During a 54-year career taking him to different places around the globe and meeting an army of adoring fans, there was one constant in Engelbert Humperdinck’s life… his loyal wife Patricia.
And the legendary crooner has told of his heartache at losing the woman he met at a Leicester dance hall in 1956 when he was a struggling entertainer going by his birth name Arnold Dorsey.
Patricia, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, died in February at the couple’s Los Angeles home after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Engelbert had to endure an agonising five-month wait before he could bring her body back to Britain so she could be laid to rest in her home town.
Patricia had stood by her husband despite the alleged affairs of his heyday and the pair remained devoted to each other for the rest of her life.
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Engelbert is now preparing for a UK tour, but not surprisingly he’s in sombre mood ahead of its start next month.
The 85-year-old, who wed Patricia in 1964, says: “Things are not good. It’s not been easy. We had to wait from February to July to bring her back to England.
“Leicester is home, but we couldn’t move her back until we had permission. We had to wait months and months for the funeral and all that got on top of me.
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“I was tempted to cancel the tour. I felt I couldn’t face doing it, but my whole family said, ‘Don’t you think she would want you to do what you do, instead of sitting at home? What are you going to do if you don’t?’ So I’m going to do it.”
Engelbert, best known for his romantic ballads including The Last Waltz and Release Me, has dedicated the tour in honour of Patricia’s memory, but even so he admits he is apprehensive about performing again.
The singer adds: “It’s going to be mighty difficult. I deal with sensitive lyrics and I read lyrics a lot differently now than I did before, but I’m sure my little girl will be watching over me.
“The majority of the show will be a total dedication to her. A lot of the songs apply to her and I’m worried about singing some of them, that it might be too emotional, but nevertheless I have to put on a brave face and do my job and hope it will work out.
“It’s been very hard to think of touring since Patricia died, she’s my soul mate, but I’ve tried to think of what she would want for me.”
At the height of his fame female fans would throw themselves at Engelbert and there were rumours that he succumbed to temptation, while Patricia waited patiently at home looking after the couple’s four children.
But today he says carefully: “People go through experiences, but you find out the grass is not greener. I stayed with her and she stayed with me. That’s one of the reasons I miss her so much.”
To add to his troubles, Engelbert is battling the effects of long Covid, which left him with leg and back pain and unable to swallow. Patricia, their son, daughter and some of his wife’s carers were also laid low by the virus.
Engelbert says: “She didn’t pass from the virus. Covid left her with other things, it disturbed her heart and she went with a cardiac arrest.
“God came along and took her and she’s in heaven now.
“She’d been suffering for quite a long time, but what the pandemic did for me, although I hated it coming along, was it gave me an opportunity of being with her for over a year at home, every day we were together.”
Engelbert has been one of Britain’s best-loved performers since his first No1, Release Me, which kept The Beatles’ Penny Lane off the top spot in 1966. It sold more than a million copies and spent 56 weeks in the charts, launching his career.
He went on to sell an incredible 140 million records, chalking up 14 Top 40 hit singles, including There Goes My Everything and A Man Without Love.
The star headlined Vegas, toured the world and in the 70s was given his own TV shows in Britain and America.
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Engelbert became friends with Elvis Presley, who went on to copy his signature sideburns.
He recalls: “Elvis didn’t start with sideburns until 1971. Mine started in 1965. I was looking to create an image.
“The Beatles did it with their hair and I did it with my sideburns. Eventually they caught on and everyone grew them. When I met Elvis I said: ‘Elvis, you stole my sideburns.’ He said, ‘Well if they look good on you, they’re going to look good on me.’”
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Engelbert’s easy-going style and good looks won him an army of female admirers and he had to tour with extra shirts as so many of them were ripped from his back.
He says: “I’d start a tour with 150 shirts but finish up with around 20.
“Women would literally tear them from my body and I’d just be left with my gold cufflinks. I was mobbed in many countries. It was a part of the pop world, which I was pleased to be part of.
“One time leaving a theatre and I ran out of the front and jumped on to the tour bus, but it was the wrong bus and it was full of ladies. I got ripped to pieces. I was holding on to my underwear, the police got me out.”
After Patricia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, devoted Engelbert scoured the world looking for anything that might help her, including revolutionary stem cell treatment through acupuncture.
He says: “We tried everything, including prayer. I do believe she knew I was there with her. I’m sure she heard everything we talked about and everything we did for her.”
Engelbert, who still has a home in Leicester, is determined to make his latest tour – called The Legend Continues – one of his best.
He adds: “I want to make it a nostalgic tour. People go out there and try to do new stuff, but audiences scream for the old, the songs that really mattered in their lives.
“So I try to fill my show with the songs that really put me on the map.”
Asked about when women would storm the stage, Engelbert says: “It still happens. I don’t look too bad for my age. At the end of the show there’s a rush forward and they all crowd the front of the stage.”
It’s clear that after a long break enforced by the pandemic Engelbert can’t wait to be back performing.
But will it help him cope with the loss of Patricia?
He replies: “Honestly, I have no idea. I’m hoping it will.
“The show will be in her honour and I’ll try to stay strong. I’m an entertainer. It might sound stupid to say this, but the show must go on.”
- Engelbert Humperdinck, The Legend Continues tour starts October 31 and runs through November. Tickets: biglink.to/EHTickets