Solitary Man (song)

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"Solitary Man"
Cover to 1970 re-release
Single by Neil Diamond
from the album The Feel of Neil Diamond
B-side "Do It" (1966 release)
"The Time Is Now" (1970 re-release)
Released April 4, 1966[1]
Format 7-inch
Genre Soft rock[2]
Length 2:27
Label Bang
Writer(s) Neil Diamond
Producer(s) Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich
Neil Diamond singles chronology
"At Night"
"Solitary Man"
"Cherry, Cherry"

"Solitary Man" is a 1966 hit song written, composed, and originally recorded and released by Neil Diamond. It has since been covered many times by such artists as Billy Joe Royal, B.J. Thomas, Jay and the Americans, T. G. Sheppard, Gianni Morandi, The Sidewinders, Chris Isaak, Johnny Cash, Johnny Rivers, HIM, Crooked Fingers, Cliff Richard, and Ólöf Arnalds.


Initially released on Bang Records in April of 1966, "Solitary Man" was Diamond's debut single as a recording artist, having already had moderate--but accidental--success as a songwriter for other artists; their versions of the songs he had already written and composed were released before his own versions of them were.[1] By July, the track had become a minor hit rising to #55 on the U.S. pop singles chart.[1] It would then be included on Diamond's first album, The Feel of Neil Diamond, released in August 1966.[1]

While nominally about young romantic failure, lines in the lyrics that read:

Don't know that I will
But until I can find me
I'll be what I am--
A solitary man...
Solitary man.

have been closely identified with Diamond himself, as evinced by a 2008 profile in The Daily Telegraph: "This is the Solitary Man depicted on his first hit in 1966: the literate, thoughtful and melodically adventurous composer of songs that cover a vast array of moods and emotions..."[3] Indeed, Diamond himself would tell interviewers in the 2000s, "After four years of Freudian analysis, I realized I had written 'Solitary Man' about myself."[4]

"Solitary Man's" dynamic melody, matched with the melancholic universality of its lyrics, would make the song an attractive target for later interpretations.

After Diamond had renewed commercial success with Uni Records at the end of the decade, Bang Records re-released "Solitary Man" as a single and it reached #21 on the U.S. pop charts in summer 1970.[5]

Diamond originally recorded two versions of the song, as he later did with "Cherry, Cherry." One version had his harmonic vocal track on the refrain of the song, along with accompaniment by a wordless female chorus. The other version was him singing the song alone, without his prerecorded harmony or the female chorus.

On such live albums as Gold: Recorded Live at the Troubadour, Hot August Night and some subsequent recordings, Diamond altered the lyrics to "then you came along" from the original "then Sue came along."

In a 2005 Rolling Stone retrospective, Dan Epstein wrote, "'Solitary Man' remains the most brilliantly efficient song in the Diamond collection. There's not a wasted word or chord in this two-and-a-half minute anthem of heartbreak and self-affirmation, which introduced the melancholy loner persona that he's repeatedly returned to throughout his career."[6]

Notable cover versions[edit]

T. G. Sheppard version[edit]

"Solitary Man"
Single by T.G. Sheppard
from the album Solitary Man
B-side "Shame"
Released May 29, 1976
Genre Country
Length 2:39
Label Hitsville
Writer(s) Neil Diamond
T.G. Sheppard singles chronology
"Motels and Memories"
"Solitary Man"
"Show Me a Man"

In 1976, T. G. Sheppard released a cover version for Hitsville Records. It went to #14 on the country music charts (Hot Country Songs) and #100 on the Hot 100.

Gianni Morandi's cover[edit]

In 1966, famous Italian singer Gianni Morandi recorded a cover version titled "Se perdo anche te" ("If I lose you too"). The author of the Italian lyrics was Franco Migliacci, who was Morandi's producer at that time and who, eight years before, had written the lyrics to Domenico Modugno's international hit "Nel blu, dipinto di blu (Volare)."
This song was arranged by Ennio Morricone, who at that time conducted many tunes published by the Italian RCA Victor, and was the B-Side of "C'era un ragazzo che come me amava i Beatles e i Rolling Stones" ("There was a boy who, like me, loved the Beatles and the Rolling Stones"), a song against the Vietnam War.

The Sidewinders's cover[edit]

The Tucson, Arizona alternative rock band The Sidewinders added a version of the song as the fifth track on their 1989 hit album Witchdoctor.[7]

Chris Isaak's cover[edit]

"Solitary Man"
Single by Chris Isaak
from the album San Francisco Days
B-side "Wicked Game"
Released 1993
Genre Rock
Length 2:37
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Neil Diamond
Chris Isaak singles chronology
"San Francisco Days"
"Solitary Man"
"Somebody's Crying"

Chris Isaak covered "Solitary Man" as the last track of his 1993 album San Francisco Days. The music video for the song was directed by Larry Clark.

Johnny Cash's cover[edit]

"Solitary Man"
Song by Johnny Cash from the album American III: Solitary Man
Released October 17, 2000
Genre Country
Length 2:26
Label American Recordings
Writer(s) Neil Diamond
Language English
Producer(s) John Carter Cash, Rick Rubin
American III: Solitary Man track listing
"I Won't Back Down"
"Solitary Man"
"That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)"

Johnny Cash used "Solitary Man" for the title track of his 3rd album under the American Recordings label: American III: Solitary Man in 2000. The recording received a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. His recording of the song was used in the penultimate episode of Stargate Atlantis, "Vegas" and in the 17th episode of the fifth season of Criminal Minds. In Stargate Atlantis, the song was used twice during the same episode: the first time had the character listening to it on the radio as he drove with a montage going and the second was shortly before the credits when the man apparently died. The recording was also used for the opening credits of the 2010 film Solitary Man, starring Michael Douglas.

Preceded by
by George Jones
Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance
Succeeded by
O Death
by Ralph Stanley

HIM's cover[edit]

"Solitary Man"
Single by HIM
from the album
And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997–2004
Released March 2004
Format CD single, DVD single,
7" vinyl
Recorded 2004
Genre Rock (see HIM's genre)
Producer(s) HIM
HIM singles chronology
"The Sacrament"
"Solitary Man"
"And Love Said No"

In 2004, the Finnish band HIM covered "Solitary Man" for their first compilation album, And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997–2004. It was released as a single, and Bam Margera produced a music video created for it.

Track listing[edit]

Finnish and European version[edit]
  1. "Solitary Man" - 3:38
  2. "Please Don't Let It Go" (Live) - 3:14
  3. "Join Me in Death" (Live) - 4:59
  4. "Website extras included as Enhanced CD content"
UK version[edit]

DVD single

  1. "Solitary Man" (Video) - 3:36
  2. "Right Here in My Arms" (video) - 3:30
  3. Bam Margera's making of Buried Alive By Love" - 1:58
  4. Pandora's slideshow - 4:00
  5. "Your Sweet 666" (Audio-Live 2003) - 4:40

CD single

  1. "Solitary Man"
  2. "Please Don't Let it Go" (punk rock version - live 2003)

7" vinyl

  1. "Solitary Man"
  2. (Etched B-side contains no music)

Charts positions[edit]

Chart position (2006) Peak
Finland Singles 2
UK Singles Chart7Y6* 9
Germany Singles 17
Switzerland Singles 40
Austria Singles 45

Crooked Fingers Cover[edit]

The band Crooked Fingers covered "Solitary Man" on their 5 track EP of cover songs, the Reservoir Songs EP.

Cliff Richard[edit]

Cliff Richard recorded "Solitary Man" for his 1966 EP La La La La La.

Skin Flesh & Bones[edit]

Skin Flesh & Bones recorded a reggae cover of it on their 1974 7" release.[8]

Tony Carey[edit]

Tony Carey covered Solitary Man on his album Only the Young Die Good[9] and on the album The Boystown Tapes[10]

Jussi Syren And The Groundbreakers[edit]

Jussi Syren And The Groundbreakers [11] recorded a bluegrass version on their album Heartagrass - An Acoustic Tribute To HIM,[12] a tribute to fellow Finnish performers HIM


  1. ^ a b c d William Ruhlmann. "Neil Diamond: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  2. ^ "Explore: Soft Rock | Top Songs | AllMusic". 2011-11-12. Archived from the original on November 12, 2011. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  3. ^ Neil McCormick (2008-03-05). "Neil Diamond: the hurt, the dirt, the shirts". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  4. ^ Pete Paphides (2006-04-07). "I'll be what I am. A solitary man". The Times. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1983). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: 1955 to present. Billboard Publications. ISBN 0-8230-7511-7.  p. 88.
  6. ^ Dan Epstein (2005-11-03). "Neil Diamond's Jewels". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  7. ^ The Sidewinders; Witchdoctor (Allmusic)
  8. ^ Skin, Flesh & Bones – Solitary Man
  9. ^ : Only the Young Die Good
  10. ^ : The Boystown Tapes
  11. ^ Jussi Syren And The Groundbreakers
  12. ^ Heartagrass - An Acoustic Tribute To HIM

External links[edit]