THE BBC has raised eyebrows by announcing it will send a 75-year-old man – who last had a chart hit 40 years ago – to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Engelbert Humperdinck will be hoping to avoid the fate of Jemini (2003), Andy Abraham (2008) and Josh Dubovie (2010) – all of whom are finished bottom of the pile in Eurovisions in the last decade.
Here’s some things you may need to know.
1. That’s not his real name
Try not to act surprised. The singer’s real name is Arnold Dorsey. He was born in May 1936 – he’ll have turned 76 by the time the Eurovision actually takes place. He was born in India – in the city now known as Chennai – to a British Army officer, and moved back to Leicester when he was 10.
He took the name Engelbert Humperdinck – borrowing it from the 19th century operatic composer, whose works include Hansel and Gretel – in 1965 after his own name failed to capture the imagination in a fleeting recording career. He did, however, legally change his name at the highest of his career.
2. He didn’t get chosen by a public vote
Every year from 1958 – the very first contest – until 2010, the UK held a nationally televised show to pick the winner from a number of shortlisted entrants. Having ran the ‘Your Country Needs You’ show for 53 years, the UK abandoned it for 2011 after the 2010 entrant, Josh Dubovie, had become the third winner in eight years to finish last in the Eurovision itself.
One of those entrants, Jemini in 2003, finished with the magical nul points. Clearly, the system wasn’t working. So for 2011 the BBC decided to choose the act themselves – reforming boy band Blue for the purpose – and they’ve stuck with the new model for 2012.
3. He’s actually more successful than you might think
To put it in context, the best-selling single in the history of the world is Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’, which sold an estimated 50 million copies. In the modern era, Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana, ‘Candle in the Wind ’97′, sold 33 million.
Englebert Humperdinck has sold 150 million records (combined sales of singles and albums) worldwide in his career. His biggest hits included ‘Release Me’, ‘The Last Waltz’, while he also scored hits with ‘There Goes My Everything’ and ‘A Man Without Love’.
Though Engelbert never scored a number one in Ireland, he charted five times – his biggest hit being ‘Winter World of Love’, which hit number 3 in late 1969 and stayed in the charts for 9 weeks:
He also famously kept The Beatles’ double A-side ‘Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane’ off number one with his breakthrough hit, a cover of Eddie Miller’s ‘Release Me’, in 1967.
4. This isn’t his first time doing something like this
He and four mates represented England in the Knokke song contest, in Belgium, in 1966. In fact, that was his first major success – and led him to a chart hit in Belgium with a song ‘Dommage, Dommage’.
5. Yes, that was him in an ad for John Smith’s bitter
Peter Kay is a fan. Apparently.
6. He fired his manager in a row over the Gorillaz
In 2007 Damon Albarn wanted Engelbert to perform on a few tracks on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. He asked Humperdinck’s manager if the singer would be interested, and was given a flat denial. There was just one problem: nobody had asked the singer himself.
Engelbert said three years later that his manager’s action had been “the most grievous sin that has ever been committed” and that he would have jumped on the chance to work with Gorillaz “like a ton of bricks”.
He also revealed that the row was one of the reasons he sacked his manager, and is now managed by his son Scott instead.
7. His Eurovision entry hasn’t been written yet
But whenever it is, it probably won’t be terrible. The Guardian says it’s to be produced by Martin Terefe, who has won Grammy Awards for his production work before, and is being co-written by Ivor Novello prizewinner Sacha Skarbek.
Skarbek, however, is responsible for James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful’, so don’t get ready to pick up the phone and vote for the UK quite yet.