IT might be hard to believe but even icons have their heroes.

In the case of 1980s/1990s pop star Alexander O’ Neal, his hero is the legendary Sammy Davis Jr.

The American singer, dancer, actor and comedian was the main inspiration for an 18-year-old Alexander O’ Neal who learnt everything about ‘entertaining’ a crowd from the former member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.

As a showman, Davis was second to none and this is the quality which has been absorbed by Alexander O’ Neal - if you go in search of perfection in being an all-round entertainer then Sammy Davis Jr is a fantastic choice to make.

Being ‘a entertainer’ coupled with being a great singer has helped Alexander O’ Neal forge a reputation of being a top R&B and soul singer.

His back catalogue transporting his singles in to the UK and Billboard top tens as well as a triple platinum selling album and ever expanding discography.

His solo singles, sometimes dealing with lost love include “If You Were Here Tonight”, “Fake”, “Criticize”, “The Lovers”, “(What Can I Say) To Make You Love Me”, “The Christmas Song”, “All True Man”, “Love Makes No Sense” and “In the Middle”.

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He is also known for duets with fellow R&B singer and Tabu labelmate Cherrelle such as “Saturday Love” and “Never Knew Love Like This”.

Speaking how Sammy Davis Jr opened a door for him, Alexander said: “When I was growing up Sammy Davis Jr was one of the few black faces I saw on television.

"At the time he was embroiled in controversy as many in the black community saw him as an ‘oreo cookie’ - black on the outside, white on the middle. (They said he was trying to mix too closely with a white world and leaving his community behind him).

“I saw it differently for me; he was opening doors. He was doing things which people could not do in that era (1960s).

"He was a black star on television.

“So I studied him and worked on doing what he did for entertainment.

“When I do a show now I want to entertain people, they want to see you and know who you are.

“I never saw him perform. I did see him in Las Vegas.

“He jumped down out of a Cadillac and threw a pie on the floor. I think he must have had a bad night.”

What Alexander O’Neal feels is happening is a number of younger stars do not know how to entertain.

They can put on a show but when all the glitz and glamour give way the audience wants to know who you are, they want to know about you and he thinks they do not have any answers.

Adding: “This generation do not have the aptitude. Working an audience is an art.

"When you appear in, say, Las Vegas as an act you better be good. You cannot afford to be bad.”

Singers’ careers are guided by what they opt to do and can be guided by their managers.

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You can be told what you need to do and what you should do in order to get that number one spot and increase sales.

Whatever decision Alexander O’ Neal has made he believes his choices have been guided by God.

Explaining this, he said: “What has happened to me is through God’s hand on me.

“He has been guiding me. My voice belongs to me but God guides me on which path to take.

There are only a couple of notes which I cannot sing now; I just cannot hit them.

“But my voice is still right where I am, where it is meant to be.

“I have never taken my craft for granted and have always been grateful to my fans.

“I try not to take my relationship with God for granted.

“I just believe. For me it is a personal thing with me for my spirituality.

“My God has been my enabler. I am still here after 30 years in the business through a number of ups and downs.

"I am still recording and I am still strong in the game.

"I am staying happy for tomorrow and will continue to do so until my last breath.

“I am naturally a passionate person in every way, whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

"I think you have to be decisive in the opportunities you get which are given to you by God.

“It has been an opportunity afforded to you by God. That is why God gave you free will.”

The spark for his singing came from his mother and father, who Alexander described as ‘great singers’.

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Finding himself on a singing path was not one he ever expected to do, but fate had a way of playing a large part.

He said: “I was able to go to college as I wanted to be an American footballer.

“I am glad this did not happen and I am here today talking to you.

When I was in college I could not study.

"I did not know how. It was at the time of affirmative action, so why should you do something when you should be taking a stand.

“My teachers did not teach me how to study and, as a result, I went from one college to another, to another.

“The reason was I did not know how to study.

“I made the decision to quit and take up music and, from that moment on, I vowed never to be a quitter again.

“This is what I am going to do (be a singer) and I will never quit.”

With his heart firmly in the music industry and a loyalty to the thousands who still buy his records, O’ Neal’s passion to keep his sound alive is ever-present.

In a Tweet, Alexander O’ Neal stated: “I am coming to party in a town near you.”

I asked the great man if this is what an Alexander O’ Neal concert is like.

He said: “It is such a party. I even surprise myself and I am 63 years old.

“I want people to come along and have a party.”

You can join Alexander O’ Neal by having a party on November 5 at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil and The Playhouse Theatre in Weston-super- Mare on November 25.

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