I Am... I Said

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"I Am... I Said"
Single by Neil Diamond
B-side "Done Too Soon"
Released March 15, 1971
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Pop/Rock
Length 3:32
Label Uni
Writer(s) Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond singles chronology
"Do It"
(1970)
"I Am...I Said"
(1971)
"Done Too Soon"
(1971)

"I Am... I Said" is a song written and recorded by Neil Diamond. Released as a single on March 15, 1971,[1] it was quite successful, at first slowly climbing the charts, then more quickly rising to number 4 on the U.S. pop singles chart by May 1971.[2][3] It fared similarly across the Atlantic, reaching number 4 on the UK pop singles chart as well.[4]

"I Am... I Said" took Diamond four months to compose.[3] One of his most intensely personal efforts, it depicts the singer lost between two worlds:

Well, I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home —
New York's home but it ain't mine no more...

Verses start quietly in a low vocal range, half sung and half spoken, with a soft rock guitar and light strings backing. By the chorus climaxes, the vocals are much louder and higher in pitch, with horns, heavier drums and more strings joining in, but the singer even more uncertain:

I am, I cried!
I am, said I.
And I am lost, and I can't even say why...


Neil Diamond told Mojo magazine July 2008 that this song came from a time he spent in therapy in Los Angeles. He said:

It was consciously an attempt on my part to express what my dreams were about, what my aspirations were about and what I was about. And without any question, it came from my sessions with the analyst.[5]

In the same month, he told Q that the song was written "to find [him]self" and added,

It's a tough thing for me to gather myself after singing that song.

"I Am... I Said" was later included on Diamond's November 1971 album Stones. The single version leads off the LP, while a reprise of the song, taken from midway to a variant ending with Diamond exclaiming "I am!", concludes.[6]

Critical opinion on "I Am... I Said" has generally been good, with Rolling Stone calling its lyric excellent in a 1972 review,[6] while The New Yorker used it to exemplify Diamond's songwriting opaqueness in a 2006 retrospective.[7] A 2008 Diamond profile in The Daily Telegraph simply referred to the song's "raging existential angst,"[8] and Allmusic calls it "an impassioned statement of emotional turmoil... very much in tune with the confessional singer/songwriter movement of the time."[1]

The song never went without its detractors however. Journalist Dave Barry says that the inspiration to write his Book Of Bad Songs came from one newspaper column he had written regarding songs he didn't particularly care for, which generated such an incredible response that he knew he had tapped into a nerve. The catalyst of all of this was none other than Neil Diamond. Dave writes:

It would not trouble me if the radio totally ceased playing ballad-style songs by Neil Diamond. I realize that many of you are huge Neil Diamond fans, so let me stress that, in matters of musical taste, everybody is entitled to an opinion, and yours is wrong.

He goes on to say:

Consider the song 'I Am, I Said,' wherein Neil, with great emotion, sings: 'I am, I said, to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair.' What kind of line is that? Is Neil telling us he's surprised that the chair didn't hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, 'Whoa, I heard that!' My guess is that Neil was really desperate to come up with something to rhyme with 'there' and he had already rejected 'So I ate a pear,' 'Like Smokey The Bear,' and 'There were nits in my hair.'"

The response of hate-mail was so overwhelming that he combined them all into one all-purpose-irate-Neil Diamond-fan hate letter, beginning "Dear Pukenose..." When all was said and done, he had to write a public apology to all the Neil Diamond fans he offended:

Please stop writing! You have convinced me! Neil is a music god! I worship Neil on a daily basis at a tasteful shrine to him erected in my living room! I love ALL the songs Neil sang to us! Not to mention all the songs he brang to us![9]

The song garnered Diamond his first Grammy Awards nomination, for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.[1]

"I Am... I Said" has been included in live versions on Diamond's Hot August Night (from 1972, in a performance that Rolling Stone would later label "fantastically overwrought"[10]) and The Greatest Hits: 1966-1992 (from 1992), as well as in various compilations.

Brooke White performed the song on American Idol's seventh season during its Neil Diamond week,[11] changing the lyric to replace New York City with her home state of Arizona.[11] Among the foreign versions are the Italian language "La casa degli angeli" ("House of the angels"), performed by Caterina Caselli in 1971.[12] and by Dutchman Jan Rot on his 2008 album Hallelujah as "Zeg God... zeg ik", taking the title as someone who curses, while the Jewish word for God means 'I am'. The Brazilian singer Diana recorded the song as "Porque Brigamos" (Why we argue) in 1972, with lyrics written by the composer and producer Rossini Pinto. The band Killdozer also covered the song on their 1987 album Little Baby Buntin'. Austrian singer Udo Wenders released a german version titled "Die Welt von heut" (The world of today) on his 2012 album Ich finde dich.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c William Ruhlmann. "Neil Diamond: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1983). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: 1955 to present. Billboard Publications. p. 88. ISBN 0-8230-7511-7. 
  3. ^ a b Jackson, Laura (2005). Neil Diamond: His Life, His Music, His Passion. ECW Press. pp. 80–81. ISBN 1-55022-707-6. 
  4. ^ "Neil Diamond search results". everyHit.com. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  5. ^ http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=11835
  6. ^ a b Gambaccini, Paul (1972-01-20). "Neil Diamond: Stones". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  7. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2006-01-16). "Hello, Again". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  8. ^ McCormick, Neil (2008-03-05). "Neil Diamond: the hurt, the dirt, the shirts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  9. ^ http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=11835
  10. ^ Epstein, Dan (2005-11-03). "Neil Diamonds' Jewels". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  11. ^ a b Weiss, Joanna (2008-04-29). "'Idol:' Loose Diamonds". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  12. ^ Grignano, Augusta. "Caterina Caselli" (in Italian). IT: La voce delle donne. Retrieved 2008-05-16.