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Engelbert Humperdinck has described being made an MBE as a “dream come true” and paid tribute to his late wife, saying he wishes he could share the honour with her.
The singer, known for his chart-topping love songs and striking stage name, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to music.
Over a career spanning seven decades, he has crooned his way around the world, attracting a devoted army of fans with ballads including Release Me and The Last Waltz.
He told the PA news agency: “My music has been my passport to most countries in the world I have been to. I have always served as an ambassador of my country in that respect.
“I have always flown the British flag wherever I went. I didn’t just go there as an entertainer. I went there as a British subject. I always flew the flag wherever I went.
“I can’t believe that I am being honoured – I can’t believe it. It is a dream come true.”
Humperdinck’s wife Patricia died in February after contracting Covid-19. She had been suffering Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade.
Reflecting on being made an MBE, he said: “I never thought that I would be a success in my life but it happened. I never thought I would be honoured and it happened. I am just a lucky person and I am thrilled with the way things are going in my life.
“My wife would have been absolutely delighted. God rest her soul. I would have loved for her to have seen what is going on right now but God took her in another direction.
“It is a very sad situation but I wish she was sharing this honour with me.”
As well as his quirky stage name, Humperdinck, 85, is famous for his trademark sideburns, dyed auburn hair and deep tan, which he shows off regularly in the jovial videos he shares on social media.
His popularity endured through the decades and the singer was still active and touring before the coronavirus pandemic intervened.
Humperdinck was born with the slightly more mundane moniker Arnold George Dorsey in Madras, India, where his father was stationed with the British Army.
He later credited his mother’s side of the family with giving him his singing voice while claiming his father – “a man’s man” – instilled a love of sports.
After some success in Europe in the mid-1960s, Humperdinck exploded in popularity with his 1967 cover of Release Me.
The song, which arguably remains his best known, reached number one in the UK – beating the Beatles’ Penny Lane – and broke into the top 10 across the Atlantic.
Its B-side, Ten Guitars, became a surprise success in New Zealand and is considered by some to be the country’s “unofficial national anthem”.
Humperdinck’s catalogue of saccharine love songs – including The Last Waltz, Spanish Eyes and Quando Quando Quando – earned him the nickname “the King of Romance”.
The veteran entertainer sold more than 140 million records around the world.
He represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 with the track Love Will Set You Free, but finished second last.
Humperdinck, who describes himself as a practising Catholic, married Patricia Healey in 1964 after a lengthy courtship and they had four children.
His wife Patricia died in February after contracting Covid-19.
Humperdinck, who also tested positive for the virus, shared a moving tribute to his wife after her death, writing on Instagram: “We love you beyond words, forever and always.”