The Solitary Man
Who couldn’t say ‘I love you’
But found it easy to sing it
This Brooklyn born singer/songwriter considered using the stage name Noah Kaminsky. He ran away from home at 13 and went to the Midwest where he formed a musical group called The Roadrunners. He won a fencing scholarship to enter NYU and was on the 1960 NCAA men’s championship team. He went to NYU in 1958 where he studied medicine. In his final year at NYU he was offered a job to write songs by Sunbeam Music on Manhattan's famous Tin Pan Alley. He paid his ex wife $150 million in a divorce settlement. He sold approx. 125 million albums in his 50 year career.
I’m talking about the one and only Neil Diamond.
He was born Neil Leslie Diamond on 24th January 1941 in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jewish immigrants Akeeba "Kieve" Diamond and Rose Diamond. His father worked as a dry-goods merchant. The Diamond’s temporarily relocated to Cheyenne, Wyoming, due to Kieve’s military service during World War II. After the end of World War II, the family returned to Brooklyn. At age 15 Neil wrote his first song, which he titled "Here Them Bells". He was given a $9 acoustic guitar as a birthday present for his 16th birthday. He rented a room in a printer's shop located above the famed Birdland nightclub on Broadway. Neil began to live there, bought a piano for $30, a pay telephone, and started writing his songs his own way.
In 1963 he married his high school sweetheart, school teacher Jaye Posner; they had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before they separated in 1967 and divorced in 1969
Neil met the song writing/record producing team Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry (who sang in the background of many his songs) which led to a contract with Bert Bern’s Bang Records, then part of Atlantic Records. In 1966, when he was 25, he recorded his first album, featuring hit singles such as "Solitary Man" and "Cherry, Cherry". Also in 1966, he appeared twice on Dick Clark's "Bandstand" TV musical variety show.
The Monkees recorded several of his songs, including "I'm a Believer" which was the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966 and stayed in the number one position on the billboards for longer than any other song. A number of TV appearances followed, including singing gigs on "The Mike Douglas Show", "The Merv Griffin Show" and a part as a rock singer on an episode of "Mannix". Other notable artists who recorded early Neil Diamond songs were Elvis Presley, who sang "Sweet Caroline" as well as "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind"; Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for Paul Revere & the Raiders, who covered "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind"; Deep Purple, which sang "Kentucky Woman"; Lulu, who sang "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 Guy".
Neil found wide acceptance among the young and old with his songs, but endured criticism that his music was too middle-of-the-road. He sang as opening acts for artists such as Herman’s Hermits and The Who.
In 1967, Neil wrote "Red, Red Wine". It was written as a country ballad, and didn’t receive much fame on the billboards until in 1988 UB40 recorded the song and made it a hit, singing it in Reggae style. Also in 1967, Neil tried to leave Bang Records because he felt restricted. This led to lawsuits and a drop in his career. He eventually won the court case and got ownership of his Bang recordings.
In 1968, he wrote "Shilo" and moved to MCA records. Shilo was on the billboards, even though not high. But it is still a favourite song for his fans. "Brooklyn Roads" was another song that was written more for Neil then for the audience. In 1969: he wrote Sweet Caroline which hit no. 4 on the billboard charts. The song starts with a calm beginning, but the whole song is a build up to its chorus. "Holly Holy" is another song with a long and exciting build up. It rose to no. 6 on the billboards. Also in 1969, he wrote "Desiree", "September Morn", and "Forever In Blue Jeans". Desiree is best known for its beat, it has great rhythm. Forever in Blue Jeans has the forgotten message that money isn’t everything in life, it’s the little things that are important.
He married Marcia Murphy, a production assistant. They had two children, both sons, Jesse and Micah. His second marriage ended in 1994 or 1995 and a $150 million divorce settlement.
He also developed into a dynamic concert performer, as demonstrated on his 1972 album Hot August Night, which spent a year and a half in the charts. In 1973, he moved to Columbia Records with a million dollar advance per album. His first album was for the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull. He also did Longfellow Serenade and I’ve been this way before.
In 1976, he released Beautiful Noise. His young daughter came up with the name when she described the noise on the streets below. In the summer of 1976, on the eve of three Las Vegas shows, his house in Bel Air was raided by the police because they received an anonymous tip that there were drugs and weapons stored there. The police found less than an ounce of marijuana. To have the arrest expunged from his record, Neil agreed to a six-month drug aversion program.
In 1977 he released I’m glad you’re here with me tonight and he starred in two TV specials for NBC. He wrote "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show". It was a song about a preacher, and in his live performances his charisma raised the level of excitement dramatically. This song never hit the top 20. He wrote Cracklin Rosie – it’s a wine in an Indian reservation – which hit no. 1 and Crunch Granola Suite. It took him four months to write I Am . . . I Said which hit no. 4. Song Song Blue hit no. 1.
In 1979, he had a cancer scare when he collapsed on stage in San Francisco and was taken to hospital, where a tumour was found on his spine and had to be surgically removed, which confined him to a wheelchair for three months. During this time he wrote "You Don't Bring Me Flowers". It was originally written for a solo recording for himself. Barbra Streisand recorded the song and radio stations started mixing the two versions together. So he and Barbra recorded a version that was meant to be a duet, and it rose to no.1 on the billboard charts.
Fans flocked to his shows and bought his albums in big numbers until well into the 1980s. While his concert tours continued to gross highly, his record sales became more modest. Still, as of 2001, he claimed worldwide record sales of 115 million copies, and as of 2002 he was ranked third, behind only Elton John and Barbra Streisand, on the list of the most successful adult contemporary artists in the history of the Billboard chart.
He appeared in and wrote some of the music for the remake of The Jazz Singer – original in 1920’s, then 1951 and finally 1980. He signed a contract for $1 million and wrote 3 of perhaps his greatest songs for the album. "Love on the Rocks", "Hello Again" and "America". Each of these songs reached the top 10 on the billboard. Love on the Rocks is in a jazz style. Hello again is pretty similar the whole way through, it’s just a nice love song. America, is one of Neil's most famous songs. With these 3 hit songs, the Jazz Singer sold over 6 million copies of its soundtrack.
Aware of his lack of acting talent, Neil never acted in movie roles again, aside from making appearances as himself. As a movie fan, he collaborated on writing the scores of many different soundtracks, which can be heard in such films as Cactus Flower (1969), Pulp Fiction (1994), Beautiful Girls (1996), Donnie Brasco (1997), Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and many more.
In 1996, he had a relationship with Rae Farley that ended in 2008
When he was 70, on 7th September 2011, the same day he learned he was to be a Kennedy Centre Honouree, Neil announced his engagement to 41-year-old Katie McNeil in a message on Twitter. Katie is Neil’s manager and was the producer on the documentary Neil Diamond: Hot August Nights NYC. On 21st April 2012, Neil married Katie in front of family and close friends in Los Angeles, California.
He had an amazingly large range of music including pop, rock, R&B, folk, country, jazz, reggae, punk, heavy metal, alternative, easy listening, and new age performers who had recorded his songs, among them Altered Images, Gene Ammons, Chet Atkins, Michael Ball, Shirley Bassey, Les Baxter, Harry Belafonte, Acker Bilk, the Box Tops, the Brothers Four, Glen Campbell, Vikki Carr, Johnny Cash, Petula Clark, Ray Conniff, Floyd Cramer, Michael Crawford, Bobby Darin, the Spencer Davis Group, Joey Dee & the Starliters, Deep Purple, the Drifters, David Essex, Percy Faith, José Feliciano, Ferrante & Teicher, the Four Tops, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Goldsboro, Marcia Griffiths, the Heptones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Julio Iglesias, Chris Isaak, Millie Jackson, Wanda Jackson, Jay & the Americans, Waylon Jennings, Tom Jones, Bert Kaempfert, André Kostelanetz, Patti LaBelle, David Lanz, James Last, Peggy Lee, Liberace, Enoch Light, Mark Lindsay, Lulu, Arthur Lyman, Mantovani, Johnny Mathis, Ronnie Milsap, the Monkees, the Music Machine, Wayne Newton, Jane Olivor, Roy Orbison, Johnny Paycheck, Elvis Presley, Boots Randolph, Cliff Richard, Billy Joe Royal, Frank Sinatra, Smash Mouth, the Specials, Barbra Streisand, Third World, B.J. Thomas, Tin Huey, Tina Turner, UB40, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, Urge Overkill, Billy Vaughn, the Ventures, Bobby Vinton, Junior Walker & the All-Stars, Scott Walker, Roger Whittaker, Andy Williams, Bobby Womack, and Robert Wyatt.
Today, Neil continues to tour, and still releases new studio and live compilation box sets of his greatest hits. Members of his family now perform in his back-up band.
The kid from Brooklyn did good!
This is written specially for Ireland's biggest Neil Diamond fan - my sister Catherine Moore
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