Diamond at a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in August 2012
|Birth name||Neil Leslie Diamond|
January 24, 1941 |
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter and musician with a career that began in the 1960s. Diamond has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists of all time. He is the second most successful adult contemporary artist ever on the Billboard charts. His songs have been covered internationally by many performers from various musical genres.
Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Additionally, he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and in 2011 was an honoree at Kennedy Center. On the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, he has had eleven No. 1 singles: "Cracklin' Rosie", "Song Sung Blue", "Longfellow Serenade", "I've Been This Way Before", "If You Know What I Mean", "Desiree", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", "America", "Yesterday's Songs", "Heartlight" and "I'm a Believer". "Sweet Caroline" is played frequently at sporting events, and has become an anthem for the Boston Red Sox.
Early life and education
Neil Leslie Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. His parents were Rose (née Rapaport) and Akeeba "Kieve" Diamond, a dry-goods merchant. He grew up in several homes in Brooklyn, having also spent four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where his father was stationed in the army. In Brooklyn he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club along with classmate Barbra Streisand.:155 They were not close friends at the time, Diamond recalls: "We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes." After his family moved he then attended Abraham Lincoln High School, and was a member of the fencing team. For his 16th birthday, he received his first guitar.
When he was 16, and still in high school, Diamond spent a number of weeks at Surprise Lake Camp,:21 a camp for Jewish children in upstate New York, when folk singer Pete Seeger performed a small concert. Seeing the widely recognized singer perform, and watching other children singing songs for Seeger that they wrote themselves, had an immediate effect on Diamond, who then became aware of the possibility of writing his own songs. "And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs," he said. He adds that his attraction to songwriting was the "first real interest" he had growing up, besides helping him release his youthful "frustrations."
He used his newly-developing skill at writing lyrics to also write poetry. By writing poems for girls he was attracted to in school, he soon learned it often won their hearts. His male classmates took note and began asking him to write poems for them which they would sign and use with equal success.:10 He spent the summer following his graduation as a waiter in the Catskills resort area. There he met Jaye Posner, who would years later become his wife.:26
Diamond next attended New York University as a pre-med major on a fencing scholarship.[note 1] His skill at fencing made him a member of the 1960 NCAA men's championship team. However, he was often bored in classes, and found writing song lyrics more to his liking. He began cutting classes and taking the train up to Tin Pan Alley where he tried to get some of his songs heard by local music publishers. By his senior year, and just 10 units short of graduating, Sunbeam Music Publishing offered him a 16-week job writing songs for $50 a week, and he dropped out of college to accept it.[note 2] Later in his career he said, "If this darn songwriting thing hadn't come up, I would have been a doctor now.":26
After his 16 weeks at Sunbeam Music were up, he was not rehired and then began writing and singing his own songs for demo purposes. "I never really chose songwriting," he says. "It just absorbed me and became more and more important in my life."
Diamond's first recording contract was billed as "Neil and Jack," an Everly Brothers-type duo comprising Diamond and high school friend Jack Parker. They recorded two unsuccessful singles: "You Are My Love At Last" b/w "What Will I Do" and "I'm Afraid" b/w "Till You've Tried Love," both released in 1962. Later in 1962, Diamond signed with the Columbia Records label as a solo performer. Columbia released the single "At Night" b/w "Clown Town" in July 1963, which Billboard gave an excellent review, but still failed to chart. Columbia dropped him from their label and he was back to writing songs, in and out of publishing houses for the next seven years.
He did songwriting wherever he could, including on buses, and used an upright piano above the Birdland Club in New York City. One of the causes of this early nomadic life as a songwriter was due to his songs having too many words: "I'd spent a lot of time on lyrics, and they were looking for hooks, and I didn't really understand the nature of that," he says. During those lean years, he was only able to sell about one song a week, barely enough to survive on. He found himself only earning enough to spend 35 cents a day on food. However, the privacy he had above the Birdland Club allowed him to focus on writing without distractions: "Something new began to happen," he says. "I wasn't under the gun, and suddenly interesting songs began to happen, songs that had things none of the others did." Among them were "Cherry, Cherry" and "Solitary Man."
Diamond spent his early career as a songwriter in the Brill Building. His first success as a songwriter came in November 1965, with "Sunday and Me," a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans. Greater success as a writer followed with "I'm a Believer," "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," and "Love to Love," all performed by the Monkees. There is a popular misconception that he wrote and composed these songs specifically for the band; Diamond had actually written, composed, and recorded them for himself, but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence was that Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. "I'm a Believer" was the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966.
"And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind" brought covers from Elvis Presley (who also interpreted "Sweet Caroline") and Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for Paul Revere & the Raiders. Other notable artists who recorded his early songs were the English hard-rock band Deep Purple, who interpreted "Kentucky Woman;" Lulu, who covered "The Boat That I Row"; and Cliff Richard, who released versions of "I'll Come Running", "Solitary Man", "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", "I Got the Feelin' (Oh No No)", and "Just Another Guy."
In 1966, Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns's Bang Records, then a subsidiary of Atlantic. His first release on that label, "Solitary Man", became his first true hit as a solo artist. Prior to the release of "Solitary Man," he had considered using a stage name; he came up with two possibilities, "Noah Kaminsky" and "Eice Charry." But when asked by Bang Records which name to use--Noah, Eice, or Neil--he thought of his grandmother, who had died prior to the release of "Solitary Man," and told Bang: "...go with 'Neil Diamond' and I'll figure it out later." He never did, and his real name remained the identity by which he became known. Diamond later followed with "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time," "Do It," and others. Diamond's Bang recordings were produced by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, both of whom can be heard singing background on many of the tracks.
His early concerts saw him as a "special guest" of, or opening for, everyone from Herman's Hermits to, on one occasion, the Who, which he confirmed on an installment of VH1's documentary series program Behind the Music.
Unfortunately, Diamond began to feel restricted by Bang Records. He wanted to record more ambitious, introspective music, like his autobiographical "Brooklyn Roads" from 1968. Finding a loophole in his contract, he tried to sign with a new label, but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a dip in his professional success. He eventually triumphed in court, and secured ownership of his Bang-era master recordings in 1977.
After Diamond had signed a deal in 1968 with Uni Records (named after Universal Pictures, whose owner, MCA Inc., later consolidated its labels into MCA Records), he moved to Los Angeles in 1970. After "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show" in February 1969, his sound mellowed, with such songs as "Sweet Caroline" (1969), "Holly Holy" (1969), "Cracklin' Rosie" (1970) and "Song Sung Blue" (1972), the last two reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100. "Sweet Caroline" was Diamond's first major hit after his slump. Diamond stated in 2007 that he had written "Sweet Caroline" for Caroline Kennedy after seeing her on the cover of Life in an equestrian riding outfit. However, in 2014, he said in an interview on the Today Show that it was written for his wife, Marcia. He could not find a good rhyme with the name "Marcia," and therefore used the name Caroline. It took him just one hour, in a Memphis hotel, to write and compose it. The 1971 release "I Am...I Said" was a Top 5 hit in both the US and UK and was his most intensely personal effort to date, taking upwards of four months to complete.
In 1972, Diamond played 10 sold-out concerts at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The August 24 performance was recorded and released as the live double album Hot August Night, drawing its title from the opening words of "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show." That fall Diamond appeared over 20 consecutive nights at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City; the small (approximately 1,600-seat) Broadway venue provided an intimate concert setting not common at the time. Reportedly, every performance was a sellout.
Hot August Night demonstrates Diamond's skills as a performer and showman, as he reinvigorated his back catalogue of hits with new energy. Many consider it his best work; critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Hot August Night "the ultimate Neil Diamond record... [which] shows Diamond the icon in full glory."
The album became a classic, and was remastered in 2000 with three additional selections: "Walk on Water," "Kentucky Woman," and "Stones." In Australia, the album spent a remarkable 29 weeks at No. 1; in 2006, it was voted No. 16 in a poll of favourite albums of all time in Australia. Also, Diamond's final concert of his 1976 Australian Tour (The "Thank You Australia" Concert) was broadcast to 36 television outlets nationwide on March 6. It also set a record for the largest attendance at the Sydney Sports Ground. The 1976 concert, Love at the Greek, a return to the Greek Theatre, includes a version of "Song Sung Blue" with duets with Helen Reddy and Henry Winkler, a.k.a. Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli of Happy Days.
He began wearing colorful beaded shirts in concert, originally out of necessity so everyone in the audience could see him without the aid of binoculars. Bill Whitten designed and made the shirts for Diamond from the 1970s until about 2007.
In 1973, Diamond switched labels again, returning to Columbia Records for a million-dollar-advance-per-album contract. His first project, released as a solo album, was the soundtrack to Hall Bartlett's film version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The film received hostile reviews, did poorly at the box office and the album grossed more than the film did. Richard Bach, author of the best-selling source story, disowned the film and both he and Diamond sued director Bartlett, albeit for differing reasons; in Bach's case, it was because he felt the film omitted too much from the original novella whereas in Diamond's case, it was because he felt the film had butchered his score. "After Jonathan," Diamond declared, "I vowed never to get involved in a movie again unless I had complete control." Bartlett angrily responded to Diamond's lawsuit by criticizing his music as having become "too slick...and it's not as much from his heart as it used to be." However, Bartlett also added, "Neil is extraordinarily talented. Often his arrogance is just a cover for the lonely and insecure person underneath."
Despite the controversy surrounding the film, the soundtrack was a success, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart. Diamond would also garner a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture. From there, Diamond would often include a Jonathan Livingston Seagull suite in his live performances, as he did in his 1976 "Love at the Greek" concert and for his show in Las Vegas that same year.
In 1974, Diamond released the album Serenade, from which "Longfellow Serenade" and "I've Been This Way Before" were issued as singles. The latter had been intended for the Jonathan Livingston Seagull score, but Diamond had completed it too late for inclusion in the same.
In 1976, he released Beautiful Noise (album), produced by Robbie Robertson of The Band. On Thanksgiving night, 1976, Diamond made an appearance at The Band's farewell concert, The Last Waltz, performing "Dry Your Eyes," which he had written and composed jointly with Robertson, and which had appeared on Beautiful Noise. He also joined the rest of the performers onstage at the end in a rendition of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."
Diamond was paid $650,000 from the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, to open their new $10 million Theater For the Performing Arts on July 2, 1976. The show played through July 5, 1976, and drew sold out crowds for the 7,500 seat theater. a "who's who" of Hollywood attended opening night, ranging from Elizabeth Taylor to Chevy Chase, with Diamond walking out on stage to a standing ovation. He opened the show without music, but rather a story about an ex-girlfriend who dumped him before he became successful. His lead in line to the first song of the evening was, "You may have dumped me a bit too soon baby, because look who's standing here tonight."
He performed at Woburn Abbey on July 2, 1977, to an audience of 55,000 British fans. The concert and interviews were taped by film director William Friedkin, who used six cameras to capture the performance.
In 1977, Diamond released I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight, including "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," for which he composed the music and on the writing of whose lyrics he collaborated with Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. Barbra Streisand covered the song on her Songbird album, and later, a Diamond-Streisand duet, spurred by the success of radio mash-ups, was recorded. That version hit No. 1 in 1978, his third song to top the Hot 100. They appeared unannounced for the Grammy awards ceremony in 1980, where they performed a duet of the song to a surprised audience.
His last 1970s album was September Morn, which included a new version of "I'm a Believer." It and "Red Red Wine" are his best-known original songs made more famous by other artists. In February 1979, the uptempo "Forever in Blue Jeans," co-written with his guitarist, Richard Bennett, was released as a single from You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Diamond's album from the previous year.
In 1979, Diamond had collapsed on stage in San Francisco and was taken to the hospital where he endured a twelve-hour operation to remove what turned out to be a tumor on his spine. He said he had been losing feeling in his right leg "for a number of years but ignored it." When he collapsed, he had no strength in either leg. He underwent a long rehabilitation process just prior to beginning principal photography for his film The Jazz Singer (1980). He was so convinced he was going to die that he even wrote farewell letters to his friends.
A planned film version of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" to star Diamond and Streisand fell through when Diamond instead starred in a 1980 remake of the Al Jolson classic The Jazz Singer (1980), alongside Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. Though the movie received poor reviews, the soundtrack spawned three Top 10 singles, "Love on the Rocks," "Hello Again," and "America," which had emotional significance for Diamond. "'America' was the story of my grandparents," he told an interviewer. "It's my gift to them, and it's very real for me. . . In a way, it speaks to the immigrant in all of us.":89 The song was performed by Diamond during the finale of the film.
The song was also the one he was most proud of, partly because of when it was later used: National news shows played it when the hostages were shown returning home after the Iran hostage crisis ended; it was played on the air during the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty; and at the tribute to Martin Luther King and the Vietnam Vets Welcome Home concert, he was asked to perform it live. At the time, a national poll found the song to be the number-one most recognized song about America, more than "God Bless America."
The failure of the film was due in part to Diamond never having acted professionally until this, his first attempt. "I didn't think I could handle it," he said later, seeing himself as a "a fish out of water.":85 For his role in the film, Diamond became the first-ever winner of a Worst Actor Razzie Award, even though he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the same role. Critic David Wild, nevertheless, noted that the film showed that Diamond was open about his religion: "Who else but this Jewish Elvis could go multi-platinum with an album that featured a version of "Kol Nidre"? Diamond later told the Los Angeles Times, "For me, this was the ultimate bar mitzvah.":85
Another Top 10 selection, "Heartlight," was inspired by the blockbuster 1982 movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Though the film's title character is never mentioned in the lyrics, Universal Pictures, which had released E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and was the parent company of the Uni Records label, by then referred to as the MCA Records label, for which Diamond had recorded for years, briefly threatened legal action against both Diamond and Columbia Records.
Diamond's record sales slumped somewhat in the 1980s and 1990s, his last single to make the Billboard's Pop Singles chart coming in 1986. However, his concert tours continued to be big draws. Billboard magazine ranked Diamond as the most profitable solo performer of 1986. He released his 17th studio album in 1986, Headed for the Future, which reached number 20 on the Billboard 200 rank. Three weeks later he starred in Hello Again, his first television special in nine years, where he performed comedy sketches and sang a duo medley with Carol Burnett.
In January 1987, Diamond sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. His "America" became the theme song for the Michael Dukakis 1988 presidential campaign. That same year, UB40's reggae interpretation of Diamond's ballad "Red Red Wine" would top the Billboard's Pop Singles chart and, like the Monkees's version of "I'm a Believer," become better known than Diamond's original version.
During the 1990s, Diamond produced six studio albums. He covered many classics from the movies and from famous Brill Building-era songwriters. He also released two Christmas albums, the first of which peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard's Album chart. Keeping his songwriting skills honed, Diamond also recorded two albums of mostly new material during this period. In 1992, he performed for President George H.W. Bush's final Christmas in Washington NBC special. In 1993, Diamond opened the Mark of the Quad Cities (now the iWireless Center) with two shows on May 27 and 28 to a crowd of 27,000-plus.
The 1990s also saw a resurgence in Diamond's popularity. "Sweet Caroline" became a popular sing-along at sporting events, starting with Boston College football and basketball games. Most notably it became the theme song for Red Sox Nation, the fans of the Boston Red Sox, although Diamond noted that he has been a lifelong fan of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. Red Sox executive vice-president Dr. Charles Steinberg noted that the song entertains, engages, and with fan participation, the energy in the park changes. The song is also played during the 8th inning of every New York Mets home game.
The New York Rangers have also adapted it as their own, and play it when they are winning at the end of the 3rd period. The Pitt Panthers football team also plays it after the third quarter of all home games, with the crowd cheering, "Let's go Pitt." The Carolina Panthers play it at the end of each home game when they win. The Davidson College pep band plays it at every Davidson Wildcats men's basketball home games, in the second half.
12 Songs, produced by Rick Rubin, was released on November 8, 2005, in two editions: a standard 12-song release, and a special edition with two bonus tracks, including one featuring backing vocals by Brian Wilson. The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard chart, and received generally positive reviews; Earliwine describes the album as "inarguably Neil Diamond's best set of songs in a long, long time." 12 Songs also became noteworthy as one of the last albums to be pressed and released by Sony BMG with the Extended Copy Protection software embedded in the disc. (See the 2005 Sony BMG CD copy protection scandal.)
On March 19, 2008, it was announced on the television show American Idol that Diamond would be a guest mentor to the remaining Idol contestants who would be singing Diamond songs for the broadcasts of April 29 and 30, 2008. on the April 30th broadcast, Diamond premiered a new song, "Pretty Amazing Grace," from his album Home Before Dark. On May 2, 2008, Sirius Satellite Radio started Neil Diamond Radio. On April 8, 2008, Diamond made a surprise announcement in a big-screen broadcast at Fenway Park, that he would be appearing there "live in concert" on August 23, 2008, as part of his world tour. The announcement, which marked the first official confirmation of any 2008 concert dates in the US, came during the traditional eighth-inning sing-along of his "Sweet Caroline," which has become an anthem for Boston fans.
On April 28, 2008, Diamond appeared on the roof of the Jimmy Kimmel building to sing "Sweet Caroline" after Kimmel was jokingly arrested trying to sing the song dressed up as a Diamond impersonator.
Home Before Dark was released May 6, 2008, and topped the album charts in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
On June 29, 2008, Diamond played to an estimated 108,000 fans at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England. In August Diamond allowed cameras to record his entire four-night run at New York's Madison Square Garden and released it in the United States on August 14, 2009, on DVD, one year to the day of the first concert. Hot August Night/NYC debuted at No. 2 on the charts. On the same day the DVD was released, CBS aired an edited version of the DVD, which won the ratings hour with 13 million viewers. The next day, the sales of the DVD surged and prompted Sony to order more copies to meet the high demand.
On August 25, 2008, Diamond performed at Ohio State University while suffering from laryngitis. The result disappointed him as well as his fans, and on August 26, he offered refunds to anyone who applied by September 5.
Long loved in Boston, Diamond was invited to sing at the July 4, 2009 holiday celebration.
On October 13, 2009, he released A Cherry Cherry Christmas, his third album of holiday music.
On November 2, 2010, he released the album Dreams, a collection of 14 interpretations of his favorite songs by artists from the rock era. The album also included a new slow-tempo arrangement on his own song, "I'm a Believer." In December, he performed a track from the album, Ain't No Sunshine on NBC's The Sing-Off with Committed and Street Corner Symphony, two a cappella groups featured on the show. The Very Best of Neil Diamond, a compilation CD of Diamond's 23 studio recordings from the Bang, UNI/MCA, & Columbia catalogs was released on December 6, 2011, on the Sony Legacy label.
2011 and 2012 were marked by several milestones in Diamond's career. On March 14, 2011 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. In December he received a lifetime achievement award from the Kennedy Center at the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors. On August 10, 2012, Diamond received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In November 2012, Diamond topped the bill in the centenary edition of the Royal Variety Performance in the UK (broadcast on December 3) He also appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
On April 20, 2013, Diamond made an unannounced appearance at Fenway Park to sing "Sweet Caroline" during the 8th inning. It was the first game at Fenway since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. On July 2, he released the single "Freedom Song (They'll Never Take Us Down)," with 100% of the purchase price benefiting One Fund Boston and the Wounded Warrior Project. Sporting a beard, Diamond performed live on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as part of A Capitol Fourth, which was broadcast nationally by PBS on July 4, 2013.
In January 2014, it was confirmed that Diamond had signed with the Capitol Music Group unit of Universal Music Group, which also owned Diamond's Uni/MCA catalog. UMG also took over Diamond's Columbia and Bang catalogues, which meant that all of his recorded output would be consolidated for the first time.
On July 8, 2014, Capitol Records announced, via a flyer included with Diamond's latest greatest hits compilations, All-Time Greatest Hits, which charted at 15 in the Billboard 200, that his next album, Melody Road, which was to be produced by Don Was and Jacknife Lee, would be released on September 30, 2014. In August, the release date was moved to October 21.
In September 2014, Diamond performed a surprise concert at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn. The show was announced via Twitter that afternoon. On the same day, he announced a 2015 "Melody Road" World Tour. The North American leg of the World Tour 2015 kicked off with a concert in Allentown, PA at the PPL Center on February 27 and ended at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on May 31, 2015. Diamond used new media platforms and social media extensively throughout the tour, streaming several shows live on Periscope and showing tweets from fans who used the hashtag #tweetcaroline on two large screens. The San Diego Union Tribune wrote: "This, my friends, wasn’t your grandfather’s Neil Diamond concert. It was a multimedia extravaganza. Twitter. Periscope...It was a social media blitzkrieg that, by all accounts, proved to be an innovative way to widen his fan base."
In pop culture
Diamond has always had a somewhat polarizing effect, best exemplified by the 1991 film What About Bob? There the protagonist posits, "There are two types of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't." The character of Bob attributes the failure of his marriage to his fiancee's fondness for Diamond. Another example of this love–hate dichotomy was shown in the Becker episode "It had to be Ew," largely devoted to ridiculing Diamond and his fans.
In the 2001 comedy film Saving Silverman, the main characters play in a Diamond cover band, and Diamond made an extended cameo appearance as himself. Diamond even wrote and composed a new song, "I Believe in Happy Endings," especially for the film. During this period, comedian Will Ferrell did a recurring Diamond impersonation on Saturday Night Live, with Diamond himself appearing alongside Ferrell on Ferrell's final show as a "Not Ready For Prime Time Player" in May 2002. "America" was used in promotional ads for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Finnish band HIM covered "Solitary Man" on their album, And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits.
According to Cotton Incorporated, "Neil Diamond might have been right when he named his 1979 No. 1 hit 'Forever in Blue Jeans:' 81% of women are planning their next jeans purchase to be some shade of blue." The song has been used to promote the sale of blue jeans, most notably via Will Ferrell, impersonating Diamond singing, for The Gap. Ironically, Diamond himself had performed in radio ads for H.I.S. brand jeans in the 1960s, more than a decade before he and Bennett jointly wrote and composed, and he originated, the selection.
In 2008, Diamond gave filmmaker Greg Kohs permission to use his songs in a documentary. Kohs, a director from Philadelphia, had met a popular Milwaukee, Wisconsin, duo, Lightning & Thunder, composed of Mike Sardina, who did a Diamond impersonation, and his wife Claire. Kohs followed them for eight years and produced the film Song Sung Blue, but he needed permission to use Diamond's songs. The movie was sent to the singer in January 2008, at the recommendation of Eddie Vedder, a supporter of the film and of the duo. Although Sardina had died in 2006, Diamond invited his widow and her family to be his front-row guests at his show in Milwaukee, where he told them he was moved by the film.
Diamond has been married three times. In 1963, he married his high school sweetheart, school teacher Jaye Posner; they had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before they separated in 1967 and divorced in 1969. He then married production assistant Marcia Murphey, with whom he had sons Jesse and Micah. This marriage ended in 1994 or 1995 (sources differ). He began a lengthy relationship with Australian Rae Farley in 1996, after the two met in Brisbane, Australia. The selections on the album Home Before Dark were written and composed during her struggle with chronic back pain.
On September 7, 2011, Diamond announced his engagement to his then 41-year-old manager Katie McNeil in a message on Twitter. On April 21, 2012, they married in front of family and close friends in Los Angeles. Diamond said that his 2014 album Melody Road was fueled by his relationship with McNeil, explaining: "There's no better inspiration or motivation for work than being in love. It's what you dream of as a creative person. I was able to complete this album – start it, write it and complete it – under the spell of love, and I think it shows somehow." In addition to serving as Diamond's manager, McNeil produced the documentary Neil Diamond: Hot August Nights NYC.
- His first life ambition was medicine, as he once told talk show host Larry King, "I actually wanted to be a laboratory biologist. I wanted to study. And I really wanted to find a cure for cancer. My grandmother had died of cancer. And I was always very good at the sciences. And I thought I would go and try and discover the cure for cancer."
- Thirty-five years later, in 1995, New York University gave him an honorary degree.
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The sadness permeating much of the album is evoked not only by Diamond's artistic expression but by his very real sense of loss since the end last year of his 25-year-marriage to Marcia Murphey, 54.
- "Neil Diamond, 71, Marries His Manager, 42". Us. April 22, 2012.
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