Family has always been very important to my life. Even though I make my living as an artist, my creativity is merely a fantasy world. Having a close family has been a stabilizing rock for me. I grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, in a two-bedroom apartment filled with ten other people; my mother, father, my grandparents, my older sister Ronnie and my five aunts. To say this experience shaped me as an artist would be an understatement.
My wife Leba and I will be married 50 years this September, which is most unusual, given the nature of show business, let alone any business. For the last 40 years, she has been my manager. We put up with each other's eccentricities, but the secret to our success is that we've been able to remain the best of friends through it all. She stood by me through my initial success and then through the "hungry years" period leading up to my comeback, when Sir Elton John resurrected my career.
I've spent a good majority of these last 50 years on the road, but I was never far away from my family. I lived with my parents until I got married and then at my mother's insistence, Leba and I lived across the street. When Leba and I had children, we took them all over the world, moving to London in the early 70's because The Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion bombarded America.
At various points, the children became part of the act. My son Marc used to introduce me at concerts; most notably at my comeback show at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in 1974. My daughter Dara and I scored one of the few father/daughter-hit singles with "Should've Never Let You Go" in 1980.
Performing with my grandchildren 30 years later was a dream I never knew I had, yet it was one that was realized effortlessly. The release of my second children's book, Dinosaur Pet, marked the occasion where my twin granddaughters, Amanda and Charlotte, and my grandson, Michael, joined me on "Huckabee" as backup vocalists on the title song, which was inspired by my 1961 song "Calendar Girl" (my son Marc wrote the new lyric). I've always enjoyed seeing the world through the eyes of my grandchildren. On that day, not only was I watching them grow into performers, but into real people. It gives them confidence being in front of the audience, the same way it does for me.
I'm a child at heart. I love taking my grandchildren to children's concerts and the amusement parks. I try to convince them to join Papa on the rollercoaster, but they're the one's that have to convince me to stay off them. I'm very proud attending their art shows and their recitals. Sitting in the audience, surrounded by all the other doting grandparents, I'm no longer singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka. I'm just Papa Neil. And that's when I'm the happiest.