Happy Birthday to Neil Diamond, who turns 78 today (January 24th). Diamond shocked fans across the globe last January 22nd when he announced he was retiring from live performances following a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.
Diamond announcement read in part: “It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years. My sincerest apologies to everyone who purchased tickets and were planning to come to the upcoming shows. I plan to remain active in writing, recording and other projects for a long time to come. My thanks goes out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you.”
Prior to that, back in October, he wrapped his massively successful “50 Year Anniversary World Tour” at London's O2 Arena. A planned string of Down Under dates was canceled since his diagnosis. Diamond went on to perform briefly back in October at the Grammy Salute To Music Legends showcase featuring the 2018 recipients of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Before that, Diamond took the stage in June during the 49th Annual Songwriters Hall Of Fame in Manhattan when he received the coveted Johnny Mercer Award.
Neil Diamond is beloved for his string of hits, including such classics as “Cracklin' Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue,” “I Am. . . I Said,” “Cherry Cherry,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Thank The Lord For The Night Time,” “Solitary Man,” “Red, Red Wine,” “Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon,” “Love On The Rocks,” “Hello Again,” and “America,” among many others. Diamond also wrote the Monkees' Number One hit, “I'm A Believer,” as well as other Monkees favorites including the Top Two hit, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” and “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow).”
Released last August was Neil Diamond's Hot August Night III, a live concert DVD/CD Blu-Ray multi-disc set. The collection chronicles Diamond's August 2012 return to L.A.'s famed Greek Theatre, which marked the 40th anniversary celebration of the original multi-platinum-selling Hot August Night album, which was captured live at venue in 1972.
The new set marks the fourth in the Hot August Night series — following the original '72 set, Diamond released Love At The Greek in 1977; Hot August Night II in 1987; and 2009's Hot August Night/NYC: Live from Madison Square Garden. Hot August Night III features 33 Diamond classics including “Sweet Caroline,” “Forever In Blue Jeans,” “Kentucky Woman,” “I Am. . . I Said,” and “America,” among many others.
2016 saw the release of Neil Diamond's fourth holiday album, titled An Acoustic Christmas. Among the yuletide classics featured on the set are “O Holy Night,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” and “Silent Night.” The album was produced by Don Was and Jackknife Lee, who were behind the boards for Diamond's last album, 2014's Top Three set, Melody Road.
In 2013, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, Diamond pledged all the proceeds from the-then recent sales spike of his 1969 hit “Sweet Caroline” to Boston's One Fund. The song, which has been an incredible source of pride and joy for Boston since it became a Fenway tradition over a decade ago, was played in honor of Boston at various games following the tragedy — including the Sox's archrivals, the New York Yankees.
In 2012, Neil Diamond married his co-manager Katie McNeil in Los Angeles. Diamond, who's 30 years older than McNeil, has been married two other times; first in 1963 to his high school sweetheart, Jayne “Posey” Posner, with the couple splitting six years later. Diamond walked down the isle with second wife Marcia Murphey that same year with the couple calling it quits in 1994. Diamond reportedly paid Murphey a whopping $150 million divorce settlement. Both of Diamond's previous marriages produced two children each.
In November 2010, Diamond released the self-produced collection, called Dreams. The album features scaled-back versions of legendary tracks by the Beatles, the Eagles, Bill Withers, Leon Russell, Randy Newman, and even the Monkees, with Diamond covering his own “I'm A Believer.”
Diamond's previous mainstream studio release, 2008's Home Before Dark, debuted at Number One — marking the first time he ever topped the Billboard 200 albums chart.
In 2007 Diamond made news when he revealed that Caroline Kennedy was the inspiration behind his 1969 hit “Sweet Caroline.”
A while back, Neil Diamond said that despite being on and off the charts, and at various times considered out of favor and then hip again, he's comfortable being himself: “We were in rehearsal for the show, and one of my newer musicians sat down next to me while I was watching from the seats. And he finally turned to me and said, 'Do you like being you?' And I, y'know, I thought it was an interesting question. I never thought about it. And I've never really been asked that question before. And I thought for a moment and, y'know, I said to him, 'Hell yeah,' y'know, 'there's no question about it.'”
Neil Diamond told us that he's always been a good sport when some reviewers made fun of his legendary over-the-top stage shirts: “It's an easy way for a reviewer to kind of identify me. It's the only overt thing that I do on stage, and I guess they left an impression. To me, I just put on a shirt, it's beautiful, and it's probably got a few sparkles in it — but it's still exquisitely made. And I think reviewers have really enlarged that legend.”
These days, Diamond feels that for him — and other vintage artists — radio is not necessarily the best option to let fans know he's got a new album out: “Well, there is some radio. I think television has become an even more important venue for me to expose these things at this point in my career. Television, I'd say, is number one now.”
Backstage at his 2012 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which he all but stole the show with a hysterical acceptance speech and undeniably brilliant performance, Neil Diamond explained what the night — and the honor — meant for him: “Oh, it's right up on the top there. It's right up on the top, and y'know, it's got a place of it's own, because being accepted by your peers and by people that you idolize is very, very special. I'm very happy to be part of this whole shindig tonight.”
Diamond admitted that over 60 years after writing his first song, he's still amazed and humbled by the songwriting process: “It's still a mystery to me where and how they come, and I can only look at it after the fact and say, 'I like that,' or, 'That was worthwhile,' and it's kind of a painful experience — just kind of reliving things that you might bury otherwise. I find that these things just come out. They're like dreams, in a way: They come, maybe you write them down, you think about them, you might try to figure them out. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.”
Neil Diamond told us that, for him, songwriting offers a way to express personal thoughts and ideas that he might not say in a more intimate setting: “A lot of things I've said here that I could never really say to someone directly, to another person. It just seems a little easier if I put them into a song form and can kinda hide behind that a little bit, even though I know it's me.''