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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Artist Profile: Neil Diamond

Opening Remarks

Why has Neil Diamond  endured? Why does he still cause such deep feelings with all his songs, some 50 years after he started out as a young songwriter, then performer?

Neil Diamond writes songs about the things we experience. He is not writing second hand. He feels the songs and he transmits that in the way he sings them.

Neil's songs reflect the stages of life that he and everyone else were in. The 1960's, he was young, the disappointment of broken and lost relationships. 1970's, falling in love, finding yourself, making a life, affirming that love.1980's, trying to keep the flame alive, broken relationships and mid life issues. The stages of life, or as in his song, The Story of My Life. Neil's songs are the story of his life, and of all  of our lives. That will always endure, no matter how long, those songs will always stand up for generations to come.

Nowhere was that more apparent than with Love On The Rocks and Hello Again. He moves you with those songs. He can do that, time after time after time.  Very few can do that.

Neil Diamond songs talk about relationships. That is what he does. Just about every song. So it is no wonder when he went to make a movie,  The Jazz Singer, he made a movie about relationships.  That is what The Jazz Singer is about,  and the songs he created for that movie reflected that. That is what he does. There is no other way for him. Personal songs about personal relationships.

"I'm usually recording or performing. There's not a lot of time in between. The time there is in between, I think about recording and performing."

The orchestration on his songs is unlike anyone else's within his era In addition to his haunting, touching lyrics and catchy melody, his orchestration separates him from the rest. The soundtrack for Jonathan Livington Seagull, which is completely comprised of Neil Diamond songs and compositions is a testament to his orchestrations skills. Without it,  the movie would be completely flat. He makes you relate to a seagull, with just his words and melodies. He can do that.

"its part of me. I write. Therefore. I am"
-Neil Diamond 

Neil Diamond makes you feel like you are in the front row of a coffeehouse watching him perform, except there is 20,000 or more people there with you. You feel both special and a part of something at the same time.
He was, and always be the complete package. Songwriter, performer, composer and transmitter of emotion. He is the complete package, like few before or since.

Neil  Leslie Diamond was born January 24, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York

His family was Jewish and descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. His father, Akeeba Diamond, was a dry-goods merchant. Neil worked in his store growing up to keep out of trouble.

He later attended NYU on a fencing scholarship, specializing in saber, and was a member of the 1960 NCAA men's championship team; 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, while taking organic chemistry, Diamond realized that medicine was too tough for him.  He left school, but did not tell his parents, who wanted him to be a doctor. 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 spent his early career as a songwriter in the Brill Building. His first success as a songwriter came in November, 1965, with "Sunday and Me", a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans on the Billboard Charts.

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", all 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 for himself, but the cover versions were released before his own.

"I finally got to understand what I had to do to write good music and that was basically to put myself as a human being into the music. It had to be not some copy of a song I heard on the radio. It had to be something original from me. And from that point on,  my world changed."

 Prior to that, Diamond had been working as a contract songwriter, and admittedly, was not very good. He was hired and fired many times over eight years to the point that he was ready to give up.

His first concerts saw him as a "special guest" of, or opening for, everyone from Herman's Hermits to, on one occasion, The Who.

 The Singles
"Solitary Man"

Prior to the release of "Solitary Man", Diamond had considered using a stage name; he came up with two possibilities, "Noah Kaminsky" and "Eice Charry". But when asked by Bang Records which name he should use, Noah, Eice, or Neil, he thought of his grandmother, who died prior to the release of "Solitary Man". Thus he told Bang, "...go with Neil Diamond and I'll figure it out later".

Initially released on Bang Records in April 1966, "Solitary Man" was Diamond's debut single as a recording artist having already had moderate success as a songwriter for other artists.

Diamond himself would tell interviewers in the 2000s, "After four years of Freudian analysis I realized I had written 'Solitary Man' about myself."

 Chris Isaak covered "Solitary Man" as the last track of his 1993 album San Francisco Days.

"Cherry, Cherry"

 is a song written, composed, and recorded by Neil Diamond.. It was issued as a 45 single in 1966 and became Diamond's first big hit, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

 Rolling Stone would later label "Cherry, Cherry" as "one of the greatest three-chord songs of all time."

There are actually
two versions of "Cherry, Cherry" in existence. The first version, some of whose lyrics are quite different from the version that the Bang Records label actually released, appears on the compilation album Classics: The Early Years, which Diamond and the Columbia Records label finally released in June 1983. The second version of "Cherry, Cherry" is the version the Bang Records label actually released, whose lyrics are more familiar to listeners.

 "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon

is a song written by Diamond, whose recording of it on Bang Records reached #10 on the U.S. pop singles chart in 1967.

The song garnered a second life span when it appeared on the 1994 Pulp Fiction soundtrack, performed by rock band Urge Overkill.

 In 1992, Urge Overkill recorded their own version of the song for the EP Stull. Quentin Tarantino came across it on the EP in a Dutch record store and liked it so much that he worked it into a scene in his film Pulp Fiction in 1994. This cover achieved success in several European countries, peaking at #10 in France.

 Other versions have been recorded by Cliff Richard (1968),

 and  Gary Puckett and the Union Gap (1969).

"Kentucky Woman" 
is a 1967 song written and originally recorded by Diamond. He recorded "Kentucky Woman" as his last hit single for Bang Records. Released in October 1967, it reached #22 on the U.S. pop singles chart.

 Another well-known version is the 1968 recording by Deep Purple.

 Waylon Jennings also released a version on his 1968 album, Only the Greatest

"Red Red Wine

is a song written and originally recorded by Diamond.

 It was  covered by  British reggae group UB40, whose version, based on the Bob Marley cover and not Diamond's original, topped the U.S. and UK singles charts.

 Diamond later performed a UB40-inspired version of the song on tour. In it, Diamond makes a slight complaint about UB40 misunderstanding the lyrics because of the happy tone to their version.

In the song, the singer finds drinking red wine is the only way to forget a lost love.

 In early 1972, country singer Roy Drusky enjoyed a Top 20 hit with his cover version.

 "Sweet Caroline

is a pop song written and performed by Diamond and officially released on September 16, 1969, as a single. It was later released in 1972 as a part of Diamond's Hot August Night album.

 The song reached #4 on the Billboard chart and eventually went platinum for sales of one million singles.

In a 2007 interview, Diamond revealed the inspiration for "Sweet Caroline" was President John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, who was eleven years old at the time.
Diamond sang the song to her at her 50th birthday celebration in 2007.

On December 21st, 2011 in an interview on the CBS Early Show, Diamond attributed the name Caroline to Caroline Kennedy. He said that a magazine cover photo of her as a young child on a horse with her parents in the background created an image in his mind, and that the rest of the song came together about five years after seeing the picture.

Bobby Womack covered the song in his 1972 album Understanding

"Until It's Time for You to Go

is a song from the 1965 album Many a Mile by Canadian First Nations singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. It was never released by her as a single.

The lyrics concern an ordinary man and woman who love each other, but cannot stay together because they come from different worlds. The singer asks her (or his) lover: "Don't ask why/Don't ask how/Don't ask forever/Love me now." According to Sainte-Marie, the song "popped into my head while I was falling in love with someone I knew couldn't stay with me."

It was a charted single for Neil Diamond in 1970.

"Cracklin' Rosie"

 is a song written and performed by Diamond in 1970, from his album Tap Root Manuscript. This was his first American #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1970, and his third to sell a million copies.

Married to a catchy and dynamic melody and arrangement, the lyrics suggested to some a devotion to a woman of the night:

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