Neil Diamond Lyrics, Music and Life Story
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Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 24 January, 1941 to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. As a singer, songwriter and actor, his real career began in the 1960’s. Since then, he has sold over 120 million records worldwide, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
In 1984, he was added to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Later, in 2011 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has also received recognition in the form of the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and in 2011 was an honoree at Kennedy Center.
As far as the charts go, Neil Diamond achieved eleven No. 1 singles: “Cracklin’ Rosie“, “Song Sung Blue“, “Longfellow Serenade“, “I’ve Been This Way Before”, “If You Know What I Mean”, “Desiree”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “America”, “Yesterday’s Songs”, “Heartlight”, and “I’m a Believer”. Another of his well known songs, “Sweet Caroline“, is played frequently at sporting events, and has become an anthem for the Boston Red Sox.
In his early years, Neil Diamond lived in several homes in Brooklyn, where he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club along with classmate Barbra Streisand. They were not close friends at the time, Neil Diamond recalls: “We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes.”
His first life ambition was medicine, as he once told talk show host Larry King, “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.”
When he was 16, and still in high school, Neil Diamond spent a number of weeks at Surprise Lake Camp, 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, had an immediate effect on him, who then became aware of the possibility of writing his own songs. “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.
Neil Diamond also used his newly-developing skill at writing lyrics to write poetry. By writing poems for girls he was attracted to in school, he soon learned it often won their hearts. 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 following his graduation as a waiter in the Catskills resort area. There he first met Jaye Posner, who would, years later, become his wife.
Neil Diamond Songwriter – Beginnings
After this, he attended New York University but was often bored in classes, and found writing song lyrics more to his liking. 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. By his senior year, and just 10 units short of graduation, Sunbeam Music Publishing offered him a 16-week job writing songs for $50 a week, and he dropped out of college to accept it.
After his 16 weeks at Sunbeam Music were up, he was not rehired and then began writing and singing his own songs for demo purposes. “I never really chose songwriting,” he says. “It just absorbed me and became more and more important in my life.”
He did songwriting 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 due to his songs having too many words: “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.
During those lean years, he was only able to sell about one song a week, barely enough to survive on. He found himself only earning enough to spend 35 cents a day on food. However, the privacy he had above the Birdland Club allowed him to focus on writing without distractions; as he explained, “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”. “Solitary Man” was the first record that Diamond recorded in his own name that made the charts. It remains one of his personal all-time favorites, as it was autobiographical about his early years as a songwriter, even though he failed to realize it at the time.
His first success as a songwriter came in November 1965, with “Sunday and Me”, which became a Top 20 hit. Greater 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”, which were all performed by the Monkees.
Neil Diamond wrote and recorded these songs for himself, but the Monkees’ versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence was that he began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter.
Neil Diamond – Singer and Performer
In 1966, Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns’s Bang Records, then a subsidiary of Atlantic. His first release on that label, “Solitary Man“, became his first true hit as a solo artist. He later followed with “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman”.
In 1970, Neil Diamond moved to Los Angeles. Now his singing style mellowed, with such songs as “Sweet Caroline” (1969), “Holly Holy” (1969), “Cracklin’ Rosie” (1970) and “Song Sung Blue” (1972), the last two reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100.
“Sweet Caroline” was Neil Diamond’s first major hit. It took him just one hour, in a Memphis hotel, to write and compose it. The 1971 release “I Am…I Said” which reflected his nostalgic feelings for New York while living in Los Angeles, was a Top 5 hit in both the US and UK and was his most intensely personal effort to date, taking upwards of four months to complete.
Hot August Night
The following August 1972, he played again, this time doing 10 shows. When the show was first announced, all tickets at the 5000-seat theater sold out rapidly. He added a quadrophonic sound system for his performance, to create full surround-sound. Neil Diamond recalled: “Hot August Night” captures a very special show for me. We went all out to really knock ’em dead in L.A.”
The August 24 performance was recorded and released as the live double album Hot August Night. Hot August Night demonstrates Neil 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 called Hot August Night “the ultimate Neil Diamond record… [which] shows 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 had the most Neil Diamond fans per capita of any country, the album ranked No. 1 for 29 weeks and stayed in their top 20 bestsellers for two years.
Time For a Break from Live Performances
After the Winter Garden shows of 1972, Neil Diamond announced that he needed a break, and he engaged in no more live performances till 1976. He used those four years to work on the score for Hall Bartlett’s film version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and to record two albums, Serenade and Beautiful Noise.
In 1973, Diamond switched labels again, returning to Columbia Records for a 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. Despite the controversy surrounding the film, the soundtrack was a success, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart. From there, Neil Diamond would often include a Jonathan Livingston Seagull suite in his live performances.
In 1974, Diamond released the album Serenade, from which “Longfellow Serenade” and “I’ve Been This Way Before” were issued as singles. The latter had been intended for the Jonathan Livingston Seagull score, but Diamond had completed it too late for inclusion in the same.
I’m Back – Message for a Former Girlfriend
Diamond was paid $650,000 from the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, to open its new $10 million Theater For the Performing Arts on July 2, 1976. He opened the show without music, but rather a story about an ex-girlfriend who dumped him before he became successful. His lead-in line to the first song of the evening was, “You may have dumped me a bit too soon baby, because look who’s standing here tonight.”
In 1977, Diamond released “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, for which he composed the music and on the writing of whose lyrics he collaborated with Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. Barbra Streisand covered the song separately but later, a Diamond-Streisand duet was recorded. That version hit No. 1 in 1978, his third song to top the Hot 100. They appeared unannounced for the Grammy awards ceremony in 1980, where they performed a duet of the song to a surprised and rapturous audience.
In February 1979, the uptempo “Forever in Blue Jeans”, co-written and jointly composed with his guitarist, Richard Bennett, was released as a single.
In 1979, Neil Diamond had collapsed on stage in San Francisco and was taken to the hospital where he endured a twelve-hour operation to remove what turned out to be a tumor on his spine. He said he had been losing feeling in his right leg “for a number of years but ignored it.” He was so convinced he was going to die that he even wrote farewell letters to his friends.
In 1980 Neil Diamond wrote “America”, which had emotional significance for him. “‘America’ was the story of my grandparents,” he told an interviewer. “It’s my gift to them, and it’s very real for me….In a way, it speaks to the immigrant in all of us.”
The song was also the one he was most proud of, partly because of when it was later used: National news shows played it when the hostages were shown returning home after the Iran hostage crisis ended; it was played on the air during the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty; and at the tribute to Martin Luther King and the Vietnam Vets Welcome Home concert, he was asked to perform it live. At the time, a national poll found the song to be the number-one most recognized song about America, more than “God Bless America”. In January 1987, Diamond sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. His “America” became the theme song for the Michael Dukakis 1988 presidential campaign.
Neil Diamond’s record sales slumped somewhat in the 1980s and 1990s, his last single to make the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart coming in 1986. However, his concert tours continued to be big draws.
And Into the Next Century
The 1990s also saw a resurgence in Neil Diamond’s popularity. “Sweet Caroline” became a popular sing-along at sporting events, where it came to be played to entertain and energize the fans and the teams.
In 2007, Diamond was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
On March 19, 2008, it was announced on the television show American Idol that Neil Diamond would be a guest mentor to the remaining Idol contestants, who would be singing his songs for the broadcasts of April 29 and 30, 2008.
On the April 30th broadcast, Diamond premiered a new song, which he called “Pretty Amazing Grace”, and which came from his then recently released album “Home Before Dark”.
“Home Before Dark” was released May 6, 2008, and topped the album charts in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In August 2008, Neil Diamond allowed cameras to record his entire four-night run at New York’s Madison Square Garden; he released the resulting album in the United States on August 14, 2009, on DVD. Hot August Night/NYC debuted at No. 2 on the charts.
The years 2011 and 2012 were marked by several milestones in Diamond’s career. On March 14, 2011, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. In December, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Kennedy Center at the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors. On August 10, 2012, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In November 2012, he topped the bill in the centenary edition of the Royal Variety Performance in the UK.
In October 2016, Diamond released Acoustic Christmas, a folk-inspired Christmas album of original songs as well as acoustic versions of holiday classics. Diamond recorded Acoustic Christmas with a handful of musicians, sitting around a circle of microphones, wires and, of course, Christmas lights.
In November 2016, Diamond’s “50 Year Anniversary World Tour” was announced, to begin April 7, 2017.
How He Feels About What He Does
In 1977 Neil Diamond described his feelings this way, “I have a love-hate relationship with songwriting. I love it because it’s so satisfying…when it works. I hate it because it forces you to dig inside yourself. It is without question the most difficult thing I do.
Performing, on the other hand, is the most joyful and happiest thing I do. The bigger the audience the more anticipation, the more excitement.”
Neil Diamond’s Romances
Diamond has been married three times. In 1963, he married his high school sweetheart, school teacher Jaye Posner; they had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before they separated in 1967 and divorced in 1969. He then married production assistant Marcia Murphey, with whom he had sons Jesse and Micah. This marriage ended in 1994 or 1995.
He began a lengthy relationship with Australian Rae Farley in 1996, after the two met in Brisbane, Australia. The selections on the album Home Before Dark were written and composed during her struggle with chronic back pain.
On September 7, 2011, Diamond announced his engagement to his then 41-year-old manager Katie McNeil in a message on Twitter. On April 21, 2012, they married in front of family and close friends in Los Angeles. Diamond said that his 2014 album Melody Road was fueled by his relationship with McNeil, explaining: “There’s no better inspiration or motivation for work than being in love. It’s what you dream of as a creative person. I was able to complete this album – start it, write it and complete it – under the spell of love, and I think it shows somehow.”
Enjoy These Song Lyrics by Neil Diamond
- Longfellow Serenade LyricsLongfellow Serenade lyrics were inspired by the 19th-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Neil Diamond chose to reference Longfellow specifically after recalling an instance in which, while in his teens, ...
- Solitary Man LyricsInitially released in April 1966, Solitary Man lyrics and music was Neil Diamond’s debut single as a recording artist. The song lyrics describe the disappointment and resolutions associated with young ...
- Cracklin’ Rosie LyricsCracklin’ Rosie lyrics and music were written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1970. Married to a catchy and dynamic melody and arrangement, at first glance, once could be forgiven ...
- Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon LyricsGirl You’ll Be a Woman Soon lyrics and music, are about a boy who is in love with a girl, who others consider to be above his class. He is ...
- Song Sung Blue LyricsSong Sung Blue lyrics and music was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1973, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Neil Diamond described it as a “very ...
- Play Me LyricsPlay me lyrics and melody are one of those all time favourites from the ’70’s by singer songwriter Neil Diamond. The song is particularly favored by women, who have swooned ...
- I Am I Said LyricsI Am I Said lyrics were written by Neil Diamond at a time in his life where he was experiencing some very personal moments. It also has a dark side ...
- Sweet Caroline Lyrics“Sweet Caroline” is one of those enduring songs which many of today’s “baby boomers” remember from their childhood or teenage years. Perhaps just hearing it brings back a memory for ...