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."
As of 2001 Diamond has 115 million records
including 48 million records in the U.S.
In terms of
success, he is the third most successful
Adult Contemporary artist ever, ranking
Barbra Streisand and
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
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
Polish immigrants. His father, Kieve Diamond,
was a dry-goods merchant. Diamond grew up in several homes in
Erasmus Hall and
Lincoln High Schools.
At Erasmus Hall, he took part in
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 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 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
Diamond spent his early career as a songwriter
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
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 popular
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 Popular 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
Deep Purple which interpreted “Kentucky Woman,”
Lulu, 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
In 1966 Diamond signed a deal with
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
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
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,
Inc., whose label was then called the
Uni Records label in the late 1960s, he
moved to Los Angeles 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 Kennedy after seeing her
on the cover of
Life Magazine in an equestrian
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
Greek Theatre 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
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
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 popular and
most watched music event ever broadcast in Australia.
It also set a record for the largest attendance ever at the
Sydney Sports Ground.
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
In 1973, Diamond hopped labels again,
returning to the
Columbia Records label with a lucrative new
His first project, released as a solo album, was the soundtrack
to Hall Bartlett's film version of
Seagull. 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
for Best Original Score and a
Grammy Award for Best Score
Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture.
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
Serenade, 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 score, but
was completed too late for inclusion.
In 1976, he released
Beautiful Noise, produced by
Robbie Robertson. On Thanksgiving night, 1976, Neil made an
appearance at The Band's farewell concert,
The Last Waltz. He performed one song, "Dry Your Eyes," which he
had jointly written and composed with 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 on
Songbird, and a duet was mixed by a pair of radio
personalities named Jack Hood and Gene Kruszewski working at WJR
in Detroit. Gary Guthrie, Program Director at WAKY Radio in
Louisville, Kentucky at that time, also claims he was
responsible for the duet, but gold records were given by
Columbia Records to Mr. Hood and Mr. Kruszewski due to the
success of the single. The popularity 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
Morn, 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
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 in
Laurence Olivier and
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". 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", was inspired by the
blockbuster 1982 movie
Extra-Terrestrial. Though the film's title character is
never actually mentioned anywhere in the lyrics,
Universal Pictures, which had released
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
ranked Diamond as the most profitable solo performer in 1986.
In January 1987, Diamond sang the national anthem at the
Super Bowl. His song "America" 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 popularity. “Sweet Caroline” became a popular 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 “Yankee 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
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
Pulp Fiction, 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
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. The Finnish band
HIM covered “Solitary Man” on their album And Love Said
No: The Greatest Hits.
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, recorded
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."
12 Songs also ended up being infamous for being one of
the last albums to be pressed and released by
Sony BMG with the infamous
Extended Copy Protection
software embedded onto the disc. (See the
2005 Sony BMG CD copy protection scandal.)
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
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
Hampden Park in Glasgow on the 5th of
Rose Bowl, 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
American Idol singing
his song "Pretty
Amazing Grace" from his new album
Home Before Dark.
On May 2, 2008, Sirius Satellite Radio started Neil Diamond
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, 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 4 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
Diamond married school teacher Jayne "Posey"
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
 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.
Diamond still suffers from chronic, and often severe, back pain.
Diamond is known for wearing colourful
sequin-adorned shirts in concert. Diamond has said that this was
originally done out of necessity, so everyone in the audience
could see him without the aid of binoculars. The Bill
Whitten-designed and made shirts cost approximately US$5,000
each. Whitten designed and made the shirts for Diamond from the
1970s until 2007. He told UK chat show host Jonathan Ross that
he had a new designer for his less colourful stage wear for his
tour of 2008.