With his steady output of albums and relentless worldwide touring, Diamond is one of most successful adult contemporary performers in the world. As a songwriter, he produces tunes with catchy hooks and simple, unforgettable melodies.
Born: January 24, 1941; Brooklyn, New York
Neil Leslie Diamond was born in Brooklyn,New York, to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Russia and Poland. An erstwhile shopkeeper, Diamond’s father kept the family on the move around Brooklyn’s neighborhoods with a series of stores before attaining middle-class prosperity during Diamond’s teenage years. Diamond attended Erasmus Hall High School, the alma mater of other stars, such as Paul Anka and Barbra Streisand. Dropping out of New York University, Diamond sought his fortune writing pop songs. His most famous song of this era is the Monkees’ version of “I’m a Believer.” The business of popular music was changing, however, and soon Diamond began performing his ownsongs rather than selling them to other acts.He had a number of hits, including two gold records, and he was a soothing alternative to the more anarchic rock and roll of the Woodstock era.
Diamond reached a pinnacle of success in 1972 with ten soldout shows at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. His 1978 duet with Streisand, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” went platinum. Though Diamond’s album sales began to drop off in the mid 1980’s, his tours remained highly successful. In 2005 he grossed seventy-one million dollars, the third highest earner on tour that year. The Music Diamond’s work embodies the pop genre. He began his career in New York City’s Brill Building, writing songs alongside such legends as Carole King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. (Greenwich and Barry later produced Diamond’s first solo albums on the Bang Records label.) Diamond’s songs follow a traditional pop structure of verse-chorus-verse, relying on romantic themes and memorable melodies. From the 1970’s through the 1990’s, these songs were elaborately arranged and performed withembellishments, such as brass and rhythm sections and back-up singers. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. One of Diamond’s best-known hits, “Sweet Caroline,” was recorded a few months after Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show was released in 1969. This was his first album with Uni, the label he signed with after leaving Bang.
“Sweet Caroline” hit number four and was included on the second release of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. The title track, which tells the tale of an itinerant preacher, hit number twenty-two. Diamond originally intended Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show as a concept album, exploring revival meetings, but many of the songs stray from this theme back to Diamond’s common subjects of love found and thwarted and ofmemories of home and youth. Late in 2007, Diamond admitted in an interview that “Sweet Caroline” was inspired by a picture in a magazine of the young Caroline Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy’s daughter. Hot August Night. This live double album was recorded on August 24, 1972, during a ten-day gig at the Greek Theater, and it solidified Diamond’s renown for his live performances.
Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs reviewed it favorably in Rolling Stone, and it went gold less than a month after it was released. The line-up of songs included early classic hits, such as “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry,” and more recent fare from Stones and Moods. Diamond was at the height of his career during these performances in Los Angeles, and the recording captures his passion and his energy, as well as his characteristic mix of orchestration and spontaneity. Beautiful Noise. Beautiful Noise, another platinum record, was notable for being produced by the Band’s Robbie Robertson. The single “If You Know What I Mean” peaked at number eleven on the Billboard charts. Known for making hard-driving Dixie-influenced American rock and roll with his bandmates, Robertson seemed like an odd fit for Diamond’s sometimes corny mainstream pop music.
A connoisseur of songwriting, however, Robertson was able to help Diamond hone his lyrics and his arrangements into perfectly crafted popular songs. This was Diamond’s third album for Columbia Records, and the company spent an unheard-of sum of $450,000 on the production of Beautiful Noise. Twelve Songs. Though Diamond recorded many albums in the 1980’s and 1990’s and continued to reap gigantic profits from his tours, he was often written off as an oldies act or consigned to middle-of-the-road status. After 2001’s Three Chord Opera, he began working on the songs that would eventually form Twelve Songs. He met Rick Rubin, whose career spans cofounding Def Jam Records, deejaying for the Beastie Boys, and cochairing Columbia Records. Diamond teamed with Rubin to produce an album that harked back to the rawness and energy of his earliest recordings. Diamond played guitar in the studio for the first time since the era of Hot August Night. The album debuted at number four, and it received widespread critical acclaim. Musical Legacy Diamond’s impact on popular music is significant. His songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Deep Purple, and Urge Overkill, and he has inspired legions of impersonators and cover bands, such as the steadily popular San Francisco-based Super Diamond.
His greatest accomplishment is transcending genres and time periods to appeal to a fan base made up of all ages. Simple lyrics and common themes sung with sincerity appealed to generations of Americans, and his worldwide fans are no less enthusiastic. Diamond took elements of the music he liked, ranging from the political folk music of Pete Seeger to the pop stylings of his compatriots in the Brill Building, and mixed in elements of other famous songwriters, such as Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, to create a recognizable sound that has endured for decades.