Celebrating Seniors - Singer Neil Sedaka, 76

Enjoy these 5 vintage Neil Sedaka music videos - Oh! Carol, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Is This the Way to Amarillo? Solitaire, and Should've Never Let You Go.

Singer and composer Neil Sedaka turns 76 today. He has a lot of reasons to celebrate, having written or co-written well over 500 songs!

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Born March 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, as a child Neil Sedaka began playing piano and attended the Juillard School of Music every Saturday from the age of 9 until he was 18. Sedaka  was just 13 when he first met a neighbour's son, 16-year-old future lyricist Howard Greenfield, who would become one of his most important song-writing partners.

Neil Sedaka attended Abraham Lincoln High School, along with his younger neighbour from across the street, Neil Diamond, and actor Harvey Keitel. While still in high school in 1955, Sedaka and some other classmates formed a band which was eventually called The Tokens; their 1961 hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight came a few years after he'd left the band. 

Sedaka moved onto a solo recording career in 1958 and began writing songs for other singers including Connie Francis (Where The Boys Are, etc.) with his co-lyricist, Howard Greenfield. The early 60's were the golden years for Neil Sedaka music-wise. Early baby boomers will remember his first hit, Oh! Carol in 1959, inspired by Carole King (whom Sedaka had dated while in high school). Below, Neil Sedaka singing Oh! Carol.

Oh! Carol was followed by other hits for Neil Sedaka, including his signature tune, Breaking Up is Hard to Do (1962). Below, Neil Sedaka sings Breaking Up is Hard to Do.


Unfortunately Neil Sedaka's musical success was not equaled with financial success in the early 60's, due to his mother's lover, who was managing Sedaka's career and finances. In a 2014 interview with Express Sedaka said:

"My father knew about him and accepted him so after the initial shock so did I. I even understood it, in a way. My parents lived in two rooms with nine other relatives and my dad was very thrifty whereas the other man bought her jewels and furs and took her to nice places. Only they were living the high life on my money. They went through hundreds of thousands of dollars. I couldn't pay my taxes, nothing. My wife and I had to start from scratch...I fired the lover but my mother took an overdose of sleeping pills because she couldn't stand to see her son and her lover at odds. She said she didn't realise it was my money they were spending. I didn't speak to her for a year."

Neil Sedaka's singing career waned in the mid 1960's and declined sharply by the end of the decade. In 1971 he co-wrote (with Greenfield) Is This the Way to Amarillo? which was recorded by Tony Christie and reached the Top 20 in the UK. 30+ years later, at the 2005 Comic Relief charity drive, UK comic Peter Kay's lip-synched video of Sedaka's Is This the Way to Amarillo? triggered a re-release of the original Christie version, which became a huge hit again in the UK. In 2006 Neil Sedaka was recognized for having composed the most successful UK single of the 21st century (to that time) by The Guiness World Records. Below, Neil Sedaka singing Is This the Way to Amarillo?

Neil Sedaka's 1972 album Sedaka's Back album scored some more hits, including Laughter in the Rain, and Solitaire (performed to acclaim on American Idol in 2003 by Clay Aiken). During the 70's Neil Sedaka also wrote songs for and performed with The Carpenters. Below, Neil Sedaka performs Solitaire live in 1981.

Although he was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1983, Neil Sedaka lost the support of a record label in the late 80's and created his own label in order to release original new material, along with his back catalog.

In 1958 Neil Sedaka met his future wife Leba; she has managed his career for the past 40 years and they will celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary in 2015. Leba and Neil Sedaka have two children who are both in the entertainment industry, daughter Dara (singer) and son Marc (screenwriter). Below, Neil and his daughter Dara Sedaka sing Should've Never Let You Go (1980).

He talked to about his family and music in 2009, below. 

Although now a senior citizen at age 76 and suffering from arthritis, Neil Sedaka continues to give concerts and tour around the world. On March 16 2015, Neil Sedaka plays Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall. For up to date news on his concert schedule, see his website   

Happy 76th Birthday, Neil Sedaka!

Updated March 12 2017: New content added.

Anita Hamilton

Baby boomer Anita Hamilton has always been interested in the "real people" stories behind the characters that create and inhabit the world of music, books, movies, television shows, current events, history, etc. A lifelong love of research (ok, nosiness) and writing, combined with a loving and supportive family and 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.


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