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A Diamond in the Rough….

16 Apr

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.

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14 responses to “A Diamond in the Rough….

  1. AH

    April 17, 2008 at 4:15 am

    “”Now, the fact that Madonna is in the Hall of Fame and Neil Diamond is not is just a downright tragedy.””

    Couldn’t agree more. Remember reading something about a petion process to bring artists to the HoF’s attention. If that is an option, I would be more than happy to sign one.

    Didn’t remember ’68 but knew Red, Red Wine was early since it is on the Hot August Night album (1972). That is still my favorite mix for listening to ND – sometimes add a few later titles. Love the diversity of the songs like Morningside, Stones, Walk on Water, Play Me, Cracklin’ Rosie, Brother Love’s, his voice on Canta Libre, even the silly fun of Porcupine Pie and Soggy Pretzels and of course the song that put ND permanently on my favorite artists list, “I Am, I Said”. There are 25 live tracks and the many of the more popular early titles are included too.
    Also like the Jonathan Livingston Seagull soundtrack – yet another side of Neil Diamond the songwriter. His last album “12 Songs” – was also a different direction for him – find my enjoyment of that album is totally dependent on my mood.
    Can’t wait to see what he brings to the table with “Home Before Dark”
    Gee, didn’t mean to write a book – sorry.

     
  2. music maven

    April 17, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Good stuff, AH. Thanks for the additional info. There’s so much on Neil. It’s hard to have any brevity in a post on him.

    I’ve periphally listened to Neil Diamond for years, but never knew he wrote Red, Red Wine and only recently learned that he wrote I’m A Believer.

    He is certainly diverse and immensely talented. As for the HoF, if Will Ferrell deems you fit to parody (in a Gap Commercial, no less), I’d say you’re of a level of “shoe-in” for the HoF.

     
  3. Michael Paul

    April 17, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Thanks for the “shout out” Dawn. ND is one of my all time favorite artist. You have reminded me that its time to add ND to my new Ipod. Next year we will get my version of Sweet Caroline on video. It’s a show stopper! Great post.

     
  4. music maven

    April 17, 2008 at 7:46 am

    I’m seeing a YouTube in your future.

     
  5. huckleberryfriend

    April 17, 2008 at 9:28 am

    MM – If you haven’t heard Tennessee Moon (1996) check it out. One of those albums you listen to over and over again when you first hear it.

     
  6. shrewspeaks

    April 17, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I know I should respect the Diamond…dig the Diamond…be in awe of the Diamond. And in some ways I do, yet I find for the most part I like it better when others sing the Diamond. Is that wrong of me to admit?

     
  7. amydeclouet

    April 17, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    You are so funny! Davey Jones!!! I used to watch the Monkey’s sitcom on Nick at Night when I was little and I had the biggest crush on him too! He is truly timeless:)

    ND on American Idol??!! I can’t even wait to see what My David Cook chooses to sing! So much to choose from…I’m so excited!!!

     
  8. Jan

    April 18, 2008 at 12:38 am

    MM: Thanks for yet another great post. I think that Neil Diamond should be in the rock hall of fame but so should Madonna. She has remained relevant for 20 or so years running.

    I would love to see Neil Diamond live. I don’t think it’s likely that he will come to Austin.

    I didn’t know that he wrote Red Red Wine, or Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon, or I’m a Believer. Very cool.

     
  9. music maven

    April 18, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Interesting thought, Jan. Sorry, but I think that Madonna was one of those who actually helped to over-commercialize and dilute the quality of the music industry.

    Now underdstand that I respect your opionion, but… for me….she was about shock-value and flash. IMO, the only thing she did that showed any real talent was Eva. She was a VERY squeaky wheel who got alot of grease because she made the labels a LOT of denero. She was crammed on the radio and MTV incessantly. Kids were told that if they didn’t like or get Madonna, they weren’t cool. To this day, I don’t know one REAL Madonna fan but she’s made zillions.

    While Madonna’s been around for 20 years, Neil Diamond has been around for 40…and is also still relevant.

     
  10. AH

    April 18, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    MM – very nicely said.
    My son is 35 (it’s a big shock to both of us) so Madonna was a topic in our house during some of her more interesting escapades. I found it amusing that while the kids would defend her to me (but of course), they made fun of her among themselves.
    Sidetrip – I once asked my son how to tell Brittany and Christina apart. His answer back then is even truer now – Mom, Christina is the one that can sing. :]

     
  11. Jan

    April 20, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    MM: I respect your opinion as always but disagree. I’m a Madonna fan and I claim it proudly. I am also a Neil Diamond fan and don’t feel that the two are mutually exclusive. Why slam one artist when promoting another? What does one have to do with the other?

     
  12. music maven

    April 21, 2008 at 6:31 am

    That’s why I said it is my opinion. In mine, Madonna sold a lot of records but is that the criteria for the HoF? I don’t think that you have to hate one to like the other, but for me, Madonna is not worthy. Might as well put The Spice Girls in the HoF.

    Just like Shrew doesn’t like the “twang”, I don’t like Madonna. Never will. I guess I’m a little harsh but I love most music and there are not many artists that I genuinely don’t like…Madonna unfortunately is one of them.

     
  13. Colette

    April 27, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Great scan on Neil’s career. Funny guy, part Nice Jewish Boy, part Rock Outlaw. Hated the shlocky stuff in the 1980s, but love his hard-pumpin’ rock and that great voice.

    For me this season there’s only be one AI contestant — and I hope my one and only, David Cook, will make a great choice here. I can hear him singing so many of the good Neil stuff — “I’m a Believer” (my fave), “Cherry Cherry,” “Solitary Man” and, yowzer, “Red, Red Wine.” Go, Cookie!

     

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