From ‘Bad Blood’ to ‘Calendar Girl,’ Neil Sedaka will perform in Biloxi

Neil Sedaka will be at the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi at 8 p.m. on Friday.
Neil Sedaka will be at the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi at 8 p.m. on Friday. Courtesy

Neil Sedaka estimates he’s written about 700 songs.

But that doesn’t mean he’s eager to sit at his piano and write his next hit.

“I’ve been writing for 63 years and when the moment strikes me I will sit down, but I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with writing,” Sedaka said in an interview with the Sun Herald. “Having that blank piece of paper in front of me is very scary and you have to be able to pick it out of the air, and you have to try and top yourself.”

Sedaka will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday at the IP Casino Resort. The show was originally scheduled for Sept. 9.

Sharing the gift of music

And 60 years after he launched his music career, he’s still making records.

Sedaka released an album of new material in August. “I Do it For Applause” features Sedaka, his piano and an introspective set of songs.

“It’s a real story about my purpose in life and why I’m here, I have a gift I like to share with audiences,” he said. “I get so many emails from people who may be suffering physically or emotionally and they say the music picks them up, and it’s very therapeutic for them.”

The early years

A founding member of the doo-wop group The Tokens, who had success with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” after he left the group, Sedaka was a founder of the songwriting powerhouse known as the “Brill Building” in New York. Through the years, his hits have been plentiful with songs such as “Calendar Girl,” “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” and “Oh! Carol.”

Although Sedaka was selling a lot of records in the early 1960s, by the 1970s he was no longer at the top of the charts. Fortunately, a famous fan took an interest in Sedaka in the mid-1970s and gave his career a second wind.

The comeback

“I was like Tina Turner in the 1980s when she had her comeback,” he said. “Not many people get an opportunity like that.”

The fan was Elton John, who signed Sedaka to his record label Rocket Records, which would release his biggest hit — “Bad Blood.”

“I had David Foster on clavinet and Jim Horn on flute and I had James Taylor’s rhythm section — Leland Sklar on bass and Russ Kunkel on drums — and of course Elton sang the background vocals on ‘Bad Blood,’ so I had the most expensive rock singer in the world doing backups,” he said. “If not for Elton, I would not have had that comeback in 1975.”

In an ironic twist, “Bad Blood” was knocked off the No. 1 spot by John’s “Island Girl.”

Although there have certainly been some songs that ended up as a piece of crumpled paper in his waste basket, Sedaka’s ear for finding hit songs continued through the 1970s.

He said he knew right away that one of his biggest hits was going to do well for him.

“When I finished ‘Laughter in The Rain,” I called Phil Cody, my writing partner at the time, and I told him it was going to be a No. 1 song,” Sedaka said.

And it was. “Laughter in The Rain” went to No. 1 on Feb. 1, 1975.

Sedaka was also behind one of the biggest hits of the 1970s — the Captain and Tennille’s version of “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

“I knew from the first few lines of music, without Howie Greenfield’s wonderful lyrics — I knew from the first few bars that it reminded me a little of the Beach Boys and Diana Ross’ style and little bit of Al Green’s style — I knew it was a hit immediately,” he said. “These days, it’s a lot harder to know what’s going to register with people.”

If you go

Who: Neil Sedaka

Where: IP Casino Resort at 850 Bayview Ave. in Biloxi

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Tickets: Start at $49 at Ticketmaster.com