Life & Culture

Senior Planet Talks to…Leo Sayer

When 70s pop star Leo Sayer was asked to sing lead vocals on Think Loud – a new song aimed at spreading the word about speech therapy for people living with Parkinson’s – he was immediately on board.

Joining veteran rockers from Blondie, Dire Straits, Procul Harum, The Stranglers and The Sex Pistols under the name of Kindred Spirit, Think Loud is a foot-stomping, pop-rock song. Even Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern provides backing vocals.

Sayer hopes that the 10 million+ people worldwide living with Parkinson’s will join him in singing along to this inspiring song.

SENIOR PLANET catches up with Sayer, 75, still beloved for his hit songs, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, The Show Must Go On and One Man Band.

Q: What interested you in spreading the word about Parkinson’s therapy?

LEO: UK rock manager Ian Grant – who I’ve known for more than 55 years – asked me to help out after he was diagnosed himself and found the therapy to be so helpful. Think Loud is an amazing program. I’ve also got lots of friends between the ages of 72 and 82 who suffer from Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s – the two are quite linked – and I thought if I do this, I’m helping those friends, as well as people I don’t know, by spreading the word about this treatment. (Video is at bottom of article.) 

Q: You grew up in the UK. Where is home now?

LEO: I moved to Australia in 2004. I needed a change. Being in London just reminded me of all the rip offs and how I’d been cheated out of a fortune by my old managers. Also it was the time of Britpop and people didn’t really want to know about an old fella like me, even though I was only 55. But I had friends in Australia, and I found a manager who was keen to get me some gigs along with a bunch of musicians that I really love.

Q: And you and girlfriend Donatella made a new home there?

LEO: Yes, it was a dream come true because I always loved Australia, this big wide open space. We live in the Southern Highlands, in a little village of 450 people surrounded by fir trees and parrots. It’s a wonderful community halfway between Sydney and Canberra. Everybody knows each other here and it’s peaceful and I’ve got a big barn where I make my records next door to our cottage.

Q: And you and Donatella finally tied the knot on April 15 – after almost 40 years together?

LEO: It was a long gestation period! We’d come to a happy point, where you say to yourself: Where am I going? I’m happy here. And I’m happy with Donatella and our lives are intrinsically together. We just never got round to it. But last year, we said let’s do it. We did a private wedding ceremony in the garden, a celebrant and the best man came from Sydney. About 40 friends came joined us. It was Gerard Hugh Sayer getting married, not Leo. It was lovely.

Q: You’re having a renaissance – first with Think Loud but also a US tour planned for October?

LEO: Yes, people still love the 70s music, it was a golden time. I did a few dates in the US earlier this year, and it was the first time I’d played the States since 1984. When I left off, I was in my prime playing massive places like Central Park and a racetrack in New Jersey to 180,000 people in 1978. I can’t wait to get back!

Over the years I’ve sold 80 million albums around the world and I still have an audience. For me the US is unfinished business – and for my audiences too who seem to want me to continue where I left off. When I played Chicago and Largo in March, audiences came from as far away as Mexico and Canada.

Q: What is your health routine?

LEO: It’s all about thinking positive. Mentally you can use your brain to control your body. Everything can be programmed by you – that’s what I believe. I have an irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, so I’m careful about what I eat so I don’t have butter or milk anymore – I’ve also thrown out coffee, which is bad for you anyway. Now I drink peppermint tea. I don’t do too much daily physical work but whenever I’m on stage. I run a few miles anyway. Even if I’m not exactly a gym rat, I walk every day because I’m always going to the post office.

The other thing is 10 hours sleep at night – at this age – is terribly important.

Q: What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

LEO: I think it was the first time I heard Roger Daltrey singing my song Giving it All Away on the radio 50 years ago. Roger was a rock God at the time so it was an incredible sense of achievement. Almost nothing has been better because you suddenly realized that you created something in a three minute song. I went, ‘Oh, my God, did I do that?’ And that meant, ‘Hang on. I could do that again’. And again, and again and again. And that’s what I’ve done all my life. I’ve tried to create mini movies in three minutes songs.

Q: And your greatest personal achievement?

LEO: I think it was conquering shyness when I was about 19 years old. Early on, I was terribly shy, and one day I just shook myself and said, ‘You’re going to try and be confident’, and I did it. I started to believe in myself from that moment.

The vital moment is now – so live in that bubble, in that center – because time means nothing unless you can control it from this moment.

Q: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?

LEO: My secret to everything is the 20 Minute theory, and I try and live within the present 20 minutes. I can’t change whatever happened in the previous 20 minutes and the next 20 minutes is still in the future. Live in the now.  The vital moment is now – so live in that bubble, in that center – because time means nothing unless you can control it from this moment. This is the most important moment in your life – right now!

If you’re onstage at that moment, get the best out of that moment. Or if you’re visiting your parents, that moment is terribly important because this is now! So say all the things you want to say to them, tell them how much you love somebody at that moment, because that moment is precious. It is time in your control. That’s my big secret.

Dish about your favorite singers, actors, celebrities and more with fellow fans in the Senior Planet Community Entertainment group! 

Photo: Top and middle: Kristian Dowling

Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.




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