Neil Diamond announced on Tuesday that he is releasing a new, technologically different CD in early May titled, Home Before Dark.
I think Neil Diamond is one of the most under-recognized and under-praised singer-songwriters of our time, so I decided to do a post on him.
Neil DIamond seemed to be destined for the upper echelon of music right out of the gate. He grew up in Brighton Beach and rumor has it that he sang in the choir with Barbra Streisand. He started writing songs at 18 and signed an early contract with Columbia that never really panned out. He intentioned his writings to be his recordings, but before he could record them himself, The Monkees released I’m a Believer, A Little BIt Me, A Little Bit You, and several others. I’m A Believer ended up being a smash hit and the top song of 1966.
Mmmmm….Davey Jones. But, I digress. If Neil would have released it first, here’s what it would have sounded like.
In 1966, Diamond signed with Bang Records. He scored his first hit with Solitary Man.
While this song was very “Moody Blues” and indicative of the some of the music of that time with rich, full, dramatic sound, his follow up hit, Kentucky Woman, showcased Diamond’s solid baritone with a simple guitar accompniment. His voice was strong and determined, his belief in the song totally believeable.
During this time, Neil Diamond played on the same bill as many of the industry’s stars such as Herman’s Hermits and The Who. He soon had a falling out with Bang Records and was embattled in a lawsuit over the rights to his music until the mid-70s, when he finally won them. It was worth the fight, as Neil Diamond is one of only a handful of musical artists who actually own the copyright to his songs. For the most part, labels own the copyrights of most songs. One of his most well-known hits, Cherry, Cherry was one of the last recordings he did under the Bang label.
As the video mentions, Neil Diamond has been continually overlooked by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, despite his large and wide influence on rock and his prolific song-writing skills. Lefsetz did a nice piece on Neil and Cherry, Cherry recently. Now, the fact that Madonna is in the Hall of Fame and Neil Diamond is not is just a downright tragedy.
While he fought Bang Records over the rights to his songs, Neil Diamond signed with MCA Records and released likely his best-known hit in Sweet Caroline, inspired by young Caroline Kennedy.
While it’s not our nephew, Michael Paul’s awesome beach rendition, Neil handles it pretty good. 🙂
One of Neil’s anthems from this era, Holly Holy, was immortalized in Saving Silverman as Neil is accompnied by Steve Zahn, Jack Black and Jason Biggs who worship Neil Diamond and have a Neil Diamond Tribute Band in the movie.
He scored hits with Cracklin’ Rosie , I Am I Said and Song Sung Blue, before experiencing a lull in his career. However, on a magical Thanksgiving night in 1976, Neil Diamond joined The Band for The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s rockumentary chronciling The Band’s farewell concert. Neil performed Dry Your Eyes and joined the star-studded encore of I Shall Be Released.
Then, he scored a mega-hit with his old friend, Barbra Streisand with You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.
He starred in a remake of The Jazz Singer, which produced four top ten singles for Neil Diamond: Forever in Blue Jeans, America, Love on the Rocks, and Hello Again.
Forever in Blue Jeans, a la Will Ferrell.
Released in 1980, I remember going to see The Jazz Singer and how America was subsequently used as a patriotic theme, after the decade of disaster that was the ’70s.
Neil Diamond’s last Top 10 hit was in 1982 with Heartlight from the movie, E.T., however he has been successful touring and performing his vast and adored songbook. Also, his songs have been used in many movies. Like Urge Overkill’s version of Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon in Pulp Fiction.
TODAY’S TRIVIA: Neil Diamond wrote and recorded the song Red, Red Wine in 1968….who knew?
Red, Red Wine
I knew it would only be a matter of time before American Idol would get to the Neil Diamond songbook. Supposedly, it’s coming up on one of the remaining theme nights. Perhaps this will give Neil the exposure needed to finally get him into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Neil Diamond’s mark on music has been significant and prolific. It’s time he’s rightfully honored along with the greats of the last 40 years of Rock & Roll.