Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24: Neil Diamond- "Sweet Caroline," "I Am, I Said" - is 73-years-old today.

Neil Leslie Diamond scored a number of hits worldwide in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Diamond has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, including more than 50 million records in the U.S.  According to Billboard, he is the third most successful Adult Contemporary artist ever, ranking behind only Barbra Streisand and Elton John.

Though his record sales declined somewhat after the 1980s, Diamond continues to tour successfully, and maintains a very loyal following. Diamond's songs have been recorded by a vast array of performers from many different musical genres.

Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, in 2000 received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

Diamond is known for wearing colourful sequin-adorned shirts in concert. Diamond has said that this was originally done out of necessity, so everyone in the audience could see him without the aid of binoculars.
Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, and sang in the All City choir with Barbra Streisand.  At Lincoln High School, he was a member of the fencing team. He later attended NYU on a fencing scholarship, specializing in épée, and was a member of the 1960 NCAA men's championship team; into his adult life he maintained his swordsmanship skills and continued to warm up with fencing exercises before his concerts.

He had hoped to become a laboratory biologist and find a cure for cancer. However, during his senior year in NYU, a music publishing company offered Neil $50 a week to write songs, and he accepted.

Diamond’s first recording contract was billed as "Neil and Jack," an Everly Brothers-type duo comprising Diamond and high school friend Jack Packer (Jack Parker). They recorded two unsuccessful singles, "You Are My Love At Last" b/w "What Will I Do" and "I'm Afraid" b/w "Till You've Tried Love," both released in 1962.

Later in 1962, Diamond signed with Columbia Records as a solo performer. Columbia Records released the single "At Night" b/w "Clown Town" in July, 1963. The record failed to make the music charts and Columbia dropped Diamond. Soon after, Diamond was back to writing songs on an upright piano above the Birdland Club in New York City.

His first success as a songwriter came in November, 1965, with "Sunday and Me," a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans. Greater success followed with "I'm a Believer," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," and "Love to Love," all by the Monkees. "I'm a Believer" was the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966.

Other notable artists who recorded early Neil Diamond songs were Elvis Presley, who interpreted “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"; the English hard-rock band Deep Purple, which interpreted “Kentucky Woman”; Lulu, who covered “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.”

In 1966 Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns's Bang Records, then a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. His first release on that label, "Solitary Man," became his first hit.

Prior to the release of "Solitary Man," Neil had considered using a stage name; he came up with two possibilities, "Noah Kaminsky" and "Eice Chary". But when asked by Bang Records which name he should use, Noah, Eice, or Neil, he thought of his grandmother, who died prior to the release of "Solitary Man." Thus he told Bang, ."..go with Neil Diamond and I'll figure it out later."

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

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Neil Diamond - The Greatest Hits (1966-1992)

Diamond later followed with "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time," "Do It," and others. Diamond's Bang recordings were produced by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, both of whom can be heard singing background on many of the tracks.

After Diamond  signed a deal with the MCA Records label in 1970 he moved to Los Angeles. His sound mellowed, with such songs as "Sweet Caroline," "Holly Holy," "'Cracklin' Rosie," and the country-tinged "Song Sung Blue," the last two reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100. "Sweet Caroline" was Diamond's first major hit after his slump.

Diamond admitted in 2007 that he had written "Sweet Caroline" for Caroline Kennedy after seeing her on the cover of Life Magazine in an equestrian riding outfit. It took him just one hour, in a Memphis hotel, to write and compose it. The 1971 release "I Am...I Said" was a Top 5 hit in both the U.S. and UK, and was his most intensely personal effort to date, taking upwards of four months to complete.
Diamond’s record sales slumped somewhat in the 1980s and 1990s, his last single to make the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart coming in 1986.

The 1990s and 2000s saw a resurgence in Diamond’s popularity. “Sweet Caroline” became a popular sing-along at sporting events, starting with Boston College football and basketball games. Most notably it is the theme song for Red Sox Nation, the fans of the Boston Red Sox, although Diamond noted that he has been a lifelong fan of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. The song is also played during the 8th inning of every New York Mets home game and at Washington Nationals home games. The New York Rangers have also adapted it as their own, and play it when they are winning at the end of the 3rd period. The Pitt Panthers football team also plays it after the third quarter of all home games.

 Diamond became an inducteee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame March 14, 2011 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City along with Alice Cooper, Darlene Love, Dr. John, and Tom Waits.
"The Very Best of Neil Diamond", a compilation CD of Diamond's 23 studio recordings from the Bang, UNI/MCA, & Columbia catalogs was released on December 6, 2011 on the Sony Legacy label.
For more infomation about Neil, visit his Website at - 

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