A mop of wavy hair, mega sideburns, even matching Rolls-Royces… Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones were peas in a pod.
They were global superstars and whenever they shared the stage, it was electric – until bad blood seeped in and tore the showbiz giants apart.
Now, decades on, Engelbert wants to make peace and reveals coronavirus has made him see the world with new eyes.
Speaking to the Sunday People from his Los Angeles home, the singer of ballads like Release Me and The Last Waltz extends an olive branch to Tom.
Hump, 84, says: “One good thing to come out of this pandemic is that it’s brought the world together. There’s more kindness everywhere.
“In that context, a silly grudge seems so petty somehow. And I want to say that I’m sure Tom feels that, too.
“I’d love it if we could finally mend that broken bridge.
“I certainly respect his talent. I think he’s one of the greatest singers the world has known. I do admire him very much.”
So, if Sir Tom, 80, were to ring the doorbell, what would Engelbert’s reaction be?
“I would embrace him warmly,” he says. “It seems such a shame. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
Back in 1969, the pair famously posed on matching Rolls-Royce Silver Clouds.
Their falling out was linked to Engelbert splitting from manager Gordon Mills – who also looked after Tom.
Then there were rumours of Hump flirting with Charlotte Laws during her alleged three-year affair with Tom.
Either way, Engelbert now hopes time can be a healer.
Their wives were great friends. And news of Tom’s beloved Linda, 75, dying from cancer in 2016 shook Engelbert and wife Patricia.
“I was devastated when I heard she’d passed,” says Hump. “I sent my condolences to Tom. Sadly, he didn’t respond.”
Engelbert was enduring his own pain at the time – as Pat, now 81, was living with Alzheimer’s.
Four years on and she needs full-time attention. But Engelbert is determined that she will not go into care.
He talks about the need to stay strong and says: “I love her and I want her here with me. She’s very well looked after. She has 24-hour care in the home we share.
“I sit with my wife every single day. I’m determined to keep that communication going. There are times, of course there are, when the situation gets to me. I admit to shedding a tear.
“But I always make a point of doing so in private. I don’t want to show my beautiful wife any weakness. Just strength. God love her, it’s gone on for a long time.
“She does seem to be responding to some of the treatments. It makes me feel God is on our side.
“Last Christmas, after a gap of three years, she said my name.
“It was the best gift of all. Then yesterday, one of her carers asked Alexa to play one of my songs. She said to my wife, ‘That’s your husband singing’.
“And Pat replied, ‘I know’.
“It was unbelievable. Sometimes I’ll sing snatches of songs. They say music communicates directly with someone in her condition. I think that’s true.
“Everyone who follows me on social media prays for her and I think the prayers will be answered.”
The Humperdincks – who have three sons and a daughter – live high up in Bel Air.
Engelbert continues: “We’re 1,000ft high. Some days, a cloud will pass by my window. It’s just beautiful.
“But I tell you something. If my wife was well enough to travel and there was no pandemic, there’s nothing I’d like more than to spend Christmas at our home in Leicester. I love it there. I have little rituals.
“I go down to the local pub in the village to meet up with old friends. I miss that very much. A pint and a bag of crisps. There’s nothing to beat English bitter.”
Although the pandemic stopped him touring, Engelbert hasn’t been idle and has just released an EP, Sentiments. The stand-out track is a version of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love – with Engelbert teaming up with Irish singer Janet Devlin, 26, of X Factor fame.
“She has such a sweet voice,” he says. Talk of Elvis has Engelbert recalling his friendship with “the King”, who died in 1977, aged 42.
Engelbert says: “He went way too young. I was performing at Lake Tahoe when I got the news of his passing.
“Normally, as an encore, I closed the show with a trilogy of Elvis songs. The curtain came up and the spotlight shone on the microphone.
“But I couldn’t find it in my heart to walk back on stage the night he died. I was just too emotional. I’ll never forget it.”
The pair met when Elvis attended Engelbert’s show in Las Vegas in 1973.
The Brit recalls how backstage, Elvis held him in a warm embrace “and we became firm friends from that day on”.
Can’t Help Falling In Love is a favourite of Patricia’s.
“Sometimes, I’ll sing it to her, trying hard to stop my voice from cracking,” says Engelbert.
And he plans to keep on singing, with no plans of retirement, insisting: “My work is very important to me.
I love walking on stage. Before Covid-19, I was still doing around
100 performances a year.”
Music and family are everything to Engelbert and two of his sons will join him and Patricia for Christmas.
He adds: “Despite any success I’ve had, family has always come first.
“We’ve been married for 56 years. Please God that it goes on and on. I love her dearly. She’s my wife, the only one I’ll ever have.”
- Sentiments is out now on OK! Good Records
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