Who Is Neil Diamond?
Neil Diamond is an American singer-songwriter who began writing songs while studying at New York University. His own hits include "Sweet Caroline," "America" and "Heartlight." He also wrote "I'm A Believer," performed by the Monkees, and his song "Red, Red Wine" was a big hit for UB40 in 1983. Diamond's later albums include 12 Songs (2005) and Home Before Dark (2008).
Born on January 24, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York, Neil Leslie Diamond was is best known as a successful pop music singer who scored a number of hits during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Diamond wrote the hits "I'm A Believer" (1966) and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (1967) for the Monkees, and had his own first No. 1 hit with "Cracklin' Rosie" (1970).
The son of a shop owner, Diamond spent most of his youth in Brooklyn. He did live in Wyoming for a time while his father served in the military. Not long after receiving his first guitar at age 16, he began writing his own songs.
Diamond landed a fencing scholarship to New York University and became a pre-med student, though he continued to pursue his interest in music. In the early 1960s, Diamond released his first single, "What Will I Do," which he recorded with Jack Packer. The duo released the song under the name "Neil & Jack."
Early Hits and 'Sweet Caroline'
Eventually dropping out of college, Diamond worked as a songwriter for several companies. He joined forces with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, two talented songwriters and producers. The trio began to market Diamond as both a singer and songwriter. Diamond had his first taste of pop success with the 1966 single "Solitary Man." That same year, he penned the Monkees' No. 1 hit "I'm a Believer."
Diamond continued to score hits on his own over the next few years, including "Cherry, Cherry" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." His popular 1969 single, "Sweet Caroline," was reportedly inspired by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy. In 2014, during an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Diamond put that particular rumor to rest by saying the song was written about his wife. The song made it into the Billboard Top 5. That same year, Diamond's "Holly Holy" reached the No. 6 spot on the pop charts.
Top Pop Star
In 1970, Neil Diamond scored his first solo No. 1 pop single with "Cracklin' Rosie." He hit the top of the charts again with "Song Sung Blue" two years later. Also in 1972, Diamond released the hugely popular Hot August Night, which was recorded at a series of concerts he performed at Los Angeles' Greek Theatre. He also composed the soundtrack for the 1973 film Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, based on the Richard Bach book. While the movie was a flop at the box office, the soundtrack earned Diamond a Grammy Award.
Diamond scored another big hit with "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," his 1978 duet with Barbra Streisand. In 1980, he tried for success on the big screen with his remake of The Jazz Singer. Critics were less than kind regarding his efforts, but the film's soundtrack featured such hits as "Love on the Rocks" and "America." The Jazz Singer album sold more than 5 million copies.
Other artists have also made the charts with their own renditions of Diamond's songs. The British band UB40 hit it big with "Red, Red Wine" in 1983, and Urge Overkill's cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" was featured on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994).
In 1996, Diamond released the album Tennessee Moon, which marked his first foray into country music. He later teamed up with Rick Rubin for 12 Songs (2005), which was heralded as a comeback for Diamond. "They call it a 'comeback.' For me, I never thought that I was away," the artist told Newsweek. While Diamond had not been on the charts in a while, he remained a very popular live act. 12 Songs put him back on the album charts, reaching as high as the No. 4 spot.
In Recent Years
In 2008, Diamond reached the top of the album charts with Home Before Dark, his next effort with Rick Rubin. He even appeared on American Idol to help promote the release. Diamond's musical contributions were honored in 2011, when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He received the Kennedy Center Honor that same year. Diamond had previously been admitted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in the 1980s.
During the making of the 2009 documentary Neil Diamond: Hot August Night NYC, the singer hit it off with producer Katie McNeil, who became his manager and his girlfriend. They married in Los Angeles on April 20, 2012. Diamond had been married twice before and has four children from those marriages.
Diamond continued to record and tour into his seventies. Working with producer Don Was, he released the albums Melody Road in 2014 and Acoustic Christmas in 2016. Melody Road reminded many of his best work from the 1970s, and Diamond took to the road in 2014 and 2015 to support the album.
Retirement from Touring and Parkinson's Diagnosis
On January 22, 2018, Diamond abruptly announced his retirement from touring due to a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. In the midst of the year-long 50th Anniversary World Tour, he canceled the final leg, scheduled for Australia and New Zealand.
“I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years. My sincerest apologies to everyone who purchased tickets and were planning to come to the upcoming shows," he said in a statement. "My thanks go out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you."
Despite the diagnosis, Diamond said he fully expected to continue writing and recording. He also showed he was not completely through with performing, as he delivered a surprise one-man show for firefighters who were battling Utah's massive Lake Christine Fire that summer.
During the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2020, Diamond took to social media to serenade fans with "Sweet Caroline," with altered lyrics to promote social distancing and smart hygienic practices.
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