Neil Sedaka has his well-deserved place of honor on the Brooklyn Celebrity Path at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He was born in Brooklyn on March 13, 1939.
Sedaka’s father, Mac, was a Brooklyn cabdriver. Sedaka grew up in Brighton Beach, where his grade school teacher at P.S. 53 arranged piano lessons for the aspiring prodigy.
By the age of 9 Sedaka earned a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. He attended Juilliard for eight years while continuing his education in Brooklyn Public Schools.
Because of his diminutive size, thick eye glasses and high-pitched voice, Sedaka was taunted by his peers. But his musical talent soon gave him entree to local teenage social functions, and before he knew it, he became the “life of the party.”
Sedaka and his neighbor, Howard Greenfield, started writing songs together, and for three years they wrote a song a day. After his graduation from Abraham Lincoln High School, his song “Stupid Cupid,” recorded by Connie Francis, hit the “Top 40” charts in 1958.
He signed with Aldon Music, a small publishing firm owned by Don Kirschner, and became a teenage idol, selling more than 25 million records.
His hits include “Oh, Carol,” “Calendar Girl,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” “Next Door to an Angel,” and the number one smash hit “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”
In the 1970s, he had another number one hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together,” giving rise to Captain & Tenille’s career.
In the 1980s came the Top 10 hit, “Should’ve Never Let You Go,” a duet recorded with his daughter Dara. Sedaka was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1983.
And in the ’90s, he recorded “Timeless — The Very Best of Neil Sedaka.”
He proudly wore the “King of Brooklyn” crown on Welcome Back to Brooklyn Day in 1994. His native borough also honored him by naming a street in Brighton Beach “Neil Sedaka Way.”
Sedaka continues to perform and record. In 2007, he released “The Definitive Collection,” a retrospective of his long career, and in 2010 he recorded two pieces with the London Philharmonic.