Just over a decade ago, the UK sent a legend of the music industry to the , putting forward acclaimed singer to represent the nation.
Real name Arnold George Dorsey MBE, Engelbert headed to Baku in Azerbaijan for the contest, where he .
As he releases a new album to mark his 87th birthday, Metro.co.uk spoke to the crooner about his time in the competition, some of the biggest milestones in his career and why he took his stage name from the 19th century composer behind the opera of Hansel and Gretel.
The artist also shared what he thought of the recently-released biopic about his close friend , and what it’s been like to brush shoulders with royalty over the decades, having spoken .
Happy Birthday! Thank you so much for speaking with me on your birthday.
You’re welcome. It’s a big day today because today my album is released, All About Love, and it’s a great gift to me. It seems to be doing well. I’m looking forward to comments from social media and to see what happens.
Eurovision is coming up very soon. When you represented the UK in 2012 in Baku, what were some of your biggest standout memories?
I was a little bit concerned because they took somebody like me, who’s been around the world several times and got 65 gold and 20 platinum albums on my wall and I was with people who, they didn’t even have a record [contract].
One of the things they did, which I thought was rather harsh for me, they put me on first. There were grandmas that were there who were cooking and talking and singing, and they came somewhere like second.
I really hope that we have a winner this time with this young lady, Mae Muller. The song is great and may the best song win. Mae – you get that one?
Yes, great fun! Will you be tuning in to watch this year?
I’ll be watching, if I get a chance.
You have led such an incredibly illustrious career. Are there any achievements or milestones that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of the fact that I’m an artist that has been put on the Hollywood Walk of Fame along with many great legendary figures over there, that I was so happy to see when I walked down that strip. I’m in a very prominent position on that road. I’m right in front of The Roosevelt Hotel, so it’s a very prime position. I’m very happy about that.
I love the fact that your stage name was taken from the famous German composer. Going all the way back to when you adopted that name, what pushed you to make that decision?
I had a manager that gave me that name, his name was Gordon Mills. And I said, “Gordon, it’s very difficult carrying somebody else’s name.” And people were getting me confused and saying that, “How did you write Hansel and Gretel?”
But our late Queen was very kind to me during her time of life. She gave me the MBE, which I can put behind my name now, so it distinguishes me from the original.
Was it the Queen that you met when you had the ceremony?
No, it was Princess Anne.
What was it like meeting Princess Anne?
She was fantastic. I do admire her and her tenacity and the way that she could stand there for hours and talk to all the people receiving awards, one after the other, and with patience. When she spoke to me, I was so thrilled to be talking to this lovely lady. She really spent a lot of time with me, and I was thrilled about that.
I have been in the presence of royalty many times. I’ve met the Queen many times, I met the Queen mum, and of course the Duke of Edinburgh. When I performed for him, he used to sing all my songs all the way through. So I’ve been in that company many many times, which is really thrilling.
I have read that your most passionate fans have a nickname, the ‘Humperdinckers’. What do you think of that title?
There’s a lot of various silly names that they use, using my name as a play-off. The Humperdinckers, yes that’s one of those. I’ve got a plaque on the wall, it’s got all the names of it. They had a lot of strange names using my name.
It’s lovely to see the way that you connect with your fans a lot on social media.
Well, I do this this thing called Tuesday Museday, and I service them with all the information about what’s going on in my life at that particular moment, that day or that week, or whatever. It’s nice that I can communicate with them all over the world, and they all reciprocate. They answer me and I read the answers, when I have time I sit down and I go through the comments.
It’s so wonderful to know that people around the world appreciate you and your music and your way of life.
I know that you were very close with Elvis Presley. Did you see the recent biopic about him with Austin Butler?
Oh yes, I saw the movie. Absolutely fantastic and a very real life situation, because that was what he went through, his manager was taking him for a ride. I thought the actor did a great job of portraying him. Knowing Elvis in person, I think he did a very, very good job.
How would you feel if someone wanted to make a film about your life?
It would be a great thrill to know that my life was on film. It would make a good story. I’m thinking about writing my second autobiography, and putting in some home truths – more home truths than I did in the first one. It might make a good story for the movies.
The music industry evolves at such a fast pace, and especially nowadays with social media as well. How do you feel in your experience that the music industry has evolved in recent years?
It’s a whole different ballgame in today’s world. In the early days, you had your arrangers that you met with, they would write the arrangement, and then you go into the studio with all the musicians and you would sing the song. In today’s world, you don’t do that.
You record the tracks early, and you could take your time recording and putting your voice on. Everything is so easy today, but not as rewarding as it was in the past. Because in the past, you had to sell a million albums to get a gold album. In today’s world, you don’t have to do that.
Can you tell me a bit more about your new album All About Love?
My producer and I have decided to take songs that are familiar to the public and songs that have been done before by many great artists. Finding new songs in today’s world is very difficult, it’s like a needle in a haystack. So I decided to do some songs that other people have done, and do it myself. All the tracks were done in Nashville, so it has a country flavour to it. I enjoy the music.
Performing live is a huge aspect of your career. How do you feel about your new tour?
I just got back from Chicago and Minnesota. I did a couple of shows and now I’m relaxing and preparing to go down to South America, to Chile and places like that.
In my new album, I did a couple of duets with two lovely ladies. One of them is a huge, huge star in Mexico, the sweetheart of Mexico, [Angelica Maria]. I sang one of my songs with her, A Man Without Love, and as a matter of fact, she had a big hit with it. She did it in Spanish and I did it in English, then I did it in Spanish and she did it in English on this particular album.
Another one is with another girl called Lupita Infante, with a romantic song Bésame Mucho, which is probably one of the most romantic Spanish songs written. It was recorded by Lupita Infante’s grandfather, and was a big hit by him, and now she’s recording it with me.
When you go out on stage, do you have any pre-show rituals that you do?
First of all, I always have a good meal before I walk out on stage. I do warm up a little bit prior, but I am always very nervous at first when I’m on stage. I get cold hands, but after about two or three minutes of being on stage and getting a warm reception from my wonderful audience, that all goes away and I start to perform like a real performer.
For any other performers that feel nervous when they go up on stage, do you have any advice for how to get over the nerves?
It’s a personal thing, it really is personal and how do we get over it? They’ll find out in their own little way. It’s a personal thing getting nervous, and the way you handle it this the way you handle it. Some people handle it with a little bit of a tipple, a little bit of a drink, but I don’t. I just get over it naturally.
We have the King’s Coronation coming up. Are you going to be watching it?
I certainly will. I wouldn’t miss that for the world. I’m very happy and I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful, wonderful sight for the world to see.
Have you met King Charles in the past?
No, I haven’t but I’ve met all the rest of the family. I’ve met the Queen, the Queen mum, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret when she was alive. The Duke of Edinburgh, who loved my music, because whenever I did something for him, he’d sing all my songs all the way through the show. It’s been wonderful.
Engelbert Humperdinck’s new album All About Love is out now.