Sometime in the mid-2000s, my wife and I went to Wendover, Nevada to see Neil Sedaka in concert. There was some sort of mix-up with the tickets and we got seated in the wrong seat. They soon discovered their error and came and asked us to move. And we did. Shortly after all of this, but before the concert started, an usher came up to us and apologized for the mix-up and asked us if we would like to meet Neil Sedaka himself. We did not say no. We were very excited and went backstage and met the man and we even took a picture of the two of his with Neil between. It was a magical night and one we will never forget. Plus, we have the picture to remember it. One of the songs he sang was “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.”
“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” should have been a Fifties song. It has the feel and the words of a Fifties song. You would think words like “Comma comma down-doo-be-doo-down-down” would come from a Fifties song. This is as close to doo-wop as pop music gets. Neil Sedaka was born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. He started playing the piano when he was nine and by the time he was thirteen, he was playing in the lobby of the Kenmore Lake Hotel in Livingston Manor, New York. It was there that Mrs. Greenfield saw him play. Her son Howard was interested in music and she suggested that Neil and Howard get together.
So, Neil and Howard Greenfield sat down and tried to write a song. The first one wasn’t too good, but eventually, they began writing songs that people bought and hits were made from those songs. Among others, they wrote “Stupid Cupid” for Connie Francis. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was written in 1962, continuing a collaboration that would last for years. Greenfield also wrote for other people, like Connie Francis and he wrote the smash hit by Captain and Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together” which was number one for four weeks in 1975.
During high school, Neil Sedaka had been an original member of the group The Tokens who had a number one called “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” back in 1961. Unfortunately, he had left the group before they had that hit. Another point to make about high school is that his girlfriend during this time was Carol Klein who later would become known as Carole King, one of the great songwriters of the rock and roll era. Neil second Top 40 hit was “Oh, Carol” which was written and named after his girlfriend Carol Klein.
After leaving high school, he attended Juilliard. Torn between playing Classical piano or rock and roll, we know what direction he decided to go. His partnership with Howard Greenfield produced many songs. Soon, he was tired of writing songs for other people and decided to record his own songs. His first hit was “The Diary” which reached number fourteen in 1958. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was his first number one, but he would have two more in the Seventies. He continued to record and chart until 1963, when he ran out of steam.
Neil Sedaka actually had two good runs on the music charts. He came back in 1974 and was popular all over again. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was re-recorded in 1975, only this time, he recorded it as a ballad. I almost like it better than I do the up-tempo version from 1962. The second time the song charted, it reached number eight.
“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” entered the pop chart on July 7, 1962 and stayed at number one for two weeks.