Our family used to summer vacation on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Usually in July, we’d take a week and play on the shores of the biggest island in Lake Erie, about 50 miles northwest of Cleveland and roughly 50 miles southeast of Detroit.
The radio station of choice was CKLW in Detroit/Windsor and it was a flame-throwing rocker in those days.
When was get together with family, the kids still talk about “Pelee songs”.
Those would be tunes that got a lot of airplay while we were on vacation.
My first “Pelee song” was Neal Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”.
I was but a mere pre-teen lad when that song went to #1 on the American music charts.
It touched on those emotional issues that we youngsters used to deal with and I just loved the song.
Now I was also a Cleveland Indians fan and in those days, I thought, for sure, the Tribe would certainly win a World Series before I died.
Well, here I am more than 50 years later and that World Series drought has now grown to 71 years.
Similarly, it’s been 57 years since “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” was #1 and there’s another drought that I was recently reminded of.
Nominees for the next Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in Cleveland were announced and Neal Sedaka didn’t make it…again!
Now this is more than just a plea from a once scrawny, hormone-riddled youngster who happened to like an obscure song from some fly-by-night artist.
Neal Sedaka has the chops.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s criteria says it has to be at least 25 years after the release of the first artists’ first single to make it into the hall.
Also, there has to be influence and significance of the artist’s contribution to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.
The artist has to demonstrate unquestionable excellence and talent plus a significant impact on the development and preservation of rock and roll.
Neal Sedaka had 3 #1 hits, 7 made the top 10 and he’s credited with 16 top 40 hits in his career.
He’s written or co-written over 500 songs, several of which were big hits for other groups or artists.
Remember the Captain and Tennille’s 1975 #1 hit, “Love Will Keep us Together”?
Neal wrote that and it’s why Toni Tennille sang “Sedaka is back” as the song ended.
Neal Sedaka is the only artist to ever record an entirely re-interpreted version of a song where both versions reached the Billboard Top 10 (“Breaking Up is hard to Do” in 1961 and 1976).
Neal’s 2nd grade teacher sent a note home with him to his parents suggesting he take piano lessons.
His piano playing was so good that he was a guest in 1965 on the old “I’ve Got a Secret” TV show.
Neal’s secret was he was to represent the U.S. at a 1966 Tchaikovsky classical piano competition in Moscow.
Sedaka mightily impressed Henry Morgan and the other game show panelists by performing a Chopin piece on the show.
As with many musicians, he bounced around in his younger years playing with his high school band, The Linc-Tones while he was attending Abraham Lincoln High School.
He also performed for a brief time with The Tokens (1957), the group famous for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, a big hit in 1961.
Sedaka’s musical talent might be genetic because he’s also a first cousin to singer Eydie Gorme, who had hits while performing with Steve Lawrence and then as a solo act.
The “sweet spot” in Sedaka’s career was probably 1961 and 1962 when he had 4 top 10 hits (“Calendar Girl”, “Happy Birthday Sweet 16”, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” and “Next Door to an Angel”).
Then things started to sour for Neal in the American music industry.
He asked RCA to release his version of “It Hurts to Be in Love” and when they said, “No!” it became a top 10 hit for Gene Pitney in 1964.
The British and Beatles invasion of the 60’s forced Neal to Britain to continue his musical career where he mostly focused on writing.
He started to revive his solo career in the early 70’s in Australia where he met Olivia Newton-John.
In 1973, Sedaka met Elton John who signed him to his recording label.
Elton said he had “always been a Sedaka fan anyway”.
Then, in 1975, his “Laughter in the Rain” became a #1 hit as did “Bad Blood” in which Elton John sang backing vocals.
Sedaka has been a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame since 1983 and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Neal was doing multi-tracking and over-dubbing of his own voice on his hits when the technology available made it much more difficult to accomplish than it is today.
The guy takes meticulous care of his voice and he still sings his hits in the original keys.
In this writer’s opinion, to omit singer/songwriter/composer/pianist/author Neal Sedaka from a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame borders on criminal.
In the meantime, I wonder.
Will the Indians win another World Series or will Neal Sedaka make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first?