The subject of this post has brought me great joy over the years…..for I have been a big fan of Neil Diamond since his career started around 1962…..as my appreciation of him is not only for his singing…..but also his songwriting….. of which he is one of the most prolific and successful songwriters of all time …..while having over 150 songs that he wrote recorded over his 60 years of publishing songs. Diamond sang about America and the folks who live there….which also endeared him to me…..cuz we both obviously have a shared love for this great country that we both had the privilege of growing up within…..for Neil Diamond is an equally great patriot…..cuz like me, we both are of the opinion that it is the greatest country in the world. Neil Diamond filled a void that was left after the deaths of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley…..when he received wide acceptance from the young and old music fans of the world….. and this is his story…..albeit Neil Diamond is six years my senior…..we have a cosmic spiritual connection in that we were both born on January 24th…..so, he’s a brother of another mother…..cuz the truth be known, God gave both of us the gift of music in our souls…..which makes this a special post for me.
Music – Documentary – 1962 T0 2023 – The BBC Presents – “Neil Diamond: A Solitary Man”
Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter…..who has sold more than 130 million records worldwide…..which makes him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has had ten # 1 singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts including “Cracklin’ Rosie”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Longfellow Serenade”, “I’ve Been This Way Before”, “If You Know What I Mean”, “Desirée”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “America”, “Yesterday’s Songs” and “Heartlight”…..while 38 songs have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts…..which included mega-popular “Sweet Caroline”. He has also acted in films, making his screen debut in the 1980 musical drama film The Jazz Singer. Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984….. then into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011…..and he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. In 2011, he was an honoree at the Kennedy Center Honors…..plus, he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. (Note: The two videos below were produced and publicly posted before Diamond actually died….which was the result of an untruthful news clip about his death when he was still alive…..but the content is worthy of this post.)
Music – Documentary – 1962 To 2023 – Deceased Celebrities Special – “Photo Gallery of the Life and Times of Neil Diamond” (Neil Diamond is not dead but rather alive and sill kicking as of April 21, 2023)
Music – Documentary – 1962 To 2023 – Deceased Celebrities Special – “Photo Gallery of the Incredible Neil Diamond” – With Narration by Barbara Streisand (but he is not dead but rather alive and sill kicking as of April 21, 2023)
Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to a Jewish family…..as all four of his grandparents were immigrants from Poland on his father’s side and Russia on his mother’s. His parents were Rose (née Rapoport; 1918–2019) and Akeeba “Kieve” Diamond (1917–1985), a dry-goods merchant….. when he grew up in several homes in Brooklyn…..while having also spent four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming…..where his father was stationed in the army. In Brooklyn, he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club, along with classmate Barbra Streisand…..as Diamond recalled they were not close friends at the time saying, “We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes.”…..while also in their class was chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer. After his family moved to Brighton Beach, he attended Abraham Lincoln High School…..and was a member of the fencing team along with his best friend, future Olympic fencer Herb Cohen.
Music – 1978 – From The Album You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Neil Diamond – “Forever In Blue Jeans”
Music – 1979 – From the Album September Morn – Neil Diamond – “September Morn”
Music – 1994 – Duet Special – Frank Sinatra & Neil Diamond – “The House I Live In (What Is America To Me?)”
Music – 1975 – From The Album Beautiful Noise – Neil Diamond – “Lady Oh”
Music – 1991 – Duet Special – Neil Diamond & Kim Carnes – “Hooked On The Memory Of You”
Music – 1987 – From the Album Hot August Nights – Neil Diamond – “I Dreamed A Dream”
For his 16th birthday, he received his first guitar…..when he was 16 and still in high school…..while spending a number of weeks at Surprise Lake Camp…. which was a camp for Jewish children in upstate New York…..when folk singer Pete Seeger performed a small concert. Seeing the widely recognized singer perform…..and watching other children singing songs for Seeger that they wrote themselves…..while having an immediate effect on Diamond….. who then became aware of the possibility of writing his own songs…..saying “And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs”, he said. He added that his attraction to songwriting was the “first real interest” he had growing up…..while also helping him release his youthful “frustrations”. Diamond also used his newly developed skill to write poetry…..when by writing poems for girls he was attracted to in school, he soon learned it often won their hearts…..whereby his male classmates took note…..and began asking him to write poems for them…..which they would sing and use with equal success. He spent the summer after graduation working as a waiter in the Catskills resort area…..where he first met Jaye Posner…..who would years later become his wife.
Music – Video – 1980 – From the Movie The Jazz Singer – Neil Diamond – “Love on the Rocks”
Music – 1969 – Live on Stage – Neil Diamond – “Holly Holy”
Music – 1972 – Neil Diamond – “Play Me”
Music – 2008 – From the Album Home Before Dark – Neil Diamond – “To Make You Feel My Love”
Music – 2010 – From the Album Dreams – Neil Diamond – “A Song For You”
Music – 1972 – From the Album Moods – Neil Diamond – “Song Sung Blue”
Music – 1980 – From the Album The Jazz Singer – Neil Diamond – “Hello Again”
Music – 1986 – Neil Diamond – “The Story Of My Life” – With A Photo Gallery of Diamond Put To Frank Sinatra Singing “My Way”
Diamond next attended New York University as a pre-med major on a fencing scholarship…..along with his best friend Herb Cohen…..and they were members of the 1960 NCAA men’s championship fencing team. Often bored in class, he found writing song lyrics more to his liking…..so, he began cutting classes and taking the train up to Tin Pan Alley…..where he tried to get some of his songs heard by local music publishers. In his senior year, when he was just 10 units short of graduation, Sunbeam Music Publishing offered him a 16-week job writing songs for $50 a week (equivalent to about $460 per week, in 2021)…..and he dropped out of college to accept it.
Music – 1971 – A British Broadcasting Corporation Live Concert – Neil Diamond and His Guitar
Diamond was not rehired after his 16 weeks with Sunbeam…..and he began writing and singing his own songs for demos. “I never really chose songwriting”, he says. “It just absorbed me and became more and more important in my life.” His 1st recording contract was billed as “Neil and Jack”…..which was an Everly Brothers-type duet with high school friend Jack Packer. They recorded the unsuccessful singles “You Are My Love at Last” with “What Will I Do”…..and “I’m Afraid” with “Till You’ve Tried Love”…..with both records being released in 1962…..when Cashbox and Billboard magazines gave all four sides positive reviews…..then Diamond signed with Columbia Records as a solo performer later in 1962. In July 1963, Columbia released the single “At Night” with “Clown Town”…..as Billboard gave a laudatory review to “Clown Town”…..and Cashbox was complimentary to both sides…..but they still failed to make the charts. Columbia dropped him from their label and he went back to writing songs in and out of publishing houses for the next seven years.
Music – 1962 – Sexon Music Corp. B.M.I. – Neil Diamond & Jack Packer – “You Are My Love At Last”
Music – 1962 – Sexon Music Corp. B.M.I. – Neil Diamond & Jack Packer – “Til You’vs Tried Love”
Music – 1963 – From the Album In My Lifetime – Neil Diamond – “At Night”
Music – 1963 – From the Album In My Lifetime – Neil Diamond – “Clown Town”
He wrote wherever he could, including on buses…..and used an upright piano above the Birdland Club in New York City. One of the causes of this early nomadic life as a songwriter was his songs’ wordiness: “I’d spent a lot of time on lyrics, and they were looking for hooks, and I didn’t really understand the nature of that”, he says. He was able to sell only about one song a week during those years…..which was barely enough to survive…..as he found himself only earning enough to spend 35 cents a day on food (equivalent to $3 in 2021)…..but the privacy that he had above the Birdland Club allowed him to focus on writing without distractions. “Something new began to happen. I wasn’t under the gun, and suddenly interesting songs began to happen, songs that had things none of the others did.” Among them were “Cherry, Cherry” and “Solitary Man”…..with the latter being his 1st record that Diamond recorded under his own name which made the charts. It remains one of his personal favorites…..as Solitary Man was about his early years as a songwriter, even though he failed to realize it at the time. He describes the song as “an outgrowth of my despair”
Music – 1966 – From the Album Solitary Man – Neil Diamond – “Solitary Man”
Music – 1966 – From the Album Solitary Man – Neil Diamond – “Cherry Cherry”
Music – 1966 – From the Album Just For You – Neil Diamond – “The Boat That I Row”
Music – 1967 – Live on Popendipity – From the Album Just For You Neil Diamond – “Shilo”
Music – 1965 – Neil Diamond – “I’m A Believer”
Diamond spent his early career in the Brill Building. His 1st success as a songwriter came in November 1965 with “Sunday and Me“…..which was a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans…..as greater success followed with “I’m a Believer“, “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You“, “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” and “Love to Love”…..when all were performed by the Monkees. He wrote and recorded the songs for himself…..but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended consequence was that Diamond began to gain fame as a songwriter. “I’m a Believer” became a gold record within two days of its release and stayed at the top of the charts for seven weeks…..while making it the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966.
Music – 1967 – Neil Diamond – “A Little Bit Of Me, A Little Bit Of You”
Music – 1966 – Neil Diamond – “Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow” – Performed Live in 2005 at the SaveMart Center in Fresno, CA
Music – 1966 – From the Album Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966 to 1968 – Neil Diamond – “Love To Love”
“And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” brought covers from Elvis Presley…..who also interpreted “Sweet Caroline”…..and Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for Paul Revere & the Raiders. Other notable artists who recorded his early songs were Lulu, Cliff Richard and the English hard-rock band Deep Purple.
Music – 1969 – Geffen Records Presents – Neil Diamond – “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” – Live At Hot August Night III
Music – 1970 – From The Album Touching You, Touching Me – Neil Diamond – “Mr. Bojangles”
In 1966, Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns’s Bang Records, then a subsidiary of Atlantic…..when his 1st release on that label was “Solitary Man”…..which was his 1st true hit as a solo artist. Diamond followed with “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman“. His early concerts featured him opening for bands such as Herman’s Hermits and the Who. As a guest performer with The Who, he was shocked to see Pete Townshend swinging his guitar like a club and then throwing it against walls and off the stage until the instrument’s neck broke.
Music – 1978 – From the Album You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Anymore – Neil Diamond – “Remember Me”
Diamond began to feel restricted by Bang Records because he wanted to record more ambitious, introspective music, such as “Brooklyn Roads” from 1968…..however, Berns wanted to release “Kentucky Woman” as a single….. but Diamond was no longer satisfied with writing simple pop songs…..so he proposed “Shilo”…..which was not about the Civil War…..but rather an imaginary childhood friend…..as Bang believed that the song was not commercial enough…..so it was relegated to being an LP track on Just for You. Diamond was also dissatisfied with his royalties…..and tried to sign with another record label after discovering a loophole in his contract that did not bind him exclusively to either WEB IV or Tallyrand…..but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a slump in his record sales and professional success. A magistrate refused WEB IV’s request for a temporary injunction to prevent Diamond from joining another record company…..while his contract dispute continued in court…..but the lawsuits persisted until February 1977…..when he triumphed in court…..and purchased the rights to his Bang-era master tapes.
Music – 1967 – From the Album Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966 To 1968 – Neil Diamond – “Red Red Wine”
Music – 1967 – From the Album Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966 To 1968 – Neil Diamond – “The Boat That I Row”
Music – 1967 – From the Album Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966 To 1968 – Neil Diamond – “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”
Music – 1967 – From the Album Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966 To 1968 – Neil Diamond – “Kentucky Woman”
In March 1968, Diamond signed a deal with Uni Records…..which was the label named after Universal Pictures, the owner of which, MCA Inc., later consolidated its labels into MCA Records (now called Universal Music after merging with PolyGram in 1999). His debut album for Uni/MCA was in late 1968 with Velvet Gloves and Spit, produced by Tom Catalano…..which did not chart…..so he recorded the early 1969 follow-up Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show at American Sound Studios in Memphis with Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman producing.
Music – 1968 – From the Album Neil Diamond Velvet Gloves and Spit – Neil Diamond – “Lady Magdelene”
Music – 1968 – From the Album Neil Diamond Velvet Gloves and Spit – Neil Diamond – “Brooklyn Roads”
Music – 1968 – From the Album Neil Diamond Velvet Gloves and Spit – Neil Diamond – “Two-Bit Manchild”
Music – 1972 – From the Album Neil Diamond Moods – Neil Diamond – “Walk On Water”
Music – 1969 – From the Album Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show – Neil Diamond Sings “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”
Music – 1970 – From the Album Tap Root Manuscript – Neil Diamond Sings “Soolaimon”
In mid 1969, Diamond moved to Los Angeles…..where his sound mellowed with such songs as “Sweet Caroline“ in 1969….“Holly Holy” in 1969….. “Cracklin’ Rosie” in 1970…..and “Song Sung Blue“ in 1972)…..with the last two reaching # 1 on the Hot 100. “Sweet Caroline” was Diamond’s 1st major hit after his slump. In 2007, Diamond said he had written “Sweet Caroline” for Caroline Kennedy after seeing her on the cover of Life in an equestrian riding outfit…..but in 2014 he said in an interview on the Today show that it was written for his then wife, Marcia. He could not find a good rhyme with the name “Marcia” and so used the name Caroline…..when it took him just one hour in a Memphis hotel to write and compose the song. The 1971 release “I Am…I Said” was a Top 5 hit in both the US and UK…..and was his most intensely personal effort to date…..while taking over four months to complete.
Music – 1970 – From the Album Tap Root Manuscript – Neil Diamond – “Cracklin’ Rosie”
Music – 1969 – Neil Diamond – “Sweet Caroline” – Performed Live at the Greek Theater in 2012
Music – 1969 – Neil Diamond – “Holly Holy” – Performed Live on the Ed Sullivan Show
Music – 1980 – From the Album The Jazz Singer – Neil Diamond – “Songs of Love” – Performed Live at the Forum
In 1971, Diamond played seven sold-out concerts at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles…..when the outdoor theater was noted for showcasing the best of current entertainers added a stereo sound system for the 1st time…..while Diamond was also backed by a 35-piece string orchestra and six backing singers. After the 1st night, one leading newspaper called it “the finest concert in Greek Theater history.”
Music – 1971 – Entire Concert Live at the Greek Theatre – Neil Diamond – Considered Finest Concert in Greek Theatre History
In August 1972, he played again at the Greek…..while this time doing ten shows…..and when the show was 1st announced, tickets at the 5000-seat theater sold out rapidly. He added a quadraphonic sound system for his performance to create full surround sound. The performance of August 24, 1972, was recorded and released as the live double album Hot August Night. Diamond recalled: “Hot August Night captures a very special show for me. We went all out to really knock ’em dead in LA.” Many consider it his best work…..as critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Hot August Night “the ultimate Neil Diamond record… [showing] Diamond the icon in full glory.” The album became a classic…..and was remastered in 2000 with additional selections. In Australia, which at the time was said to have the most Neil Diamond fans per capita of any country, the album ranked # 1 for 29 weeks …..while staying in their top 20 bestsellers for two years. Two of the 1972 Hot August Night videos featured in the set below are, without question, two of my favorite videos that I have ever posted…..which are “Gitchy Goomy”, because I have a young son who was born 2.5 years ago (when I was 74 years old…..as he is my little Gitchy Goomy…..and though my body is old, my mind, heart and soul are young…..plus, I love the song “Canta Libre”, because it brings beautiful visions to my mind of my beautiful daughter…..who along with her Brother have music in their souls….which is something that they share with me…..as God gave me the same talent….as I play the piano by ear and have used that talent as my therapy in life….so, my young babies share and I share those talents that come from having music in our souls…..just like Neil Diamond says in Canta Libre.
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “I Am…I Said” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Gitchy Goomy” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Modern Day Version of Love” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Canta Libre” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Porcupine Pie” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Stones” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Morningside”” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
Music – 1972 – From the Album Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – “Done Too Soon”” – Performed Live at the Greek Theatre in L A
In the fall of 1972, Diamond performed for 20 consecutive nights at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. That theater had not staged a one-man show since Al Jolson in the 1930’s. The approximately 1,600-seat Broadway venue provided an intimate concert setting not common at the time, with every performance reportedly sold out. It also made Diamond the 1st rock-era star to headline on Broadway. The review in The New York Times stated: “Neil Diamond’s one-man show seemed, on the face of it, to be a brash idea. One-man shows have traditionally been associated with talents like Judy Garland and Danny Kaye. But Mr. Diamond is clearly a brash young man and one with both the musical track record and the performance macho to bring it off….He needn’t worry about comparisons with the likes of Garland and Kaye.”
Music & Interviews – 1985 – The Barbara Walters Special – “Interview With Neil Diamond”
Music & Interviews – 2003 – The Larry King Show Special – “Interview With Neil Diamond”
Music & Interviews – 2023 – CBS Sunday Morning With Correspondent Anthony Mason Special – “Neil Diamond Talks About Coming to Terms With His Parkinson’s Disease and “Beautiful Noise”, the Broadway Musical About His Life”
Music & Interviews – 2002 – Gloria Hunniford’s Open House UK TV Special – “Neil Diamond On Life And Performing”
Music & Interviews – 2002 – The Graham Norton Show UK TV Special – “Neil Diamond On Being Back Touring In Europe Again”
After the Winter Garden shows, Diamond announced that he needed a break, and he engaged in no live performances until 1976…..as he used those four years to work on the score for Hall Bartlett’s film version of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull…..and to record two albums, Serenade and Beautiful Noise. He said years later, “I knew I’d come back, but I wasn’t sure when. I spent one year on each of those albums…I’d been on the road six years. I had a son 2½ and I felt he needed me more than the audience did. So for four years I devoted myself to my son Jesse.” He also said he needed to get back to having a private life, one where he could be anonymous.
Music – 1973 – From the Album Jonathan Living Seagull – Neil Diamond Sings A Medley of Songs From Jonathan Living Seagull Album – With “Be’/ ‘Dear Father’/ ‘Lonely Looking Sky’/ ‘Sanctus’/ ‘SkyBird’/ ‘Be’ (Encore)
In 1973, Diamond switched labels again, returning to Columbia Records for a million-dollar-advance-per-album contract (about $6.1 million per album in 2021)…..when his 1st project, released as a solo album, was the soundtrack to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The film received hostile reviews and did poorly at the box office…..and the album grossed more than the film did. Richard Bach, author of the best-selling source story, disowned the film….. and he and Diamond sued Bartlett, though for differing reasons…..when in Bach’s case, it was because he felt the film omitted too much from the original novella…..whereas in Diamond’s case, it was because he felt the film had butchered his score. “After ‘Jonathan,'” Diamond declared, “I vowed never to get involved in a movie again unless I had complete control.” Bartlett angrily responded to Diamond’s lawsuit by criticizing his music as having become “too slick…and it’s not as much from his heart as it used to be.” Bartlett also added, “Neil is extraordinarily talented. Often his arrogance is just a cover for the lonely and insecure person underneath.”
Music – 1973 – From the Album Jonathan Living Seagull – Neil Diamond – “Skybird”
Music – 1973 – From the Album Jonathan Living Seagull – Neil Diamond – “Flight of the Gull”
Music – 1973 – From the Album Jonathan Living Seagull – Neil Diamond – “Anthem”
NOTE: Neil Diamond’s story continues on the next post L E’s Stories – “Cracklin’ Rosie and Sweet Caroline, They All Come To America – Our Salute To The Word Merchant Genius of Neil Diamond – A True American Dream – Part 2