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9 Quick Questions for Engelbert Humperdinck

Singer shines a spotlight on his life in ‘Engelbert Humperdinck: The Legend Continues’

spinner image engelbert humperdinck wearing black suit jacket with red button down shirt underneath, against red ombre background
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Greg Gorman)

At 87, Engelbert Humperdinck has been entertaining global audiences for decades. Among his many achievements are 63 gold and 24 platinum albums, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Golden Globe. His new documentary, Engelbert Humperdinck: The Legend Continues, available for purchase on iTunes or Apple TV+, chronicles his meteoric rise to fame and prolific career. He shares with AARP why he loves Lady Gaga, how younger fans are hearing about his music, and the struggles of caregiving for his beloved late wife, Patricia, who suffered from Alzheimer’s and died in February 2021.

What was it like to film and narrate a documentary about your life?

There were moments of tension and stress and heartache and all that business, but these things are sent to try us, and we have to do them. When I’m stressed out, I love to write poetry, and then when I read it back, it’s like a release valve. I needed to do this to get that release valve — to do a little recap of my life and the people that are involved in it. I did want to do this and go back to the beginning and show people my humble beginnings. There are pieces of footage they have never seen before, and therefore it was a good thing to get out there. I needed to do this.

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Did you have any surprising revelations in the process?

Well, when I looked at myself in the final [film], I was rather shocked, actually, because I was 40 pounds heavier than I am today. It kind of shocked me to think, What was I going through to make that happen to my life? I was going through some trauma and stress at that particular time. I was in the process of trying to get my wife better. It was very stressful trying to deal with my business, and trying to go onstage to entertain the people, and do the things that I do, and act like there’s nothing wrong when you have other things on your mind.

How did you lose the weight and get back in shape?

Exercise and diet and willpower. The willpower to get back to where I function in a better way. I’m into martial arts. I do some exercises from the martial arts era — it’s Okinawan style. And that takes me back in time, because I studied with the number one martial arts man in the world — he [won] 91 black belt [matches in a row] — undefeated [karate] world champion Mike Stone. I studied under him, and he’s one of my best friends. To this day, if I’m not feeling very well, he’ll fly down [to L.A.] and stay with me and train me. He lives in the Philippines. A few months ago, I wasn’t feeling too good, and I had to take time off, and he flew [here] and just exercised me for a whole month [to] get me back on my feet again.

How have you dealt with the grief of losing your wife?

I’m dealing with heartfelt lyrics on every song that I sing since my wife has gone on her journey home to heaven. Everything I ever did in life — if I wrote anything, a poem or a song — it was always something to do with her. And it does take on a different reading after you've had someone that’s been in your life for 57 years, and then all of a sudden, they’re gone. There’s that reminder all the time when you’re reading through a lyric  onstage — it takes on a different feeling and emotions pass through a lot more severely.

What advice would you give to others who are caregiving for a loved one?

spinner image engelbert humperdinck standing with wife patricia healey
Humperdinck and his wife, Patricia, in 2010. Patricia died in 2021 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
Picture Perfect/Shutterstock

You have to have patience, and self-care, and rest so that you can give your very best to your loved one who has given their best all their lives. Don’t argue. Compromise. Routine is important. I believe in trying all you can, and I did try everything. In the early years [of her Alzheimer’s], you had to be on your toes. My wife would walk for four hours in her condition, sometimes in the snow. Her wonderful caregivers would walk with her, but I would always be following slowly in my car and see that everything goes well with her on the road. We tried everything. We tried acupuncture. We tried Western medicine, healers. I took her to the Holy Land and we bathed her in holy water, but there was no solution [to] this dreadful, dreadful disease. I just hope that the future holds some kind of solution to this terrible, terrible disease that so many innocent beings have succumbed to.

In your documentary, you say Lady Gaga is one of your favorite artists. Have you met her? Perhaps a duet?

Maybe. I’m not counting on anything as great as that. I have never met her. My admiration [comes] from her performances and from watching her on television and watching her movies. Lady Gaga is an organic talent who has a shock factor with all the wild outfits and so much happiness to her shows. … Taking on the lead role [in A Star Is Born that was previously played by] Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand was bold and brave and beautiful, which is exactly how she was with Tony Bennett as he walked through Alzheimer’s.

What music do you enjoy listening to?

I love to hear all kinds of music, and that’s one of the reasons I watch programs like The Voice and America’s Got Talent and American Idol, because they sing everything that is of a commercial value today. It’s nice to see the young people making an effort to get back into our business. It’s very difficult to pursue. It is very hard. It takes a lot of hard work. When I started, it was a lot different, because we didn’t have the television shows that we have today or PR people getting publicity around the world. Right now, social media takes you all over the world without even trying. You do a show, and your show is everywhere because people [take photos and video on their phones] and they take little bits and pieces of you. It’s an amazing situation.

spinner image Engelbert Humperdinck performing on stage, waving to crowd, with people behind him playing different instruments
Humperdinck has been entertaining global audiences for decades.
Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via Getty Images

What advice would you give to aspiring young performers?

Don’t be afraid to ask about your business and keep the publishing [rights]. If you write songs, keep the publishing [rights]. Most important: You have to find a good manager, an honest one. An honest manager [and] a good accountant to take care of your business. I wish I’d have learned a lot more about my business life in the early years. I might have kept more of my income.

Do you have any regrets about changing your name?

No, not at all. This is something that had to happen, because in the early years, when I was trying out with my real name [Arnold George Dorsey], it really didn’t work. I had a manager, Gordon Mills, who had a very brilliant mind, and he decided to change my name to Engelbert Humperdinck. … But I don’t regret it, because it got me where I am today. And I still, to this day, have a wonderful following — a very staunch following who have stayed with me for all these many years. I’ve had newcomers since some of my songs have been in [TV] series like Moon Knight and [The] Umbrella Academy. The young folks have stepped into my life, and now they come to my shows wondering what Humperdinck is all about. And thank God they’ve joined the clan.

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