“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Neil Sedaka
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

Written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield
Recorded by Neil Sedaka

It was 1962. I had been collaborating with Howard Greenfield for ten years. We had several songs recorded with great success by Connie Francis (“Stupid Cupid,” “Where the Boys Are” & “Frankie”), Jimmy Clanton (“Another Sleepless Night”), LaVern Baker (“I Waited Too Long”) and Clyde McPhatter (“Since You’ve Been Gone”). I also recorded several hits as a singer/songwriter (“The Diary,” “Oh! Carol,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Little Devil,” “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen,” “Calendar Girl”).

I was traveling through California, and while I was driving in Los Angeles, I heard a local hit entitled “It Will Stand” by The Showmen. I felt that harmonically it was an exciting recording. The marriage of the voice and melody and the energy in the record inspired me.

As a result, one day, while working in The Brill Building in New York City, I came up with a title and a melody. Howie was less enchanted with it. I called it “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” I felt it was a universal sentiment — and it’s not the least bit autobiographical. Howie kept shoving it to the side, until I sat on him and made him write the lyric. It’s a unique song because it has a happy melody and an emotional and sad lyric.

When it was finished, I played a few songs on the piano for Barry Mann, a great songwriter. Amongst them was “Breaking Up.” It was his least favorite. (Songs are so subjective!)

I was recording at RCA Victor on East 24th Street in New York. Al Nevins and Don Kirshner were my producers. The night before the session, I came up with the obbligato line, “Down Doo Be Doo Down Down.” I called the arranger and sang it over the phone. The rest is history. It became my first #1 record in America. I had four more after that. It also made me the first and, I believe, only artist to have a #1 record twice for the same song. I re-recorded it 14 years later as a ballad and still perform it both ways in my shows.

I knew it was a hit when I heard it for the first time on the radio. My son, however, had a much more impactful experience when he heard it years later. He was going out with a lovely girl at the time and she gave him an ultimatum — marry me or we’re breaking up. He left to determine his future and, when he got in the car, he heard my song. He married her and they’re still very happy.

Carole King said that “Breaking Up” was so fresh and innovative that it inspired her for a couple of her songs. What really makes me feel good is when I receive emails telling me how the song has helped get people through their emotional difficulties. Music touches everyone and I’m pleased that this song seems to continue to have universal appeal.

“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

Don’t take your love away from me,

Don’t you leave my heart in misery

If you go then I’ll be blue

’Cause breaking up is hard to do.

Remember when you held me tight

And you kissed me all through the night?

Think of all that we’ve been through,

Breaking up is hard to do.

They say that breaking up is hard to do

Now I know, I know that it’s true.

Don’t say that this is the end,

Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again.

I beg of you, don’t say goodbye.

Can’t we give our love another try?

Come on baby, let’s start anew

’Cause breaking up is hard to do.

Words and Music by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka. © 1962 (Renewed 1990) SCREEN GEMS-EMI MUSIC INC. and UNIVERSAL MUSIC - CAREERS. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Used by Permission.

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners