Neil Diamond Overview
Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter. As a successful pop music performer, Diamond scored a number of hits worldwide in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. According to David Wild, common themes in Diamond's songs are "a deep sense of isolation and an equal desire for connection. A yearning for home – and at the same time, the allure of greater freedom. The good, the bad and the ugly about a crazy little thing called love."
Diamond has 115 million records sold worldwide, including 48 million records in the U.S. In terms of Billboard chart success, he is the third most successful Adult Contemporary artist ever, ranking behind only Barbra Streisand and Elton John.
Though his record sales declined somewhat after the 1980s, Diamond continues to tour successfully, and maintains a very loyal following. Diamond's songs have been recorded by a vast array of performers from many different musical genres.
Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, and in 2000 received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award.
Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, to a Jewish family descended from Russian Russians and Polish Polish people immigrants. His father was a dry-goods merchant. Diamond grew up in several homes in Brooklyn, attending Erasmus Hall Erasmus Hall High School and Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, New York) High Schools. At Erasmus Hall, he took part in SING! and sang in the school choir with Barbra Streisand. Neil Diamond attended Surprise Lake Camp as a youth.
At Lincoln, the school from which he received his high school diploma, he was a member of the fencing fencing (sport) team. He later attended NYU on a fencing scholarship, specializing in épée, and throughout his life, he maintained his swordsmanship skills to such a degree that he continued to warm up with fencing exercises before his concerts. In a live interview with TV talk show host Larry King, Diamond explained his decision to study medicine by pointing out: "I actually wanted to be a laboratory biologist. I wanted to study. And I really wanted to find a cure for cancer. My grandmother had died of cancer. And I was always very good at the sciences. And I thought I would go and try and discover the cure for cancer." However, during his senior year in NYU, a music publishing company made him an offer he could not refuse: an offer to write songs for $50 a week. This started him on the road to stardom.Diamond’s first recording contract was billed as "Neil and Jack," an Everly Brothers type duo, where Diamond appeared with a high school friend, Jack Packer. They recorded two unsuccessful singles, "You Are My Love At Last" b/w "What Will I Do" and "I'm Afraid" b/w "Till You've Tried Love" both released in 1962. Later in 1962, Diamond signed with the Columbia Records label as a solo performer. Columbia Records released the single "At Night" b/w "Clown Town" in July, 1963. Despite a tour of radio stations, the single failed to make the music charts. Billboard Magazine Billboard (magazine) gave an excellent review to "Clown Town" in their July 13, 1963 issue, predicting it would be a hit. Sales were disappointing, and the Columbia Records label dropped Diamond from its roster. Soon after that, Diamond was back to writing songs on an upright piano above the Birdland Club.
Diamond spent his early career as a songwriter in the Brill Building. His first success as a songwriter came in November, 1965 with the song "Sunday and Me," performed by Jay and the Americans, which was a top 20 hit on the Billboard Charts. Greater early success as a writer followed with "I'm a Believer", "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," and "Love to Love," recorded and released by the Monkees. There is a po***r misconception that Diamond wrote and composed these songs specifically for the made-for-TV quartet. In reality, Diamond had written and recorded these songs to release himself, but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence of this was that Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. "I'm a Believer" was the Po***r Music Song of the Year in 1966. Other notable artists who recorded early Neil Diamond songs were Elvis Presley, who interpreted “Sweet Caroline” as well as “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for Paul Revere & the Raiders, also covered "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind," the English hard rock band Deep Purple which interpreted “Kentucky Woman,” Lulu Lulu (singer) , who covered “The Boat That I Row,” and Cliff Richard, who released versions of “I’ll Come Running,” “Solitary Man,” "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," “I Got The Feelin’ (Oh No No),” and “Just Another Guy.”
In 1966 Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns's Bang Records label, which was then a subsidiary company of Atlantic Records. His first release on that label, "Solitary Man," was his first hit. Prior to the release of "Solitary Man," Neil had considered using a stage name; he came up with two possible stage names, "Noah Kaminsky" and "Eice Chary." But when asked by Bang Records which name he was going to use, Noah, Eice, or Neil, he thought of his grandmother, who died prior to the release of Solitary Man. Thus he told Bang Records, "...go with Neil Diamond and I'll figure it out later." Diamond followed it with "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time," "Do It," and others. Diamond's Bang recordings were produced by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, both of whom can be heard singing background on many of the tracks.
His first concerts saw him being a "special guest" of, or opening for, everyone from Herman's Hermits to, on one occasion, The Who, which he confirmed on an installment of VH1's VH1 documentary series program Behind The Music.
Diamond began to feel restricted by Bang Records, wanting to record more ambitious, introspective music. Finding a loophole in his contract with Bang, Diamond tried to sign with a new record label, but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a dip in his professional success. Diamond eventually triumphed in court, and secured ownership of his Bang-era master recordings in 1977.After Diamond had signed a deal with the MCA Records label of Universal Pictures' parent company, MCA Inc. Music Corporation of America , whose label was then called the Uni Records label in the late 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, California in 1970. His sound mellowed, with such songs as "Sweet Caroline," "Holly Holy," "'Cracklin' Rosie," and the country-and-western tinged "Song Sung Blue," the last two of which reached #1 on the Hot 100. "Sweet Caroline" was Diamond's first major hit after his slump. Diamond recently admitted in 2007 that he had written "Sweet Caroline" for Caroline Kennedy after seeing her on the cover of Life Life (magazine) Magazine in an equestrian riding outfit. It took him just one hour, in a Memphis hotel, to write and compose it. The 1971 "I Am...I Said" was a top five hit in both the U.S. and UK, and was his most intensely personal effort to date, taking upwards of four months to complete.
In 1972, Diamond played ten sold-out concerts at the Greek Theatre Greek Theatre (Los Angeles) in Los Angeles. During the performance on Thursday, August 24, which was recorded and released as the live double album Hot August Night, Diamond said: "Thank you people in the audience, the payees. Tree people out there, God bless you, I'm singing for you too." (addressing the people listening from the trees on the hills surrounding the theatre). A few weeks later, in the fall of 1972, Diamond performed a series of one-man concerts on 20 consecutive nights at the Winter Garden Theater in New York. Every one of these reportedly sold out, and the small (approximately 1,600-seat) Broadway theater provided an intimate concert setting not common at the time. Hot August Night demonstrates Diamond's skills as a performer and showman, as he reinvigorated his back catalogue of hits with new energy. Many consider it his best work; critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls Hot August Night “the ultimate Neil Diamond record ... [which] shows Diamond the icon in full glory.”
The album has become a classic. It was remastered in 2000 with three additional selections that were not included in the original release; these three were “Walk on Water,” “Kentucky Woman,” and “Stones.” In Australia, it spent a remarkable 29 weeks at number 1 on the music charts; in 2006, it was voted #16 in a poll of favourite albums of all time in Australia. Also, in 1976 Neil Diamond's final concert of his 1976 Australian Tour (The "Thank You Australia" Concert) was broadcast over Channel 9 Australia to 36 television outlets nationwide on March 6, 1976 and remains the most po***r and most watched music event ever broadcast in Australia. It also set a record for the largest attendance ever at the Sydney Sports Ground. He was also rumored to be engaged to a young Australian girl named Diane Bennett at this time. The 1977 concert Love At The Greek, a return to the Greek Theatre, includes a version of "Song Sung Blue" with duets with Helen Reddy and Henry Winkler, a.k.a. Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli of Happy Days.
In 1973, Diamond hopped labels again, returning to the Columbia Records label with a lucrative new million-dollar-advance-per-album contract. His first project, released as a solo album, was the soundtrack to Hall Bartlett's film version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull Jonathan Livingston Seagull (album) . The film received hostile reviews and did poorly at the box-office. The album grossed more than the film did. Richard Bach, author of the best-selling source story, disowned the film. Both Bach and Diamond sued the film’s producer. Diamond felt the film butchered his score. Despite the shortcomings of the film, the soundtrack was a success, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard albums chart. The film score would also earn Diamond a Golden Globe Award Golden Globes for Best Original Score and a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media . From there, Diamond would often include a Jonathan Livingston Seagull suite in his live performances, as he did in his 1977 "Love at The Greek" concert. In 1974, Diamond released the album Serenade Serenade (album) , from which the songs "Longfellow Serenade" and "I've Been This Way Before" were released. The latter had been intended for the Jonathan Livingston Seagull Jonathan Livingston Seagull (album) score, but was completed too late for inclusion.
In 1976, he released Beautiful Noise, produced by The Band's Robbie Robertson. On Thanksgiving night, 1976, Neil made an appearance at The Band's The Band farewell concert, The Last Waltz. He performed one song, "Dry Your Eyes," which he had jointly written and composed with The Band's Robbie Robertson, and which had appeared on what was then his most recent album, Beautiful Noise. In addition, he joined the rest of the performers onstage at the end in a rendition of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." In 1977, Diamond released an album titled I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight, which included the selection "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." He had composed its music and collaborated on its lyrics with Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. The song was covered by Barbra Streisand on her album Songbird Songbird (Barbra Streisand album) , which led Gary Guthrie, then Program Director at WAKY Radio in Louisville, Kentucky, to combine the two recordings in a virtual duet. The po***rity of the virtual duet motivated Diamond and Streisand to record the real thing, which was a number one hit in 1978 and became his third song to top the Hot 100 to date. His last 1970s album was September Morn September Morn (album) , which included his newly-recorded version of I'm a Believer. It and Red Red Wine are the two best-known selections of his authorship and composition to have had other artists make them more famous than his own versions.
In February 1979, "Forever in Blue Jeans," an up-tempo selection by Diamond, which he wrote and composed in collaboration with his guitarist, Richard Bennett, was released as a single by Columbia. It was taken from You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Diamond's album from the previous year.
According to Cotton Incorporated, "Neil Diamond might have been right when he named his 1979 #1 hit 'Forever in Blue Jeans:' 81% of women are planning their next jeans purchase to be some shade of blue." The song has been used to promote the sale of blue jeans, most notably via Will Ferrell, impersonating Neil Diamond singing, for The Gap. Ironically, Diamond himself had performed in radio ads for H.I.S. brand jeans in the 1960s, more than a decade before he and Bennett jointly wrote and composed, and he originated, the selection.A movie version of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" was planned to star Diamond and Streisand, but plans fell through when Diamond starred in a remake of the Al Jolson classic The Jazz Singer The Jazz Singer (1980 film) in 1980 The Jazz Singer (1980 film) , opposite Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. Though the movie was not a blockbuster hit at the box office, the soundtrack was a hugely successful album, spawning the 3 Top 10 singles "Love on the Rocks," "Hello Again," and "America America (Neil Diamond song) ." For his role in the film itself, Diamond became the first ever Winner of a Worst Actor Razzie Award, yet he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the same role.
Another Top 10 chart selection, "Heartlight Heartlight (song) ," was inspired by the blockbuster 1982 movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Though the film's title character is never actually mentioned anywhere in the lyrics, Universal Pictures, which had released E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and was the parent company of the Uni Records label, by then referred to as the MCA Records label, for which Diamond had recorded for years, briefly threatened legal action against both Diamond and the Columbia Records label.
Diamond’s record sales slumped somewhat in the 1980s and 1990s, and as of this time, his last single to make the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart was in 1986. However, his concert tours continued to be big draws. Billboard Magazine Billboard (magazine) ranked Diamond as the most profitable solo performer in 1986. In January 1987, Diamond sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl Super Bowl XXI . His song "America America (Neil Diamond song) " was the theme song for the Michael Dukakis 1988 Presidential campaign. That same year, UB40’s reggae interpretation of Diamond’s ballad “Red Red Wine” would top the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart. Like the version of “I’m a Believer” that The Monkees had recorded, this version became better known than Diamond’s original version.During the 1990s Diamond would produce six studio albums. He would cover many classics from the movies and from the famous Brill Building song writers. He also released two Christmas albums, the first peaking at number eight on the Billboard’s Album chart. Keeping his song writing skills honed, Diamond also recorded two albums of mostly new material during this period.
In 1993, Diamond opened the Mark of the Quad Cities (now the iWireless Center) with two shows on May 27 and 28 to a crowd of 27,000 plus people.
The 1990s and 2000s saw a resurgence in Diamond’s po***rity. “Sweet Caroline” became a po***r sing-along at sporting events. It started being played at both Boston College football and basketball games. Most notably it is the theme song for Red Sox Nation, despite Diamond’s frequent assertions that he has been a lifelong “Red Sox fan.” The song also gets playing time during the 8th inning of every Mets home game at Shea Stadium, and at the Washington Nationals home games. The New York Rangers have also adapted it as their own, and play it when they are winning at the end of the 3rd period. The Pitt Panthers football team also plays it after the 3rd quarter at all their home games, with the crowd cheering "Let's go Pitt". Urge Overkill recorded a memorable version of Diamond’s “Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" for Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction Pulp Fiction (film) , released in 1994. In 2000, Johnny Cash recorded the album Solitary Man, which included that Diamond classic. Smash Mouth covered Diamond’s “I’m a Believer” for their 2001 self-titled album. In the 2001 comedy film Saving Silverman, the main characters play in a Neil Diamond cover band, and Diamond himself made an extended cameo appearance as himself. During this period, Will Ferrell did a recurring impersonation of Neil on Saturday Night Live, with Diamond himself appearing alongside Ferrell on Ferrell's final show as a "Not Ready For Prime Time Player" in May 2002. Diamond's song “America” was used in promotional advertisements for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Finnish band HIM covered “Solitary Man” on their album And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits.
at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park
Diamond has always had a somewhat polarizing effect, best exemplified by the 1991 film What About Bob? There the protagonist posits, "There are two types of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't." The character "Bob" attributes the failure of his marriage to his fiancee's fondness for Neil Diamond.
Diamond continues to tour and record. 12 Songs 12 Songs (Neil Diamond album) , recorded with producer Rick Rubin was released on November 8, 2005 in two editions: a standard 12-song release, and a special edition with two bonus tracks, including one featuring backing vocals by Brian Wilson. The album debuted at #4 on the Billboard album chart, and has received generally positive reviews; Earliwine describes the album as "inarguably Neil Diamond's best set of songs in a long, long time."
On December 31, 2005 Diamond appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve 2006.
In 2007, Diamond was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
In December 2007, a 2008 UK tour was announced calling at Manchester on June 7 and 8, Birmingham on June 10 and 11, and London on June 21, 23 and 24. A month later, further UK dates were added including Hampden Park in Glasgow on the 5th of June, Rose Bowl Rose Bowl, Hampshire , Southampton on the 17th of June and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on the 19th of June. On January 31, 2008, it was announced that he would also appear at the upcoming Glastonbury Festival in the UK.
On March 19, 2008, it was announced on the TV show American Idol that Neil Diamond would be a guest mentor to the remaining Idol contestants who would be singing Diamond songs on shows to be broadcast on April 29 and 30, 2008. On April 8, 2008, Diamond made a surprise announcement in a big-screen broadcast at Fenway Park, that he would be appearing there "live in concert" on August 23, 2008 as part of his World Tour. The announcement, which marked the first official confirmation of any 2008 concert dates in the USA, came during the traditional eighth-inning sing-along of his "Sweet Caroline," which has become an anthem for Boston fans.
On April 28, 2008, Diamond appeared on the roof of the Jimmy Kimmel building to sing "Sweet Caroline" after Kimmel was jokingly arrested after trying to sing the song. This was followed on April 30, 2008, with an appearance on American Idol American Idol (season 7)#Finals singing his song "Pretty Amazing Grace" from his new album Home Before Dark. On May 2, 2008, Sirius Satellite Radio started Neil Diamond Radio.
Diamond's new album Home Before Dark was released on May 6, 2008. On May 15, 2008, the Billboard Hot 200 listed the album at number one. This marked the first chart-topping album of Diamond's storied career. On May 18, 2008, the album also entered the UK Album Chart at number one. It was his second British number one on that chart, after hitting the summit in 1992 with a compilation-album. Currently, his 2008 tour is the most successful of any of his previous tours since 1966.
On August 25, 2008, Diamond performed at Ohio State University while suffering from laryngitis. The result disappointed him as well as his fans and on August 26 he offered ticket price refunds to everybody who applied by September 5.
Diamond was honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year on February 6, 2009; two nights prior to the 51st Annual Grammy Awards.
According to posts on Neil's Twitter page (which he updates himself) he is currently working on a new album, his third with Rick Rubin. He says he plans to play electric guitar on the album, a first for him. In 2009, Diamond stated that he prefers Gibson and Martin acoustic guitars and confirmed that recently he had been playing Gibson electric guitars.
Long-loved in Boston, Diamond was invited to sing at the July 4th holiday celebration.
Through his Diamond Music Company, Diamond now belongs to that small group of performers whose name is listed as the copyright owner on their recordings.
In August 2008, Neil Diamond allowed cameras to record his entire four-night run at New York's Madison Square Garden and released it in the United States on August 14, 2009, on DVD one year to the day of the first concert. 'Hot August Night/NYC' debuted at #2 on the charts and is exclusively available at Wal-Mart and has sold out at many locations all over the country. Also on the same day the DVD was released, CBS aired an edited version of the DVD which won the ratings hour for CBS with 13 million viewers. The next day, the sales of the DVD surged and prompted Sony to order more copies be pressed and issued to stores to meet the high demand.
On October 13, 2009, he released A Cherry Cherry Christmas, his third album of holiday music.Diamond married school teacher Jaye Posner in 1963. They had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before they divorced in 1969. In December 1969, Diamond married Marcia Murphey, a production assistant; they also had two children, both sons, Jesse and Micah. Diamond's second marriage ended in 1995. Diamond was in a relationship with Australian Rachel Farley, whom he met while she handled marketing during his 1996 Australian tour. The album Home Before Dark is largely based on Farley's struggles with severe chronic pain from a back injury she suffered (very similar to Diamond's own in 1979), surgery and ongoing recovery. Diamond said that "She had back surgery and it wasn’t going well. She was in extreme pain for a year and the surgery did not really work. If anything, it made it worse. And I never left her side. I was within 20ft of her for the entire year that I took writing this album." In 1979 Diamond had a tumor surgically removed from his spine and was wheelchair-bound for three months, and had to use a walker, and then a cane, for a long period until finally overcoming these impediments just prior to beginning principal photography for his 1980 film The Jazz Singer The Jazz Singer (1980 film) .In April 1993, Diamond worked with Australian artist Sharon Davson to launch the Hands Up project of Artists For Life. Diamond originally just donated his autographed hand prints to raise funds and awareness for the charity, but the impact of the initiative spread, and over the years, Davson personally painted the hands of over 400 world leaders from many fields of endeavor. The concept has been copied by many other people and causes, leading to countless funds raised for numerous causes.
After viewing the considerable damage that Hurricane Ike had caused High Island, Texas, in 2008, Diamond set up a charitable fund for the victims of the hurricane.Neil Diamonds songs have been covered by a wide and varied range of musicians including Coldplay,Chris Cornell,The Foo Fighters,Shane MacGowan,Dave Matthews band,UB40,Deep Purple.*"It's very difficult for me to say 'I love you' but to sing 'I love you' for me is easier."
*"My voice is unadorned. I don't try for perfection. I try to be honest and truthful and soulful with the voice I have. If I make mistakes in notes, or there are cracks in notes, I don't fix them. That's the way it is."
*"Because my musical training has been limited, I've never been restricted by what technical musicians might call a song."
*"I've always thought of music as something which gives the words their flight and their wings and the music often comes first, although sometimes I'll have a concept, a title idea, a lyric idea that I want to write and the lyric will come first."
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