American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond was born 24 January, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. He grew up in Brooklyn, having also spent four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where his father was stationed in the army. In Brooklyn 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, Diamond recalls: “We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes.” After his family moved he then attended Abraham Lincoln High School, and was a member of the fencing team. For his 16th birthday, he received his first guitar.
When he was 16, and still in high school, Diamond spent a number of weeks at Surprise Lake Camp, 21 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, inspired Diamond, 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. He adds that his attraction to songwriting was the “first real interest” he had growing up. 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, whom he later married.
Diamond attended New York University as a pre-med major on a fencing scholarship. His skill at fencing made him a member of the 1960 NCAA men’s championship team. However, he 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 which he accepted. Following his 16 weeks at Sunbeam Music he then began writing and singing his own songs for demo purposes.
Diamond’s first recording contract was billed as “Neil and Jack”, an Everly Brothers-type duo comprising Diamond and high school friend Jack Parker. They recorded two singles in 1962: “You Are My Love at Last” b/w “What Will I Do” and “I’m Afraid” b/w “Till You’ve Tried Love”. In 1963 Diamond released the single “At Night” b/w “Clown Town”. Sadly Columbia dropped him from their label and he was back to writing songs, in and out of publishing houses for the next seven years.He did songwriting wherever he could, including on buses, and used an upright piano above the Birdland Club in New York City. Among the songs he wrote were “Cherry, Cherry” and “Solitary Man”. “Solitary Man”. This 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,
Diamond spent his early career as a songwriter in the Brill Building. His first success as a songwriter came in 1965, with “Sunday and Me”, a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans. 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 performed by the Monkees. Diamond wrote and recorded the songs for himself, but the cover versions were released before his own, consequently Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. “I’m a Believer” became a gold record within two days of its release, and stayed at the top of the charts for seven weeks, making it the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966. Other notable artists who recorded his early songs were the English hard-rock band Deep Purple, Lulu, Cliff Richard Elvis Presley (who sang “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” and “Sweet Caroline”) and Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for Paul Revere & the Raiders. In 1966, Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns’s Bang Records, then a subsidiary of Atlantic and released the songs”Solitary Man”, “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman”. His early concerts saw him as a “special guest” for many bands including The Who and Herman’s Hermits As a guest performer with The Who, he was shocked to see Pete Townshend destroy his guitar
Eventually Diamond wanted to record more ambitious, introspective music, like his autobiographical “Brooklyn Roads” and was no longer satisfied writing simple pop songs, so he wrote “Shilo”, which was not about the Civil War, but rather an imaginary childhood friend which is on the LP “Just for You”. Dissatisfied Diamond then tried to sign with another record label after discovering a loophole in his contract, but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a slump in his record sales and professional success. However in 1977, he triumphed in court and purchased the rights to his Bang-era master tapes. In 1968, Diamond signed with Uni Records (named after Universal Pictures, whose owner, MCA Inc) later consolidated its labels into MCA Records (now called Universal Records). His debut album for Uni was Velvet Gloves and Spit, followed by Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.
In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles. After “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” in 1969, his sound mellowed, with such songs as “Sweet Caroline” (1969), “Holly Holy” (1969), “Cracklin’ Rosie” (1970), “Song Sung Blue” (1972) and “I Am…I Said” In 1971, Diamond played 7 sold-out concerts at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. backed by a 35-piece string orchestra and six backing singers. In 1972, he played ten more shows at the Greek which Diamond describes as very special and sought to really knock ’em dead in L.A.” The performance was recorded and released as the live double album Hot August Night. This album demonstrates Diamond’s skills as a performer and showman and Many consider it to be Neil Diamonds best work. In 1972, Diamond performed for 20 consecutive nights at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. The last occasion when that historical theater had staged any one-man shows had been when Al Jolson had performed there in the 1920s and the 1930s. The small (approximately 1,600-seat) Broadway venue provided an intimate concert setting not common at the time, with every performance reportedly sold out. It also made Diamond the first rock-era star to headline on Broadway.
After the Winter Garden shows, however, 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 Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and to record two albums, Serenade and Beautiful Noise. In 1973, Diamond released the soundtrack to Hall Bartlett’s film version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. the soundtrack was a success. Diamond also garnered a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture. In 1976 Diamond embarked on an Australian tour, “The ‘Thank You Australia’ Concert”, He also again appeared at the Greek Theater in a 1976 concert, Love at the Greek. An album and naccompanying video/DVD of the show includes a version of “Song Sung Blue” with duets with Helen Reddy and Henry Winkler, a.k.a. Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli of Happy Days. In 1974, Diamond released the album Serenade, containing the singles “Longfellow Serenade” and “I’ve Been This Way Before”he also appeared on a TV special for Shirley Bassey and sang a duet.
In 1976, he released the album Beautiful Noise.On Thanksgiving night, 1976, Diamond made an appearance at The Band’s farewell concert, The Last Waltz, performing “Dry Your Eyes”, which he had written and composed jointly with Robbie Robertson, and which had appeared on Beautiful Noise. He also joined the rest of the performers onstage at the end in a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”. In 1976 Diamond oerformed at the the Alladin Hotel in Las Vegas to open their Theatre for Performing Arts. Which Many famous people attended including Elizabeth Taylor and Chevy Chase. He also performed at Woburn Abbey in 1977. In 1977, Diamond released I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight, including “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, On which he collaborated with Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. Barbra Streisand covered the song on her Songbird album, and later, a Diamond-Streisand duet, was recorded Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand also performed the duet at the Grammy awards ceremony in 1980. His last 1970s album was September Morn, which included a new version of “I’m a Believer”. It and “Red Red Wine” In 1979, Diamond released “Forever in Blue Jeans”, co-written and jointly composed with his guitarist, Richard Bennett,
Sadly In 1979, Diamond 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 underwent a long rehabilitation process just prior to beginning principal photography for his film The Jazz Singer (1980). A planned film version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” to star Diamond and Streisand fell through when Diamond instead starred in a 1980 remake of the Al Jolson classic The Jazz Singer alongside Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. the soundtrack spawned three Top 10 singles, “Love on the Rocks”, “Hello Again”, and “America” which was an Autobiographical song about his Grandparents. It became a huge hit when National news shows played it when the the Iran hostage crisis ended; it was also played during the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty; and at the tribute to Martin Luther King and the Vietnam Vets Welcome Home concert. At the time, a national poll found the song to be the number-one most recognized song about America, more than “God Bless America”.It also became the anthem of his world tour two weeks after the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, when he changed the lyric at the end from; “They’re coming to America”, to “Stand up for America!” He also performed it after a request from former heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. After appearing in The Jazz Singer Diamond became the first-ever winner of a Worst Actor Razzie Award, even though he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the same role. Diamond’s next song, “Heartlight”, was inspired by the blockbuster 1982 movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
Sadly 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. Billboard magazine ranked Diamond as the most profitable solo performer of 1986.He released his 17th studio album in 1986, Headed for the Future. he also starred in Hello Again, his first television special in nine years, where he performed comedy sketches and sang a duo medley with Carol Burnett. In 1987, Diamond sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. His “America” became the theme song for the Michael Dukakis 1988 presidential campaign. UB40 also released a reggae interpretation of Diamond’s ballad “Red Red Wine”. During the 1990s, Diamond produced six studio albums. He covered many classics from the movies and from famous Brill Building-era songwriters. He also released two Christmas albums. In 1992, he performed for President George H.W. Bush’s final Christmas in Washington NBC special. In 1993, Diamond opened the Mark of the Quad Cities (now the iWireless Center).
The 1990s also saw a resurgence in 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. It saw usage for Boston College football and basketball games. College sporting events in other states would also play it, it was also played duringa Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament a football match in Northern Ireland and it became the theme song for Red Sox Nation, the fans of the Boston Red Sox. The New York Rangers also adapted it as their own, and would play it whenever winning at the end of the 3rd period of their games. The Pitt Panthers football team would also play it after the third quarter of all home games, with the crowd cheering, “Let’s go Pitt”. The Carolina Panthers would play it at the end of each home game whenever they would win. The Davidson College pep band would likewise play it at every Davidson Wildcats men’s basketball home game, in the second half.
In the 2001 comedy film Saving Silverman, the main characters play in a Diamond cover band, and Diamond made an extended cameo appearance as himself. Diamond even wrote and composed a new song, “I Believe in Happy Endings”, especially for the film. The comedian/comedy actor Will Ferrell also did a recurring Diamond impersonation 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.
In 2005 Diamond released A stripped-down-to-basics album, 12 Songs, produced by Rick Rubin, in two editions: a standard 12-song release, and a special edition with two bonus tracks, including one featuring backing vocals by Brian Wilson. In 2007, Diamond was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. in 2008, it was announced on the television show American Idol that Diamond would be a guest mentor to the remaining Idol contestants, who would be singing Diamond songs and Diamond Sang, “Pretty Amazing Grace”, from his 2008 album Home Before Dark. in 2008 Diamond made a surprise announcement in a big-screen broadcast at Fenway Park, that he would be appearing there “live in concert” as part of his world tour. Diamond appeared on the roof of the Jimmy Kimmel building to sing “Sweet Caroline” after Kimmel was jokingly arrested trying to sing the song dressed up as a Diamond impersonator. In June 2008, Diamond performed at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England on the Concert of a Lifetime Tour. His entire four-night run at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2008 was recorded and released on DVD. Diamond performed at Ohio State University while suffering from laryngitis.
In 2009 Diamond was honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year prior to the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. He also released A Cherry Cherry Christmas, his third album of holiday music. In 2010, Diamond released the album Dreams, a collection of 14 interpretations of his favorite songs by artists from the rock era. The album included “I’m a Believer”and, “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Diamond sang on NBC’s The Sing-Off with Committed and Street Corner Symphony, two a cappella groups featured on the show. In 2011 Neil Diamond released The Very Best of Neil Diamond, a compilation CD of Diamond’s 23 studio recordings from the Bang, UNI/MCA, & Columbia catalogs. Diamond was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and received a lifetime achievement award from the Kennedy Center at the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors. In 2012 Diamond received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He also topped the bill in the centenary edition of the Royal Variety Performance in the UK and also appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. in 2013, Diamond performed at Fenway Park to sing “Sweet Caroline” during the 8th inning. It was the first game at Fenway since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. He also released the single “Freedom Song (They’ll Never Take Us Down)”, with 100% of the purchase price benefiting One Fund Boston and the Wounded Warrior Project. Sporting a beard, Diamond performed live on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as part of A Capitol Fourth. In 2014 Diamond released his latest greatest hits compilations, All-Time Greatest Hits, his next album, Melody Road, was Also released in 2014 and was produced by Don Was and Jacknife Lee. Diamond also performed a surprise concert at his alma mater, Erasmus High School in Brooklyn. He also announced a 2015 “Melody Road” World Tour. The North American leg of the World Tour 2015 started in Allentown, PA at the PPL Center on February 27 and ended at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado During which Diamond made extensive use of social media platforms and streamed several shows live on Periscope and showing tweets from fans who used the hashtag #tweetcaroline on two large screens this proved to be an innovative way to widen his fan base
In 2016, Diamond released Acoustic Christmas, a folk-inspired Christmas album of original songs as well as acoustic versions of holiday classics with a handful of musicians, sitting around a circle of microphones, wires and, of course, Christmas lights.” In March 2017, Neil Diamond released the career-spanning anthology, Neil Diamond 50 – 50th Anniversary Collection, And began the 50 Year Anniversary World Tour in Fresno, California, in April. On January 22, 2018, Diamond announced that he would immediately retire from touring due to having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.Tour dates on the final leg of Diamond’s “50 Year Anniversary World Tour” in Australia and New Zealand were cancelled. however the cancellation of the live performances would allow Diamond to “continue his writing, recording and development of new projects.”
In 2008, Diamond gave filmmaker Greg Kohs permission to use his songs in a documentary. Kohs, a director from Philadelphia, had met a popular Milwaukee, Wisconsin, duo, Lightning & Thunder, composed of Mike Sardina, who did a Diamond impersonation, and his wife Claire. Kohs followed them for eight years and produced the film Song Sung Blue, Diamond granted Kohs permission to use his songs. The movie was sent to the singer in January 2008, at the recommendation of Eddie Vedder, a supporter of the film and of the duo. Though Sardina had died in 2006, Diamond invited his widow and her family to be his front-row guests at his show in Milwaukee, where he told them he was moved by the film.
Neil Diamond has sold over 115 million records worldwide including 48 million in the United States alone. He is considered to be the third most successful adult contemporary artist ever on the Billboard chart behind Barbra Streisand and Elton John. His songs have been covered internationally by many performers from various musical genres. Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Additionally, he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and in 2011 was an honoree at the Kennedy Center Honors. He has eight number one hit singles with “Cracklin Rosie”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Desiree”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “Love On The Rocks“, “America”, “Yesterday’s Songs”, and “Heartlight”. In addition he also has many other well known songs including Forever in Blue Jeans and Sweet Caroline,