Neil Diamond is a guitarist and singer/songwriter from Brooklyn, New York. After a short stint as a Brill Building songwriter, Neil embarked on a solo career with the help of fellow Brill Building veterans Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Starting in 1966, his initial effort, “Solitary Man”, failed to reach the top 40, but his second single, “Cherry, Cherry”, reached #6, beginning an impressive string of hit songs that spanned the late sixties, into the seventies and beyond. His life’s work of simple, earnest songs, sometimes criticized as “not rock and roll enough”, was vindicated as lifelong friend Paul Simon inducted Diamond into the 2011 class of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Neil Diamond (b. 1941), songwriter, singer, guitar
Bert Berns (1929-1967), record producer
Way back when, my friend Beep suggested that “Solitary Man” was a great song. It took me a few years, but ultimately I agreed, and it remains an all-time favorite. One YouTube comment appropriately referred to it as “the introvert’s theme song”. Apparently, it took Neil years to understand that he wrote the song about himself. His first minor key (Em) composition, “Solitary Man” features the simple but memorable use of trumpets and trombones. It was never his most popular song, reaching only #55 on the Billboard pop music charts in 1966. Perhaps there’s limited appeal in a song who eschews romantic love, but that’s a common theme in “high lonesome” country music. Perhaps the subtle greatness of “Solitary Man” required time to prove itself. I love “Solitary Man”, every last little thing about it.
Though not nearly as powerful as the studio recording, here is Neil singing “Solitary Man” in 1971:
The Gospel Of Neil Diamond
In this next video, Neil Diamond sings “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” on the Johnny Cash Show in 1970. The song is an autobiographical experience at a Mississippi tent revival meeting as a young man. Several Neil Diamond songs are testimonials influenced by gospel music.
“Song Sung Blue” reached #1 in 1972, one of his three #1 songs. A fourth chart topper was Neil’s “I’m A Believer”; the Monkees reached #1 for seven straight weeks in late 1966 and early 1967.
Neil’s Love Life
I suspect that Neil struggled at times with love. A high percentage of Neil’s best songs are love songs; from a distance his life appears to revolve around his work and romance. In this revealing article, Neil openly discusses his romantic life, and his personal struggles with love:
Neil’s mid-career includes a few good songs, but they suffer from the production style of popular music common in the late seventies and eighties. But in 2005, Neil rebounded with the stripped down 12 Songs, which features several strong songs. The songwriter finds a second prime in his career.
“I’m On To You”, from the AOL Sessions show in 2005:
This version of “Man Of God” from BBC2 far exceeds the studio version. A distillation of the Neil Diamond style into one song:
Neil Diamond is a prolific songwriter and performer, and it is impossible to review his entire work. I can contribute my lifetime of listening, plus the happy experiences like 12 Songs added to my life. Finding new songs is one reason I enjoy this writing exercise. The four songs added are among my favorite Neil Diamond songs. In the future, somebody will make a hit song from a Neil Diamond composition.
Diamond made a memorable acceptance speech at his Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction. I think it’s fair to suggest his irreverent behavior might reflect a long simmering resentment of the rock and roll community. His music has always been perceived as square, and he as a middle of the road “establishment” performer. So I think that’s Neil’s way of saying “Thanks a lot, and fuck you.”, which is, as they say, very rock and roll.
Neil Diamond Song Notes:
1. “Man Of God (Live)” is recorded from a BBC broadcast found on YouTube.
2. There are three common versions of “Shilo”. My favorite, by far, is the 3:49 version found on Classics: The Early Years. “Shilo (Live)” can be found on Hot August Night.
3. It’s interesting how “Sweet Caroline” became Neil’s most beloved and well-known song. It has become an unofficial theme song for Bostonians, and is played as a singalong during all Boston Red Sox home games. I believe this tradition originates from a scene in the 1996 movie Beautiful Girls.
4. The alternate version of “Solitary Man” can be found on Classics: The Early Years. I bought that album a long time ago.
5. My wife Cheryl’s first memorable concert experience was a Neil Diamond concert at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington. She became a lifelong fan as a result.
Neil Diamond Songs:
Solitary Man, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭✭✭
Solitary Man (Alt), Neil Diamond ✭✭✭✭✭
Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Man Of God (Live), Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
I’m A Believer, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Holly Holy, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
I Am…I Said, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Save Me A Saturday Night, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
I’m On To You, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Shilo, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Cracklin’ Rosie, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Red, Red Wine, Neil Diamond ✭✭✭
Man Of God, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Song Sung Blue, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Kentucky Woman, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Cherry, Cherry, Neil Diamond ✭✭
We, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Play Me, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, Neil Diamond ✭✭
Thank The Lord For The Night Time, Neil Diamond ✭✭
America, Neil Diamond ✭
You Got To Me, Neil Diamond ✭
Forever In Blue Jeans, Neil Diamond ✭
Shilo (Live), Neil Diamond ✭
Two-Bit Manchild, Neil Diamond ✭
Hello Again, Neil Diamond ✭
Walk On Water, Neil Diamond ✭
September Morn, Neil Diamond ✭
I’m A Believer, The Monkees ✭✭✭
I’m A Believer (Alt), The Monkees ✭✭✭
I’m A Believer (Reprise), Eddie Murphy ✭✭
Solitary Man, Chris Isaak ✭✭✭
Solitary Man, Johnny Cash ✭✭✭
Red, Red Wine, UB40 ✭