Engelbert Humperdinck: After the Lovin’ … There’s Still More Lovin’ (Part 1 of 2)

Romantic singer Engelbert Humperdinck is one of the most beloved singers in modern times. He’s also one of the most prolific, with more than 100 albums released between his 1967 debut and today. His latest release, 2023’s All About Love shows that time has not diminished the skills nor appeal of the Madras-born and London-raised singer. Today at age 87, Humperdinck still maintains a busy concert touring schedule, and there’s a new documentary film chronicling his life and career. Ahead of a North American tour that takes him back and forth across the continent, Humperdinck spoke with me about his enduring passion for music and performance.

Bill Kopp/Musoscribe: On All About Love, you manage the neat trick of sounding contemporary without pandering to trends. Do you personally choose the songs?

Engelbert Humperdinck: Well, I’ll be honest with you: no. My producer [Jurgen Korduletsch] brings the songs to me, and he asks me, “Do you think you’d like this?” He says, “I think these are going to be good for you,” and I listen to them, because he’s the man who’s making it happen for me. And I say, “Well, some of them.” There are some that he brings to me that I throw out. I pick the songs I think that would be appropriate, and we work together on it.

On this particular one, all the arrangements were done in Nashville with Nashville musicians, and I wasn’t there. I would have loved to have been there. It worked all right, but I’d rather have been there with him. As I do with everything that I do in life, I like to put my little input in every now and again. I like to have my finger on every project, but this particular one, [Jordan] did it on his own. And it worked out.

When there’s a song that’s suggested and you decide for one reason or another that you don’t care to do it, what kind of reasons figure into that equation?

If I listen to it, and I don’t think it suits my style, I just say, “It’s a ‘no’ on this one, but this one looks good.” I’m very particular.

When you sing a song that has already been a hit for another artist – which is the case with several of the songs on this new album – how much notice do you take of the style in which the song was cut before?

I just give it my own stamp. And it’s very hard to do, mind you. It’s very hard to do after somebody else [puts their] stamp and style on it, but I do.

I’m singing a lot differently now than I did when I first began; my style has really changed a lot, because I’m growing rather than standing still. And the way I read into a lyric now is differently than I did before, because a lot of things have transpired in my life that have been a bit hard. For instance, I lost my wife [Patricia, in 2021]. And so, when I read a lyric now, it’s a lot different. Her image always comes into my head and my heart. So it comes out a lot differently.

With regard to music, I sometimes think of method actors, even though that’s a very different thing from singing. They immerse themselves in the character that they’re playing. And I wonder if that approach would have value for a ballad singer. Your songs always seem to completely convey the mood that they contain. When there’s a session, do you do any kind of emotional preparation ahead of singing a particular song to get into that headspace?

I consider myself a thespian of song. Because I think you have to be. Like an actor, you have to read your lines the way it’s written. And like an actor, it comes through your eyes and through the expression of your face and your body language and all those things that go along with portraying your subject matter.

And that’s what I do on stage now. I live the part, and then you can see it in my expression. You don’t have to move a lot. An actor, if he moves like this, he goes out of the shot. And it’s the same thing when you’re on stage. You have to let [the audience] recognize your moves, and the more you are steady, the more you get across, I think. When you’re moving around, it’s for a different kind of song; not for a ballad, not for something you’re telling a story with.

To be continued…