58. Neil Diamond

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

Long List of Neil Diamond Websites

Bert Berns (1929-1967), record producer

Solitary Man

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 Tells All About His Love Life

12 Songs

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:

Final Thoughts

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’s Bizarre Acceptance Speech

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

Related Songs:

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

5 thoughts on “58. Neil Diamond

  1. R Supan October 26, 2011 / 2:41 PM

    I’m a closet Neil Diamond fan. Bernadette and I went to see him in concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco around 1978-1979 and it was an excellent show. You did put 10 years on Neil (born 1941) in your first line. Good write-up.

    • theperfectipodcollection October 26, 2011 / 5:27 PM

      Hi RS…thanks for finding the typo and reading the essay. I tried to call the other day; will do so soon.

    • Cheryl November 4, 2011 / 3:45 AM

      Rich – out of the closet with you man! Be brave – love Neil and shout it from the rooftop. You’re part of a great group.

  2. Rick October 28, 2011 / 5:43 PM

    I’ve been waiting for this. Neil Diamond was pretty much the defining artist of my early teenage years, and I’m probably more connected to his music than to any other artiist’s. You got it exactly right with Solitary Man; for my money it’s right there with Your Song as one of the best ever written in the genre. An interesting anecdote that I’ve heard, is that when he wrote Solitary Man he had to be convinced to put it out himself, he saw himself as a songwriter, not a perfomer. Without it’s success, modest as it may have been, who knows how things would have turned out?
    Thank you for the great clips. They clearly point out what a great storyteller he is when he’s on stage with a guitar in his hands. I never really got Song Sung Blue, for instance, from the studio version, but your clip really opened my eyes.
    Of course I would have to allocate stars a bit differently, I’m A Believer and I Am…I Said, should get one more!
    And from a musician’s standpoint, I don’t think his Taproot Manuscript album gets quite enough credit. It was at the forefront of the integration of orchestrated arrangements into popular music.
    All in all, well done, I really enjoyed this.

  3. Cheryl November 4, 2011 / 4:06 AM

    My friend, Phyllis introduced me to Neil Diamond in the mid1970s. She told me he was great to clean house to…you can really get the vacuum going back & forth to Cracklin’ Rosie! She was right and even when not cleaning house I was hooked! To this day, every time I hear Neil, I remember Phyllis and I can picture where we were that first time I heard a Neil album.

    It was a perfect stroke of luck that 10 years later Neil Diamond at the newly opened Tacoma Dome was my first concert – ever. We had a friend whose cousin is Doug Rhone – a guitarist in Neil’s band. At that time his band was five members. Doug got us tickets 10th row, center stage. Wow! What an experience that was – slightly embarrassed by the tears streaming down my face (it was my first concert) with Neil’s voice so strong, he was energetic and the experience set the expectation for every concert since.

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