CD cover for Sedaka's 'Brighton Beach Memories'
After five decades of pop hits, Neil Sedaka is preparing for a concert of Yiddish music. NPR's Scott Simon talks with the entertainer about his career and return to his Jewish musical roots.
While growing up in a non-religious family in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood, Sedaka says he did learn to appreciate Jewish customs and traditions — and he loved the music. But there was a slight detour before he released Brighton Beach Memories: Neil Sedaka Sings Yiddish in September 2003.
As a teenager, Sedaka horrified his mother by leaving his classical piano studies at Juilliard to write rock and roll. (She forgave him after he presented her with her first mink stole.)
Sedaka was hired to work in the legendary Brill Building along with songwriters Carole King, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon. The hits came spilling out: "Calendar Girl," "Oh Carol" and Sedaka's 1962 number one song, "Breaking Up is Hard to Do."
After the Beatles took over the charts, Sedaka faded from the public eye, only to stage a strong comeback in the early 1970s. In 1974, he had another number one hit with "Laughter in the Rain." At 65, he continues to tour and record.