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“Engelbert Humperdinck’s mum buys her nylons at our shop,” my mum used to boast to her customers at Syston’s little Stocking Box on the High Street. Times were much simpler in 1960’s Leicestershire when little things like that meant a lot. Well, at least they did in Syston. She would glow as proudly as she might had Engelbert’s mum been buying them for him. Or was it his mother-in-law?
Gerry Dorsey, as he used to be known in the days he toured the Working Men’s Clubs of the East Midlands, has had a long and lucrative career in music since then. I’m sure his mum was very proud of him, and deservedly so.
But as he flies into Baku for the Eurovision Song Contest this May he should spare a thought for the many political detainees in prisons all over Azerbaijan, who might be surprised to learn his first number one hit on both sides of the Atlantic was called Release Me. With it’s plaintive cry “Please, release me, let me go,” it made him an international star.
To be honest, more of a hippy by 1967, I was never a fan of Engelbert. But I did have some admiration for him, as he never forgot his roots. And I used to get that unjustified sensation of reflected glory to know someone of international fame’s mother-in-law had been to my Mum’s little shop, however pathetic that might sound today.
But read this report from Azerbaijan by Greg Palast, Engelbert: BP Covered Up Blow-out Prior to Deepwater Horizon. And then read Part 2 on the same Nation of Change site. See if you feel so comfortable singing for the wealthy and powerful of this oil-rich nation afterwards.
From it you’ll discover eleven men’s deaths could have been prevented, and the detention of others would not have occurred, if BP wasn’t so greedy and deceitful. The fates and whereabouts of the detained are still unknown. They have ‘disappeared’. The health and livelihoods of thousands of US citizens would not have been threatened, wildlife would not have been destroyed on an unprecedented scale, and neither would a huge part of the Gulf of Mexico been polluted.
It’s never too late for an honourable man to do the right thing and withdraw, Engelbert. An old man’s vanity cannot take precedence over the lives and freedom of a nation. Why not use this opportunity to show people all over the world vile dictatorships that torture and kill their own citizens must not appear to have your support? Believe me, they will only use it to torture and kill even more.
My old mum would be so proud if she could have lived to witness you announce you won’t participate in the event, as you feel you cannot allow yourself and your fine repuation to be besmirched and abused by such a repressive regime. She spent five years of her early twenties under the brutal Nazi occupation of Norway, so she knew what it was like. In her eighties, she showed me the site of the former prison in the centre of Oslo where the Gestapo tortured their prisoners. She said you could hear the screams from the street. Sent a shiver down my spine, I can tell you. Ironically, the title of your entry this year is Love Will Set You Free. Performing it won’t set anyone free, whereas refusing to could. Really, it’s never too late to do the right thing, Engelbert.
Copyright © 2012 Bryan Hemming Conil
Human Rights Watch World Report 2012: Azerbaijan
Amnesty International Azerbaijan Human Rights
Wikipedia Human rights in Azerbaijan
The Independent April 23th 2012 Laura Davis wrote: With the Eurovision approaching, it’s time to draw attention to the lack of human rights in Azerbaijan
The Telegraph December 13th 2009 Nick Meo in Baku and Robert Mendick wrote: Tony Blair told by Azerbaijan victims: ‘Give your £90,000 speaker’s fee to charity’
The Guardian March 11th 2012 Human rights spark demands to boycott Eurovision in Azerbaijan
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Whatever Engelbert might like to tell us – stuff like”proud and honoured to have crooned for old Blighty before I croak…blah, blah blah” – he came second to last in the Eurovision song contest with only 12 points. Mainly out of sympathy and for the good old days.
For me it was very sad indeed with Norway last and the UK next to last. My father was English and my mother was Norwegian. A double blow to my pride. As if I really cared about this, tired old festival of kitsch! Fitting a tired old relic of kitsch like Engelbert should’ve crooned for the UK and the old Empire.
Hey, that’s an idea, how about a British Empire Song Contest? Sir Robert Mugabe could sing for Zimbabwe and Sir Rolf Harris for Oz.
You should never have gone Engelbert, you were a complete let down in every possible way, especially for the opressed people of Azerbaijan. But who cares about them? Win or lose you got paid.