Share this site - Email/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest

Super Seventies RockSite! presents

 Neil Diamond - In His Own Words

Blacklight Bar

A true superstar, Neil has crossed demographic lines for over thirty years with his personal and special songs. He still packs concert halls, makes great records, and maintains his position among the musical elite.

Neil Diamondeil Sedaka had a very big impact on me. My senior year I went to Lincoln High School, and Sedaka was at Lincoln, and he was a professional singer. He had records out and you could hear them on the radio. Back then, you judged yourself against Sedaka.

In the back of my mind, I suppose I thought I could sing well as Sedaka. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the nerve to get together with my friend, Joe Packer, who lived around the corner and was a trained operatic singer. We'd rehearse in my basement and try to be my idols, the Everly Brothers, which is hard to do if you're from Brooklyn.

Neil Diamond's Seventies
Billboard Top 40 Singles

"Shilo"  3/70  #24
"Soolaimon (African Trilogy II)"  5/70  #30
"Solitary Man"  8/70  #21
"Cracklin' Rosie"  8/70  #1
"He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother"  12/70  #36
"I Am... I Said"  4/71  #4
"Stones"  11/71  #14
"Song Sung Blue"  5/72  #1
"Play Me"  9/72  #11
"Walk On Water"  11/72  #17
"Cherry Cherry" (live)  4/73  #31
"Be"  11/73  #34
"Longfellow Seranade"  10/74  #5
"I've Been This Way Before"  3/75  #34
"If You Know What I Mean"  6/76  #11
"Desiree"  12/77  #16
"You Don't Bring Me Flowers" (w/Barbra Streisand)  11/78  #1
"Forever In Blue Jeans"  2/79  #20

After a lot of years of being a nobody writer, I had my first couple of hit records, "Solitary Man" and "Cherry Cherry," and I'd go out on tours. Whatever dates they offered, I took -- bowling alleys, ski lodges, bars in Florida. Anything to get out of Brooklyn.

I don't know how prolific I was, and I haven't always been hot during my career, but when you get your first taste of success, you don't want to drop the ball. And I was intent on not dropping the ball.

So my agent calls me -- he wasn't even my agent, he was a friend of mine -- and he says he's got three dates for me in Florida. He said they'd pay me $750 to go down for the weekend.

"My God," I said, "seven fifty!"

Of course, I didn't figure that the plane was going to cost so much, or that I would have to buy a new suit in Greenwich Village, and a new strap for my guitar. Or that I'd have to go down there and rehearse with a high school band, and then have to carry them around with me to six different locations.

Developing a stage technique during all this was difficult. I'm not a very good mimic. I realized after a few times that I didn't know who I was.

I tried to be Sammy Davis, and soon I realized I wasn't Sammy Davis. I tried Elvis. No, Elvis is very unique, you can't be Elvis. I tried Harry Belafonte.

What I found, of course, was that it just had to be me alone. I realized I couldn't imitate anybody. I had to figure out who I was, and then hope they would like me.

In a sense, I discovered myself on stage, discovered myself as a person. And that's all I've done ever since. Everything I've done on stage since my very early years is development, an enlargement of that whole thing.

I find it very hard to watch what to do as a performer because every couple of seconds I see something I do that I hate. I look terrible, or the shirt is horrible, or I sang that note wrong, or why didn't I direct myself to the audience, or why are my eyes closed.

Still, I remember a lot of performances, and most of the ones I remember are the early ones. I did a show at the Hollywood Bowl in 1966 with about twenty other acts. It had a revolving stage. I walked on -- I didn't know who I was yet -- and I had on a big black cowboy hat, black shirt, black pants, black boots, and black guitar.

I sang the only three songs I knew, my hit record and two songs I learned at summer camp, "La Bamba" and "If I Had a Hammer." Fortunately, they only wanted me to sing three songs.

Neil Diamond

"In a sense, I discovered myself on stage, discovered myself as a person... Everything I've done on stage since my very early years is development, an enlargement of that whole thing."

The band thing was funny. You had twenty minutes to rehearse with them, and twenty seconds before I went, some guy comes up to me and says, "I'm the new bass player. The old guy left." This is the Hollywood Bowl! So I cranked up my guitar very loud and hoped that everybody in the band would start with me and end with me. That was the best I could hope for.

I also remember Broadway, which was more than a little scary. In '68, maybe '69, I played Carnegie Hall, which was a little too early in my career to be playing Carnegie. Although it was sold out, no critics showed up. Not a single critic, which pissed me off and also caused me to fire my PR guy. My wife had taken the train in from California with a sick baby, we stayed in somebody's apartment, and no critics showed up.

Three years later, I had some success under my belt, so I thought I'd come back to town and play the Winter Garden and really kill them.

Neil Diamond's Seventies
Billboard Top 10 Albums

Moods  8/72  #5
Hot August Night  2/73  #5
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Soundtrack)  12/73  #3
Serenade  12/74  #4
Beautiful Noise  7/76  #4
Love At The Greek  4/77  #10
I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight  1/78  #7
You Don't Bring Me Flowers  1/79  #7

There was a certain attachment I had to the Winter Garden because I knew Jolson had played there. I loved him when I was a kid, and I loved his singing. I could feel his ghost there.

Neil Diamond Lyrics
Neil Diamond Videos

Also, West Side Story was at the Winter Garden, it was New York, so there was a sense of that excitement.

So I come back, and I'm at the Winter Garden and my picture is up on a billboard. It was scary, but I think I was probably too dumb to know how I had to act or how really important it was.

Opening night, I came out on the stage, I looked at the audience and they didn't look like a regular audience to me. They looked older, they looked like people who were there to stare as opposed to participate. So I said to the audience -- my first remarks -- I said, "Hello, my name is Neil Diamond and I intend to own you tonight."

There was a gasp from the crowd, an audible gasp. You don't own these people. It was not the right foot to start out on. I should have been a little more humble and said, "Love me," or something.

Well, they gasped and I heard it, so I said, "I'll settle for a long-term lease." There were some laughs, and we went into the show.

It took me a while to recuperate from that line. About half way through the show I started kibbitzing with somebody in the audience. Some girl started yelling requests. It was a small theater, and I had this whole conversation with her. She was just going on, and finally I said, "These Jewish girls are just impossible to control."

And she yells out from back, "I'm not Jewish." The audience fell down, and that broke the ice. I was actually saved by a shiksa for the first time in my life. 

 Reader's Comments

No comments so far, be the first to comment.

Check out the
Neil Diamond
section at
or CD Universe!

Singer Icon  Main Page | Seventies Superstars | The Classic 500 | Seventies Almanac | Search The RockSite/The Web