of the rea­sons I made it pub­lic.” How does he look so youth­ful? The swept back hair is still thick and (ar­ti­fi­cially) dark, his teeth daz­zling white, the 1970s side­boards in­tact. “My par­ents left me with good genes,” he says. “I don’t feel or act my age, I try to keep my­self as young as

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.