Neil Sedaka Biography

Comments: 55

Neil Sedaka in 1965
Neil Sedaka in 1965. Source Wikipedia.

Neil Sedaka is an American Pop and Rock Singer, a reputable Songwriter and Composer. He was born on March 13th, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. His paternal grandparents were born in Istanbul, Turkey, but later moved to New York in 1910. Neil Sedaka was brought up in Brighton Beach. His surname, Sedaka, in Hebrew means charity.

His dad, Mac Sedaka, was a taxi driver and a Jew from Lebanon ancestry. Neil’s mom, Eleanor, was of Polish-Russian heritage. Neil was brought in the Jewish traditions and he passionately embraces the Jewish culture.

Neil Sedaka’s musical endowment was discovered when he was in second grade music class. His teacher upon discovering his aptitude sent a message to his parents to let Sedaka take piano lessons. When he auditioned for a piano scholarship to the Julliard School of Music in 1947, his performance was outstanding. And by the time he was nine, he had been undertaking serious classical piano training at the school.

One day at age thirteen, a neighbor heard him playing the piano and was so impressed that he introduced Sedaka to her child, Howard Greenfield, who was just sixteen, but a passionate aspiring poet and writer. When he became sixteen, Neil Sedaka was selected as one of the best pianists in New York High School.

Sedaka and Greenfield teamed up and became the origin of the unique sound of the Brill Building in the late 50s and early 60s. Therefore, they were the first to sign up with Aldon Music, and they were the dominating power of the pop world.

After his graduation from high school in 1956, Sedaka and some of his classmates started a band named The Tokens. However, in 1957, Sedaka started his solo career. He released three singles which were not very successful but Ring-a-Rockin secured him several appearances on American Bandstand. The solo singles proved his uniqueness as a solo singer and got signed by RCA Victor to a recording deal.

With both hits and misses, Sedaka’s singles for RCA finally got traction on the Bill board Hot 100. Having confirmed his success in Pop/Rock Music in 1958, Sedaka kept releasing hit songs from 1960 to 1962. He had over 30 hit songs to his credit including “You Mean Everything to Me”, “Next Door to an Angel”, “Run, Samson, Run”, “Calendar Girl”, “Little Devil”, “Breaking up Is Hard to Do”, “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” and “Stairway to Heaven”.

Unfortunately, by the time The Beatles took over the music arena, the trend of the American music took a different course, and it robbed Sedaka of continued success as a performer. It became extremely hard for most male solo artists to survive; but Sedaka was gifted enough to prevail due to his many talents as a songwriter. He wrote successful songs for artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Fifth Dimension among others. Sedaka and Greenfield however jointly approved to dissolve their partnership by releasing “Our Last Song Together”.

Neil Sedaka realizing that the trend was no longer favorable moved his family to the UK in the early 1970s. Redefining himself as a solo performer, Sedaka released the album Emergence in 1972 in the UK. Elton John signed him to his Rocket Records. He wrote two albums for Rocket in 1974 and 1975. They were among the top selling albums in the world then. In 1976, Sedaka released Steppin Out, his last album for Rocket Record.

In 1975, his song, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do was re-arranged and re-produced in a ballad form. And it stood on No. 1 on music charts, thereby setting a record as the first track recorded in two different styles by the same performer to make No. 1. During this time, Sedaka was instrumental to the successful start of the career of Captain and Tennille with a song that won a Grammy Award as the Album of the Year.

In 1983, Sedaka was welcomed into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 2007, Sedaka signed his first recording deal in close to twenty years with Razor and Tie Records, an independent company established in New York. In 2007, he released an album that was  a collection of his hit songs and in 2009 he released Waking Up Is Hard to Do as his second album with Razor and Tie Records.

Early in 2011, Sedaka made two duets with singer Jim Van Slyke .

He got married to Leba in 1962, and they are blessed with two children, Dara and Marc, a daughter and son respectively.

Greenfield, Sedaka’s late partner, was openly gay and people started to suspect that Neil Sedaka was a gay also, although he did not confess to it. People believed that Greenfield may not have been the only gay in the Brill Building, but that he was the most famous one. People who suspect Neil Sedaka is gay claim that his behaviors were suspicious and also was rumored to have a secret Russian boyfriend. Those who believe Neil Sedaka is straight point to the fact that he’s married and has kids.  Sedaka however did not comment on the speculation to the question is Neil Sedaka gay?

If you’re a fan of Neil Sedaka, you may want to check out singer/songwriter Phil Dutra and get free song downloads! As the Atlanta weekly Creative Loafing says, Phil Dutra delivers “Passionate performances of some truly catchy songs”!


  • Egor says:

    His boyfriend is to right

    Just google :

    Neil Sedaka meets Celine Dion

    That’s his Russian bog the spit and Neil wrote a song my runaway lover many more — I heard neil bough a shirts $and the kid hated it , it was black $450 ,his reward he took a Hutu up to cop room while Neil was on stage …… terrible … he was his runaway lover ….. even when he was on stage . So sad did Neil

  • Christa T. says:

    I remember reading about the Brill Building songwriters when I was 10 years old in 1962. I wanted to be one of them, but unfortunately, a female accordion player didn’t have a lot of opportunity in pop music in the far north country. Maybe everyone thought this, but I thought I was the demographic he sang to. My admiration for Neil Sedaka has always been strong, in spite of the change in the music, and maybe even because of the Beatles, etc. George Martin should have drawn him in–or maybe he did. Perhaps he could talk about that. In interviews, very little is said of his superlative piano skills and level of competition at which he performed. I thought he competed in the Van Clyburn competition. Is that true? (Or that his cousin was Edie Gormet–did I hear that correctly?). Neil Sedaka was well placed and his timing was perfect in a business that was very fickle. He survived. He certainly can survive the silly ones who have no understanding of him as an artist and human being. My conclusion about them is that their words come from a place of not caring, of ignorance. By learning about others and hearing their stories, we all learn to care a little more and become more human. Their story is the job of the songwriter, the poet, the writer, the film maker. Please tell us. We are listening.

  • Gaygoose says:

    Hey Bob, FYI: sexual orientation is used because being gay is not a preference. We are born this way. Believe it. Also, simple public displays of affection by either group are not disrespectful. Maybe you’re just uptight and need to look inwardly instead of judging outwardly.

  • Gaygoose says:

    @Bob—sexual orientation is used because being gay is not a preference. We are born this way. Believe it. Also, simple public displays of affection by either group are not disrespectful. Maybe you’re just uptight and need to look inward instead of judging outwardly.

  • Rob says:

    Love Connie Francis singing Where the Boys Are.It is my favorite Sedaka song.It must have been an honor for Neil to write songs for Connie ,who is America’s sweetheart and the number 1 girl singer !

  • Panina says:

    Neil Sedaka is an amazingly talented man still playing his music. When he started out I am sure he kept his sexuality hidden for his career and possibly his Jewish parents. He made a decision to be “free” somewhere in his life’s journey and is happily living his life! Kudos to Neil! Everyone should live their truth and be happy!

  • john siwek says:

    Article states Sedaka never confessed to being gay. Always thought confession was a place enabling freedom of your sins. Freudian slip or something worse by the writer?

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Good catch! I am the author and a gay man. “Acknowledged” would have been a better choice of wording. Thanks for keeping me honest!!

  • Liqqher says:

    It doesn’t matter whether he’s gay or straight in the sense that, it never should have to begin with. But that’s speaking from straight privilege. Straights can just say that, feel proud of themselves and walk away. Neil is the one that had to navigate and live his life from then to now.

    Right now there’s a Time Life 30 minute TV ad on for musical hits from “The Teen Years”; the 50s and early 60s etc. He’s on with Pamela Schaefer who just told Neil about all the great songs he wrote about girls. They’re keeping up the DL image that the generation this is being marketed to, would expect.

    He shouldn’t even have to act this way at this point. He seems happy enough. He’s an industry success. He’s also an entertainer. They’re pros at fooling audiences.

    I think of what it would be like to live in a bizarro world, where over 90% of people are gay and hets are shunned, disallowed to have a career, or worse. Could I live a life hooked up with another girl? Forcing myself to have sex with her? Shit! I don’t know how anyone gets through a life of false living in that way. It’s a crime to set up the environment so that anyone thinks they have to.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Well said!! Thanks for commenting!!

    • siberianduck says:

      White privilege, straight privilege, privilege this and privilege that…all this political nonsense is just over the top stupid! keep politics and political correctness out of music already! it is sickening enough isn’t it? Neil Sedaka is talented person and should be remembered and respected for that! nothing else matters!

    • Str8t Shooter says:

      God set up the rules for His environment.

  • Brian D Montalvo says:

    WHo care if he is or isnt . I love him the same today as i did then . God bless your heart if your up to the time.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      He’s great!! Gay or Straight!!

      • G says:

        Have you watched THIS IS POP – THE BRILL BUILDING?
        I didn’t know the man was Neil Sedaka, but knew he was gay. My gaydar was so loud, anyone from a 90 year old half deaf person to a dog could hear it going off. What an honor it was to watch him and everyone else in this episode. It is about the MUSIC, but having an out role model is important. I hope Sedaka is happy. There was no way to be out when Sedaka was topping the charts. I knew Ricky Martin was gay, I mean, INSATIABLE gay, even when his “girlfriend” was on tv saying they were together. It was so well protected. Lots of money thrown into protecting it.

  • I had the privaledge of going to one of Neil’s concerts in PHX, Az. Fantastic musician / singer. It doesn’t make any difference if he is gay or not. It’s about his show……and he gives 100% energy into his shows! Love him….and I’m not gay!

  • Goren says:

    When you realize that Sedaka wrote “Where The Boys Are”, and then go back and listen to the lyrics with that in your mind, it all comes clear. In the mouth of Connie Francis, it becomes just another insipid love song. But in Sedaka’s voice, it is a very poignant song of longing for something that could not be openly expressed. I am heterosexual, but I find this moving.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Excellent observation! And a sad one at that!

    • Bob says:

      Like Burt Bacharach and Hal David, George and Ira Gerswin, Jerry Goffin and Carole King, Neil Sedaka was half of a musical partnership. His lyricist was Howard Greenfield, who was openly gay. Those “poignant” lyrics about a love that can’t be acknowledged weren’t written bu Sedaka.

  • Sedaka was obviously gay. Anyone who ever saw him prissy around and dress like Liberace knew it. He tried to keep it a secret but his own actions proved otherwise.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      I once saw him on Central Park South in NYC wearing a full length mink coats! It was fabulous!! 🙂

  • Lucy levanos says:

    We went to camp echo lake together many years ago and he is as and always has been queer as a three dollar bill!!!!!!!

  • Esther king says:

    Neil sedaka I just watched him at the Albert hall Skye was a truly is gifted man !he gave me so many beautiful childhood memories of listening on vinyl with my dadnow 81 ….what a generous talent .gay if course darling !only the best people are !xcesther London xxxx

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Must have been a great show!! And, yes! Only the best people are gay!! 🙂 By the way, my husband and I vacationed in London in September and LOVED it!!

  • james joseph dowd says:

    If he admitted it back then it would have killed his career. Its ok today and seems only deeply religious folks condemn being gay.

  • Alex says:

    Who cares???

  • Steve Garey says:

    It is September 2019 right now. Here in Palm Springs, California within the last seven days Neil Sedaka has unashamedly gone into a number of gay piano bars with his boyfriend at his side, sat at the piano and proceeded to sing a lengthy medley of some of his hits for the stunned bar patrons. Mr. Sedaka went on to reference his boyfriend during these songs and was rewarded with cheers, shouts and applause for doing so. Thjs being the age of cellphones of course there are videos on Facebook of these occurrences. Personally I was quite surprised as I had no idea Neil Sedaka was gay, let alone this hugely open about it. So this settles the question once and for all. Don’t believe me? Call Stacey’s Piano Bar on Arenas Road in Palm Springs, or call Melvyn’s Restaurant and Lounge on Ramon Road in Palm Springs. Many patrons have posted the videos they took. Mr. Sedaka is still just as spectacularly talented as ever, happily out of the closet, and full of energy and charm, even at 80.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Glad to hear!!

    • Arlene Dorrough says:

      Thanks for the information. It does, indeed, put the question to rest. To those saying ‘who cares?’ I reply, gay people who need to know they are not alone, and that there is nothing to be ashamed about being gay, we care a lot. Thanks again for the info. Go in peace.

  • Todd Allen says:

    Roberta Christy – The 1950’s called: they want their small-minded views back.

  • Bobbie says:

    Regardless of what his sexual preference was or is, his talent in the music industry has given many of us wonderful music. Love his songs.

    • Phil Dutra says:

      Agreed! Excellent Singer and Songwriter!

    • Bruce Fontaine says:

      It’s sexual orientation not sexual preference.

      • Bob says:

        Hey Bruce Fontaine, way to force your political correctness on others. This is why more and more people are splitting farther and farther apart in this increasingly hostile world. Just let people use whatever words they wish to use, and stop condemning them for not using the words that you have determined are acceptable. Also, the term “Orientation” used to refer to direction only. It is you and others who are misusing this word to describe sexual preference. Sexual Preference is the most accurate way to describe who anyone prefers to have sex with.

  • Roberta Christy says:

    Whether he was gay or not, it is commendable that if he was he kept it where it belongs – in the closet.

    • Suzy says:

      Get a life.

    • Bruce Fontaine says:

      There is a closet you belong in somewhere. Pathetic.

      • Bob says:

        It is the people who put their sexuality on display in public who are the pathetic ones. Sex is a private thing that should remain behind closed doors. All people, both hetero and homosexual are disrespecting others when they display their sexuality in public. It is tacky, classless, and has no place in the public arena.

  • Rick Torbik says:

    Did somebody just type that they know Neil Sedaka is straight because he has a wife and kids??? What planet are you from?? Anyway it doesn’t matter… Wonderful musician.

  • manson says:

    who cares great music

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  • Ariana says:

    Great talent, wonderful music..and probably Gay…but who cares,,

  • Connor says:

    Sedaka is surely the epitome of gay – but much more importantly a great musician!

    • Phil Dutra says:

      I used to sing in an A cappella group in Manhattan. We were singing on West 57th and Neil strolls up in a full mink coat! He stayed for a few songs and we sang “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do For Him.” It was a very cool night!!

  • Liz says:

    Do people truly believe being married and/or fathering children means a man must be straight? Ridiculous. Robert Reed, Rock Hudson. Married, had children…both openly gay.

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