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Wayne Newton doesn't quit.

The seemingly ageless king of Sin City has carried on the classic crooner spirit long after the deaths of Frank Sinatra and Elvis [Presley]. He started in show business as a child, and decades later, still continues to rigorously tour and perform. Sunday, he comes to the Lyric Opera House.

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When Newton does eventually retire, it will be on his own terms. But it won't be any time soon, he said. Even at 66, he still has more to learn about being a showman.

At your age and at this point in your career, do you feel like you are still growing as an artist?

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I really have never done a show that I didn't learn something from - even if it was what not to do. I never approach a show like, 'OK, this is just another evening and another time I have to go on stage and how many "Danke Schoen"s do I have to sing.' I approach a show like it's my last.

Have the meanings of the songs changed for you over the years?

A song for me has always been a very personal thing. Where it takes me on any given night might be totally juxtaposed to the night before. Therein lies the charm of music versus any other kind of medium. You can take a song and for some people it will take them back to their first date or their first heartbreak or their first breakup or their first love.

Does performing so often take a toll on your voice?

No, as a matter of fact, the voice is a very interesting vehicle. The vocal chords are a muscle - like lifting weights or anything else. Singing is the best thing you can do for them. It's much easier than even talking. The more I sing, the stronger my voice gets, as opposed to being off a couple weeks and hitting a seven-night schedule straight through.

There are people who make a living as Wayne Newton tribute artists. Have you seen them?

I've heard of them, and I've seen some Wayne Newton impersonators being billed here and there. I think to myself, 'Oh my God, that's just what the world needs - another Wayne Newton.' ... I think it's a tremendous compliment, obviously. However, if a guy or lady has passed and there is someone out there doing a tribute to them, I think maybe that's at least passable. But when there are people doing impressions of you or tributes to you while you're still alive and while you're still working, I think in some instances those people are trying to cash in on the time, effort and energy you put into your own career.

Are you happy with where you are in your career?

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As a matter of fact, I think that I even have a career is reason enough to celebrate. I think when I started this business as a very young boy at the age of 4, I was doing it because I loved doing it. ... I have never done anything in my life or career that had a monetary motivation over something I wanted to do. ... The fact that I'm still able to do what I want to do, bring a modicum of happiness to peoples' lives and take them musically to places I want to take them is a tremendous thing.

Sam Sessa

IF YOU GO

Wayne Newton performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave. Tickets start at $42.50. Call 800-547-7328 or go to ticketmaster.com.


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