Neil Sedaka – The First Engineer of Pop Music
Sedaka was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Mac Sedaka, was a taxi driver and a Sephardi Jew of Turkish descent, and his mother, Eleanor (née Appel), was an Ashkenazi Jew of Polish-Russian descent.
Sedaka is a cousin of the late singer Eydie Gormé.
He demonstrated musical aptitude, and his teacher sent a note home suggesting he take piano lessons. His mother took a part-time job to pay for tuition, and in 1947, he auditioned successfully for a piano scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music's Preparatory Division for Children. When Sedaka was a teenager and was discovering pop music,, he met Howard Greenfield, an aspiring poet and lyricist$ later they would become two of the legendary Brill Building's composers.
After graduating from high school, Sedaka and some of his classmates formed a band called The Tokens. The band had minor regional hits, before Sedaka launched out on his own, and in 1961, created the international smash "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", which reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts.
After a string of painful creative disasters, Sedaka, desperate for another hit, bought three biggest hit singles of the time and studied the song structure, chord progressions, lyrics and harmonies. He discovered that the hit songs of the day all shared the same basic musical anatomy. Armed with this musical knowledge, he basically engineered his next big hit song "Oh! Carol", which reached No. 9 on the Hot 100!
Later he used his techniques to create such hits as: "Stairway to Heaven" (No. 9, 1960); "You Mean Everything to Me" (No. 17, 1960); "Run, Samson, Run" (No. 27, 1960); "Calendar Girl" (No. 4, 1961); "Little Devil" (No. 11, 1961); "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" (No. 6, 1961); "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" (No. 1, 1962); and "Next Door to an Angel" (No. 5, 1962).
Starting in 1964, Sedaka's career went into a sharp decline, mostly because of The Beatles' arrival on the radio and the British Invasion. In the 70s he managed to revive his career, creating multiple hits, and since the 80s he has been steadily pumping out hits and maintains a rigorous concert schedule
Neil has been married to Leba Sedaka (née Strassberg) since 1962. They have two children: daughter Dara, now a recording artist and vocalist for television and radio commercials, and son Marc, a screenwriter of some note.
He was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1983 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Dettelbach, Cynthia. "From angst-ridden teenager to world-class music star", Cleveland Jewish News, July 30, 2004
"Neil Sedaka". Jewishvirtuallibrary.org