I Am... I Said
|"I Am... I Said"|
|Single by Neil Diamond|
|B-side||"Done Too Soon"|
|Released||March 15, 1971|
|Format||7" 45 RPM|
|Neil Diamond singles chronology|
"I Am... I Said" is a song written and recorded by Neil Diamond. Released as a single on March 15, 1971, 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. It fared similarly across the Atlantic, reaching number 4 on the UK pop singles chart as well.
"I Am... I Said" took Diamond four months to compose. 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.||”|
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.||”|
But Diamond has also given another inspiration for this song: an unsuccessful tryout for a movie about the life and death of the comedian Lenny Bruce. Author David Wild interviewed Diamond for a 2008 book and he discussed how his efforts to channel Lenny Bruce evoked such intense emotions that it led him to spend some time in therapy. 
"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.
Critical opinion on "I Am... I Said" has generally been good, with Rolling Stone calling its lyric excellent in a 1972 review, while The New Yorker used it to exemplify Diamond's songwriting opaqueness in a 2006 retrospective. A 2008 Diamond profile in The Daily Telegraph simply referred to the song's "raging existential angst," and Allmusic calls it "an impassioned statement of emotional turmoil... very much in tune with the confessional singer/songwriter movement of the time."
The song never went without its detractors however. Humorist Dave Barry said:
|“||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.'"||”|
Maybe saying "I Am" meant he was God.
"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") and The Greatest Hits: 1966-1992 (from 1992), as well as in various compilations.
Checkmates, Ltd. released a version of the song on their 1971 album, Life. Brooke White performed the song on American Idol's seventh season during its Neil Diamond week, changing the lyric to replace New York City with her home state of Arizona. Among the foreign versions are the Italian language "La casa degli angeli" ("House of the angels"), performed by Caterina Caselli in 1971. 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. Jamaican reggae singer Mikey Spice, released the album I Am I Said in 2014, under Joe Fraser Records covering this song.
- William Ruhlmann. "Neil Diamond: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- Whitburn, Joel (1983). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: 1955 to present. Billboard Publications. p. 88. ISBN 0-8230-7511-7.
- Jackson, Laura (2005). Neil Diamond: His Life, His Music, His Passion. ECW Press. pp. 80–81. ISBN 1-55022-707-6.
- "Neil Diamond search results". everyHit.com. Archived from the original on October 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- David Wild. He Is . . . I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond. Da Capo Press, 2008, pp. 107-108.
- Gambaccini, Paul (1972-01-20). "Neil Diamond: Stones". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- Frere-Jones, Sasha (2006-01-16). "Hello, Again". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- McCormick, Neil (2008-03-05). "Neil Diamond: the hurt, the dirt, the shirts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
- Epstein, Dan (2005-11-03). "Neil Diamonds' Jewels". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
- Checkmates, Ltd., Life Retrieved January 29, 2016.
- Weiss, Joanna (2008-04-29). "'Idol:' Loose Diamonds". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-05-16.
- Grignano, Augusta. "Caterina Caselli" (in Italian). IT: La voce delle donne. Retrieved 2008-05-16.