"My voice is unadorned. I don't try for perfection. I try to be honest and truthful and soulful with the voice I have. If I make mistakes in notes, or there are cracks in notes, I don't fix them. That's the way it is." Neil Diamond
Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Neil Diamond penned hits for pop groups like “The Monkees”' ("I'm a Believer") before releasing such hits as "Solitary Man" (1966), "Cherry, Cherry" (1966), "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" (1967), "Kentucky Woman" (1967), "Red, Red Wine" (1968), "Sweet Caroline" (1969), "Shilo" (1970), "Cracklin' Rosie" (1970), "Song Sung Blue" (1974), "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" (with Barbra Streisand; 1978), "Love on the Rocks" (1980), "America" (1981), and "Heartlight" (1982).
He has released a handful of studio, live, and compilations albums. His most recent release is "Home Before Dark" (2008), which became his first U.S. number-one album ever on the Billboard 200 chart and rose to number one on the U.K. Album Chart. At the age of 67, Diamond is the oldest performer to have a number one record.
“I'm not there to entertain people. We're there to do something together.” Neil Diamond
Having been a pop music star since the mid-1960s, Diamond's songs have been covered by such artists as The Hollies, Elvis Presley, Cher, and UB40. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and in 2000, received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007, Diamond was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
This 5' 11" musician is also an occasional actor and has starred in the musical remake of the 1927 classic, "The Jazz Singer" (1980). He has been married twice and has two sons and two daughters.
Childhood and Family:
“Brooklyn is not the easiest place to grow up in, although I wouldn't change that experience for anything.” Neil Diamond
Son of a dry-goods merchant, Neil Leslie Diamond was born on January 24, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York, into a Jewish Russian-Polish family. After attending Erasmus Hall, where he took part in SING! and sang in the school choir with Barbra Streisand, and Abraham Lincoln High Schools, where he was a member of the fencing team, Diamond went to NYU on a fencing scholarship.
“Fencing made me feel for the first time like a winner.” Neil Diamond
Diamond, who was interested in Biology, was a pre-med student at NYU, but left within a year due to his dislike of organic chemistry. Later, on May 27, 2006, Diamond was given an Honorary Doctorate from San Francisco State University (SFSU).
In 1963, Diamond married school teacher Jaye Posner and they have two daughters, Elyn and Marjorie Diamond. They divorced on November 25, 1969, and Diamond married Marcia Murphey on December 5, 1969. The couple has two sons, Jesse and Micah Diamond. Diamond is the father-in-law of actress Sheryl Lee (born on April 22, 1967), who is married to Jesse and has one child with him. In 1979, Diamond had a tumor surgically removed from his spine and was wheelchair-bound for three months.
Diamond and Murphey divorced in March 1995 and Diamond was forced to pay $150,000,000 to Murphey in their divorce settlement. This holds the record as the most expensive divorce in history.
"It's very difficult for me to say 'I love you' but to sing 'I love you' for me is easier." Neil Diamond
Since 1996, Diamond has been involved with Brisbane, Australia, native Rachel Farley, whom he met during his 1996 Australian tour.
Home Before Dark
"Because my musical training has been limited, I've never been restricted by what technical musicians might call a song." Neil Diamond
Initially planning to become a laboratory biologist, Neil Diamond left his pre-med studies at NYU to write songs for a music publishing company. After signing with the Columbia Records label in 1962 as a solo performer, Diamond released the single "At Night" in July 1963. The single failed to make the music charts and Diamond was soon dropped from the label. He then returned to writing songs and spent his early career as a writer in the Brill Building.
In November 1965, Diamond's first success as a songwriter came when his song "Sunday and Me" was performed by Jay and the Americans and became a top 20 hit on the Billboard Charts. He went on to write more successful songs, including "I'm a Believer" (hit the number one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 31, 1966), "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (#1 on the U.S. Cashbox charts and #2 on the Billboard charts), "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," and "Love to Love," which were all recorded by the pop-rock quartet “The Monkees.”
Signing a deal with the Bert Berns' Bang Records label in 1966, Diamond scored his first hit with his debut single as a recording artist, "Solitary Man," which climbed to #55 on the U.S. pop singles chart. The song would later be covered by famous Italian singer Gianni Morandi, rock musician Chris Isaak, and country singer Johnny Cash, who won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance with the cover song.
“After four years of Freudian analysis I realized I had written ‘Solitary Man’ about myself.” Neil Diamond
Diamond released another hit single, "Cherry, Cherry," which rose to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was hailed as "one of the greatest three-chord songs of all time" by Rolling Stone. In 1973, a live recording of the song was issued as a 45 single from Diamond’s live album “Hot August Night.” The live version hit #24 on the Cash Box magazine chart and #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Both "Solitary Man" and "Cherry, Cherry" was featured in Diamond's album, “The Feel of Neil Diamond” (1966).
In the following year, Diamond wrote and recorded "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," which rose to #10 on the U.S. pop singles chart in 1967 and first appeared on his album "Just for You." The song appeared on the 1994 “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack (performed by rock band Urge Overkill) and would later be covered by Cliff Richard (1968), Gary Puckett and the Union Gap (1969), the Biddu Orchestra (1978), and 16 Volt (1998). Also in 1967, Diamond wrote and recorded "Kentucky Woman" as his last hit single for Bang Records. Released in October 1967, it rose to number 22 on the U.S. pop singles chart. The song would later be famously covered by Deep Purple in 1968.
Diamond subsequently wrote and recorded "Red Red Wine" (1968), which was then covered by Tony Tribe and more famously by UB40. Afterward, he wrote and performed the pop song "Sweet Caroline" (1969), which rose to #8 on the U.K. singles chart in 1971. It would later be covered by such artist as Elvis Presley and Anthony Armstrong.
“I already have 'Sweet Caroline.' Most of these people haven't heard 'Hell Yeah' or 'Man of God,' but I see them and they're listening, and that's really all I want.” Neil Diamond
Diamond also wrote and recorded "Holly Holy" (1969), which rose to # 6 on the U.S. pop singles chart and went platinum. The song was later included on Diamond's November 1969 album “Touching You, Touching Me” and included in live versions on “Diamond's Hot August Night” (1972) and “Greatest Hits: 1966-1992” (1992). Diamond wrote and recorded "Shilo" after leaving Bang Records for Uni Records in 1968. It rose to number 24 on the U.S. pop singles chart in spring 1970.
“There's a mystery to writing and you don't really know where most of it comes from.” Neil Diamond
The early 1970s saw Diamond writing and performing "Cracklin' Rosie," which became his first American #1 hit on the U.S. pop singles chart. The song, taken from his album "Tap Root Manuscript," also become Diamond's breakthrough in the U.K., where it topped at #3 on the U.K. Singles Chart in December 1970, and stayed there for four weeks. He also wrote and recorded "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," which was not released until after "The Hollies"' version (in 1969) and is often mistakenly listed as a cover version. The song has been covered by Cher, Donny Hathaway, The Osmonds, Brotherhood of Man, and Olivia Newton-John, among many others.
"I Am...I Said," which was released as a single in March 1971, quickly climbed to number 4 on the U.S. pop singles chart by May 1971 and number 4 on the U.K. pop singles chart. The song earned Diamond his first Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. He went on to write and record "Song Sung Blue" (1972), which became his second #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, after 1970's "Cracklin' Rosie." It was released off his album "Moods," and later appeared on many of Diamond's live and compilation albums. In 1978, he sang a duet with Barbra Streisand in a song that hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," which was written by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman for the ill-fated TV show "All That Glitters." The duo also performed the song during the 1980 Grammy Awards show.
Entering the 1980s, Diamond, who screen-tested for the lead in the movie “Lenny” (1974) and was suggested for the lead role in “Taxi Driver” (1976), starred opposite Lucie Arnaz and Sir Laurence Olivier in the musical remake of the 1927 classic, "The Jazz Singer," which was directed by Richard Fleischer and Sidney J. Furie. His performance in the film was praised and panned. He was nominated for both the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and a Razzie Award for Worst Actor for his role, of which he won the latter. He also produced three hit songs, "America" (aka. "They're Coming To America" or "Coming To America"), "Love on the Rocks," and "Hello Again," but none of which were nominated for an Oscar. "America" would later become the theme song for the Michael Dukakis 1988 Presidential campaign.
In 1982, Diamond recorded "Heartlight," which he co-wrote with Carole Bayer Sager and her then-husband Burt Bacharach. The song that is inspired by the blockbuster movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" rose to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming his eighth top 5 hit. The song also spent four weeks on top of the adult contemporary chart in late 1982. During this time until the 1990s, Diamond's record sales slumped but his concert tours continued to bring in big crowds. In 1984, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was ranked as the most profitable solo performer in 1986 by Billboard magazine.
During the 1990s, Diamond released his sixth studio album in which he covered many classics from movies and famous Brill Building song writers, most notably "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (1993) and "As Time Goes By" (1998). He also released two Christmas albums, the first peaking at number eight on the Billboard’s Album chart.
“I'm lucky. Hard work is the key, but luck plays a part.” Neil Diamond
In the new millennium, Diamond received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. He also released three Gold albums, "Three Chord Opera" (2001), "12 Songs" (2005; re-released in 2006 with a second CD of demos and alternate takes), and "Home Before Dark" (2008). "Home Before Dark" (2008) became his first U.S. number-one album ever on the Billboard 200 chart and rose to number one on the U.K. Album Chart. At the age of 67, Diamond is the oldest performer to have a number one record, beating Bob Dylan in 2006 with his "Modern Times" album that was released when he was 65.
He also released the live album "Stages" in 2003 and a number of compilations: "Essential Neil Diamond" (2001), "Love Songs" (2002), "The Very Best of Neil Diamond" (2002), "Play Me: The Complete Uni/MCA Studio Recordings...Plus!" (2002), "Gold" (2005) and "Neil Diamond - The Best of" (2008). His singles during this period include "You Are the Best Part of Me" (2001), "A Mission of Love" (2001), "Delirious Love" (with Brian Wilson; 2006), and "Pretty Amazing Grace" (2008). In 2007, Diamond was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
“I never expected that I would be doing this for as long as I've been doing it. So looking back and seeing that it's been over 40 years since the first hits makes you think, 'Is there a time that you stop?' But I don't think I'm ever going to stop. It's the only challenge I have left in my life.” Neil Diamond
Sammy Cahn: Lifetime Achievement, 2000
ASCAP: Most Performed Feature Film Standards (for the song "America"), "The Jazz Singer," 1991
Razzie: Worst Actor, "The Jazz Singer," 1981
Grammy: Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," 1974
Golden Globe: Best Original Score, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," 1974