WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE
NEIL DIAMOND: THE 70s
The 1970s was the decade when a lot of the upcoming singer/songwriters came of age, and Neil Diamond was no different, Neil had spent the best part of the sixties honing his abilities as both a songwriter, and performer, where the early years of the decade had seen Neil explode into the music stratosphere. His songs were no longer the three chord bubblegum pop of his early career, but stark poetic odes, written in a wholly original and unique style. There was Dylan, Cohen, Lennon & McCartney, Mitchell, all gifted songwriters, but Neil’s songs stood out, he was the Renaissance man of music, much like the Pre-Raphaelite artists, Neil’s songs painted wonderful artistic pictures set to music, he was the poet of the time.
Not only were Diamond’s songs getting the recognition they deserved, his “Live” shows were garnering critical acclaim, he had become one of the hottest tickets in music. Like Elvis Presley before him, Neil opted for a look that would make him stand out, his stage attire was certainly eye catching, not exactly the rhinestone encrusted jumpsuit of Elvis, but a look solely designed for him, his legendary Hot August Night, stand at the Greek Theatre of 1972 saw Diamond attired in a Buckskin outfit, reminiscent of the red Indian tribes, with tassels and motifs. As the seventies progressed, Neil Diamond became more aware of himself in a musical sense, his music had moved from the younger pop market to a more mature audience who recognised Neil as an artist of immense standing, he had become the number one music attraction in the world, and therefore had to present himself accordingly.
By the mid-seventies Diamond had cultivated a style which marked him out as unique. He seemed to fit the whole idea of a music superstar, bejewelled, glitzy, talented, and incredibly handsome, his swarthy good looks attracted the attention of many of his female admirers, who weren’t slow to let him know their feelings during his “Live” shows.
Neil Diamond had achieved something unique in music, where he still had the attention of the younger music lovers, but had moved easily into the adult contemporary market, where his fan base crossed the generations, it was a red hot combination, and Neil took full advantage, releasing hit records and albums, and going out on the road to perform for his adoring fans. Neil Diamond was hot property where he was at the centre of a tug of war between record companies for his services.
It seemed the self proclaimed “Solitary Man” had reached the music nirvana, he craved, to be accepted as a serious music maker, whilst also fulfilling many of his early ambitions. The 1970s were a defining decade for Neil Diamond, and through his drive, and dedication to his craft, he came through, unscathed, and at the top of his game.
NEIL DIAMOND: THE 80s
By the end of the seventies, Neil Diamond could be forgiven for thinking he had made it, and could rest on his laurels, and wallow in the status he had achieved throughout the previous decade, not a chance of it.
Neil was looking in other directions in his career, none more so than the opportunity to star in his first ever feature film, and it was to this end, he was approached to star in, and write the soundtrack to a remake of the classic Al Jolson movie, 'The Jazz Singer' it was an offer Neil couldn’t refuse, it is now common knowledge that the project had its share of problems, with casting, Neil’s heavy schedule, and of course his recovery from a spinal tumour, which almost rendered Neil crippled, but ever the optimist. Neil dug in and produced a fine performance in his first acting role, despite the harshness of the critics, Diamond took comfort in the soundtrack album being one his biggest sellers of his career. Once again,
Neil Diamond was on the crest of a wave, although exhausted from his movie experience, he was also enthused that he had made himself aware to a whole new generation of fans, which became evident at his tours where this new found fan-base came in their droves to see the iconic superstar.
The 80s invigorated Neil, both in a performing sense, but also in his writing, to such an extent that Neil released a new album every year of the decade, and toured endlessly.
Any insecurities he may have had dissipated with his ever growing appeal, he was once again, the biggest touring musician in the world, breaking Box-Office attendance records worldwide.
NEIL DIAMOND: THE 90s
If anyone thought Neil Diamond would quietly fade away in the 1990s they were sadly mistaken, Diamond entered the new decade looking to maintain the success he had worked hard for over thirty years to achieve. However, the music landscape had changed, a whole new music had taken hold, R&B and Rap was gaining momentum as the genre of choice for many listeners, and it could be argued that artists like Diamond were being put out to grass, in favour of the new trends. One thing is certain in music, that quality will always win out, and Neil Diamond dug deep into the well of his creativity to put out two wholly original albums in the 90s, ‘Lovescape’ and ‘Tennessee Moon’, that may not seem such a prolific output for an artist who was known for tapping into his muse quite easily, but I believe Neil had reached a crossroads in his career, certainly with regard album sales, and yet his tours were still as immense and popular as ever. It seemed everyone still wanted to see the legendary performer, and Neil wasn’t slow in realising the potential of staying relevant his tours offered him.
It is no surprise that Diamond enjoyed his most successful touring phase in the 90s, where he embarked upon his most ambitious tour of his career, a whole two years on the road, taking the show the length and breadth across the States, and then onto a wider world tour taking in Europe, the UK, and Australia and New Zealand. It was a mammoth undertaking, and yet Neil showcased all the dynamism that made him the biggest star in the world, maintaining the phenomenon that regarded him as one of the all time great “Live” performers.
Neil Diamond wasn’t the new kid on the block anymore, but he wasn’t any less hungry, to not only maintain his status as an international star, but to continue to make new and meaningful music.
It was with that in mind that Diamond took on a project that he had longed to do, an album of country flavoured music, and so, he took himself off to the home of country music, “Nashville” and worked with some of the finest writers and musicians to create one of his best albums in many a year, 'Tennessee Moon'.
Neil Diamond was not just another pop singer, he was gaining legendary status, his immense tours and famous songs provided proof that Diamond was a cut above many of his peers, where only the other long standing musicians could be regarded in the same breath, Neil Diamond stood atop the music landscape as the king of pop.
What the eighties did bestow on Neil, was it allowed him to continue his love affair with his fans around the world. Watching Neil “Live” was to witness an event, his concerts were more than what one would normally expect, the artist stepping out and singing well known songs, no, Neil Diamond entertained his fans, he held them captivated with his musical gifts, and the aura he exuded was probably akin to seeing the aforementioned Elvis Presley, it was no coincidence that Neil Diamond was to be dubbed “The Jewish Elvis”.
Neil Diamond started the eighties on a high, and came out of the decade with his stock even higher, and beyond what Neil himself might have imagined.
After completing the album, Diamond hit the road again, and once again showed the music world he was still a force to be reckoned with on the live circuit, where once again he broke attendance records at many venues around the world. It would be easy to suggest he was trading on his past achievements, but that would suggest he had lost the spark that catapulted him into the music stratosphere, nothing could be further from the truth, as he prepared for the most significant period of his whole career.
NEIL DIAMOND: THE 2000s
Neil Diamond entered the new millennium on a high, by ushering in the new year with a spectacular concert at the Pepsi Centre, Denver, Colorado, part of the transmission was beamed around the world, as Diamond counted down to the new decade amid his anthem ‘America’ on stage he looked every inch the superstar, in full glitz, and fine voice. It appeared he had lost none of the chutzpah that became a hallmark of his “Live” shows, the audience were spellbound by the megastar, as he counted down from ten to bring in the new year amid an explosion of fireworks and ticker-tape, I don’t think any other artist could have carried that off as great as Neil did, he was at home on stage and taking the applause.
This version of Neil Diamond was sleek, with neatly styled short hair, and not the unruly longer style of yesteryear, it appeared he gone through an image transformation, which would be evident as the decade progressed.
Neil returned to the studio to write his first all original album in over twenty years, where his album ‘Three Chord Opera’ was a wholly Neil Diamond production, all songs written by Neil. This was something his fans had waited for since his last new album six years earlier, the album was well received and put Neil Diamond back in the music listener's consciousness, a new Neil Diamond album was always well anticipated, and this one didn’t disappoint.
The album also led to Neil making a cameo appearance in a new comedy film at the time based around a Neil Diamond tribute band, where Neil would appear and sing a couple of songs, ‘Hello Again’, and a new composition, ‘I Believe In Happy Endings’ a fitting finale to the movie.
As the decade progressed Diamond would catch the attention of music producer extraordinaire, Rick Rubin, who had previously worked with the late Johnny Cash on his 'American Recordings' album. With Diamond however, it was a different proposition, where Rubin wanted him to tap into his latent muse, and write in the manner he did when he was a struggling denizen of Tin Pan Alley.
To say that '12 Songs' and the second album produced by Rubin, 'Home Before Dark' were two of the finest of Neil’s illustrious career is a fact, containing some of the most heartfelt lyrics Neil had written in a long time, and brought Neil back to the forefront of music lovers everywhere. Neil Diamond was once again being lauded as a giant of songwriting, critics raved about both albums, and it must have been a great source of pride and contentment for Neil to be finally accepted and recognised for the great talent he is.
Neil continued to tour as vigorously as ever in the 2000s, where he garnered a whole new army of fans on the back of his two excellent albums, but Diamond was far from finished, there were to be other highs bestowed upon the much beloved singer/songwriter.
The second decade of the millennium saw Neil play at Britain’s famed Glastonbury Festival as the legendary artist, where he put on an immense set, he was also finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, where his inductee, Paul Simon stated it was twenty five years too late, but he was finally in, a recognition of his immense career.
As the years passed, touring still played a prominent part in Neil’s life, the opportunity to perform and meet his long-standing and immensely loyal fans.
Neil was to reward his fans with a hugely acclaimed 50th Anniversary World Tour. That every show was sold out, was testament to his popularity, but also his longevity, and how he was now regarded as an elder statesman of music.
On stage Diamond still exuded everything that made him a genuine living legend, the fans warming to him, and Neil, for his part seeming genuinely surprised and moved by the reception he received wherever he played. Alas, who could have foreseen that the curtain was to come down on the “Live" career of one of the most enduring and defining artists of all time, where the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease put an end to Neil’s touring days.
From the heady days of the seventies, through the eighties, nineties and 2000s, Neil Diamond has given music lovers and fans everywhere a lifetime
of meaningful and heartfelt music; a timeless artist that has bestowed his immeasurable musical gifts upon us, for that we are forever in his debt.
Having looked at Neil Diamond’s career through those decades, I wonder, which Neil Diamond era was the best, was it the raw, hungry artist of the
70’s, or the assured superstar of the 80s and 90s, or was it the revered elder statesman of music of the millennium years... over to you...
DOUG VYNER - PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Not unlike the difficulty a True Believer would have in selecting a favourite Neil Diamond song, when confronted with the question of selecting a favourite
Neil Diamond era, I felt confronted with the same dilemma. That said, when push comes to shove, it will have to be the 70s.
The era of ‘Hot August Night’, masterpieces like ‘Tap Root Manuscript’ and ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, ‘Stones’, ‘Moods’, ‘Serenade’, ‘Beautiful Noise’, et al. What a decade
of pure inspiration!
This is the decade wherein Neil gifted the world - 'I Am... I Said', 'Morningside',
'Holly Holy', 'Canta Libre', 'Play Me', 'Soolaimon', 'Lady Magdalene', 'Beautiful Noise',
to name but a few. Pure inspiration! Pure class!
To think that less than a decade before, Neil was a virtual unknown fledgling songwriter churning out lightweight pop-oriented songs in Tin Pan Alley; banging on doors for these songs to be accepted.
When did the change occur? How did it occur? What was the catalyst? Neil has in interviews past, indicated that the Beatles and the phenomenon that they were, provided a license for young, up-and-coming songwriters to depart from the tried and true format of commercial pop music. When/how did the transformation from lightweight bubble-gum rock to deep, introspective songs occur? Were these deeply meaningful, introspective material lying latent in the subconscious of the young songwriter, just aching to surface?
Then of course there’s that voice. What a voice! How fortuitously coincidental the transformation from teenybopper pop-rock to “gravel and potholes” occurred at the commencement of the 70s. This was the era of the raw, unpolished singer on the precipice of becoming the polished performer.
"Electric... his audience falls like plums at his feet." - Tone - Daily Variety
"I enjoyed the outstanding theatrical experience of my life, due to the unsurpassed and almost hypnotic talents of Neil Diamond." - James A Doolittle - General Director, Greek Theatre Association
Yes, it will have to be the 70s for me.
DAVE RADSTOCK - MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
I am torn between the 70s and 80s.... I will never forget that first time of seeing Neil at Woburn Abbey in 1977, a typical English summer day, on the grounds of a country estate on a lush green lawn, a wholly quintessential English environment.
I half expected high tea to be served. To see Neil Diamond step out in all his glitzy finery, and mesmerise the audience was something to behold, there was still a rawness about Neil in his performance, but contradicted by his confidence, and assuredness, but there was still a shyness about Neil also. Fast forward to the 80s and I think Neil Diamond had learned to pace himself better. His performance was more complete and rounded, I believe Neil was more aware of himself and his standing in music, and he was more comfortable with himself.
I particularly remember the 1984 tour, Neil was on top form, showcasing everything that one expects from a Neil Diamond concert, but his 1989 tour topped that, for sheer showmanship, and Neil, knowing how to play the audience, and in not having to prove himself in many respects. Neil Diamond had become the complete performer, so for me, I think the 1980s shades it from the seventies.
TOM BOWYER - KINGMAN, ARIZONA, USA
My favourite Neil Diamond era has to be the 70s. I began listening to his music in the late 60s and catching his appearances on TV variety shows like Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and others, whenever I could. When I got the opportunity to see him for the first time in 1972 at the Greek Theatre ‘Hot August Night’, I jumped at the chance! That performance took me from being just a fan to an over-the-top super fan! It was like discovering gold. I had to wait four long years, that felt like forty years, to see him in concert again.
When Neil returned to the stage again in 1976, I wanted to see him at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, but couldn't get off work! I did manage to get tickets to see him in San Diego though, and although the performance was different from his ‘Hot August Night’ (1972) performance, it was great to see him on stage again! Shortly after that, tickets went on sale for his return to the Greek Theatre, but they sold out quickly! Refusing to be denied, I remembered the "Tree People" from Hot August Night ‘72 and decided to give it a try! After a long climb up a hill and a disagreement with security guards, a friend of mine and I managed to get a surprisingly great view of one of the ‘Love At The Greek’ shows that Neil did in September 1976. That just proves, nothing ventured, nothing gained...
Although I have seen several other great performances of Neil's, including the last one in August of 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the 70s era that launched Neil Diamond's career into the stratosphere, no question about it!
MAY GÓMEZ DE PAZ- MADRID, SPAIN
It has not been easy for me to decide my favourite Neil Diamond era.
In each decade, he has produced great albums and wonderful songs.
In the end, I am inclined to select the 70s, and the reason is because it
was the time I saw him. I'm Spanish and until that moment Neil was a complete stranger in our musical panorama.
‘Moods’ was my first album, but there were many previous ones which
I had never heard. It was wonderful to be able to acquire them and enjoy each new one that I found time to time.
I remember the emotion whenever I go to our record store and find a new album....
The expectation, the happiness with which I listened to them... and, yes,
I loved each and every one. He has never let me down!
I always say that I'm not only an ardent fan, but also addicted to Neil's music. When I listen to him my life is happier without a doubt.
God bless this precious, beautiful, gifted human being.
DONITA BELL - PORT ST. LUCIE, USA
An intermixing between the 1970s and 1980s became a challenging decision for me since I enjoyed Neil Diamond's music and distinct voice like no other before or after him. I was living at home in
the early 70s when it was disclosed in the newspaper that Neil was taking time off and needed back surgery. I was quite down and thought that he would probably not return.
Bouncing back in the 1980s after his momentous compositions and starring role in ‘The Jazz Singer’, that really cemented my favourite Neil Diamond era. To top it all off, I was invited to his concert in Hartford, Connecticut by a co-worker and was "hooked on the memory of you", Neil.
Neil Diamond's epic life speaks the truth in so many of his works through unceasing supernatural forces urging him to continue on. His words have a purpose, they soothe and heal. His voice is a gift that keeps ringing loud and strong for over 50 years! And finally, his music is timeless; it lives on and transcends life… Our lives and his are intertwined on this journey.
I am truly enamoured by every era of Neil Diamond as each decade grows with age and wisdom.
It is with heartfelt respect and loyalty to the man and his music of which I have, due to that one concert, that I have retained within me all these years. Bravo Neil! Well done!
ANDRO PAUL LUCICH - RENO, NEVADA, USA
Neil Diamond at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in August of 1972.
As a long-time fan of Neil Diamond I saw him appear at the Troubadour in
West Hollywood around 1966. It was from that point on that Neil became my soul-mate. His birthday on January 24th & mine on January 26th. Neil Diamond's performance as the lead entertainer for the 100th Centennial of The Statue of Liberty where he introduced 'America' in 1986 was also a milestone in Neil's career.
GEOFFREY BOUDREAU - BOURBONNAIS, ILLINOIS, USA
But I would have to start at 1976, for it was my first Neil Diamond experience in concert, so it remains very special to me! Then extend that through to 1989 as my era of choice. Those years for me were the best in live performances! I had just missed the ‘Hot August Night’ tour for the ‘Moods’ album, but I still consider that to be his best live album. The best tour that I experienced myself was in 1982,
‘The Jazz Singer’ tour. Closely following was the ‘Headed For The Future’ tour. Just absolutely awesome performances!!! Since 1976 I have seen Neil in concert over 60 times.
For albums, though I guess I would have to say the seventies extended to 1981, to be able to cover my favourites, ‘Moods’, ‘Serenade’, ‘Beautiful Noise’, and ‘The Jazz Singer’. But my two "ultimate" favourites are ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ and
‘Hot August Night’!! ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ is without doubt, some of the
most beautiful music these ears have ever heard, and his voice is just amazing!!
‘Hot August Night’ lay the groundwork for many of his concerts to come, and I so regret not having been there for it, but never tire of listening to it. The performance resonates with me. It fills me with so much emotion, as if every time is the first! There is much I could say about these 6 albums, what they mean to me...
I like a lot of music, many artists, but Neil has been the most consistent in hitting the right "chords" in me. I love his lyrics, his music, but especially his unique style of delivering both in concert! But also he is a genuine human being, writing from the heart, from his own experiences, from his own emotions. He has an endless and deep connection with his audiences in the live shows and always gives all he can for each and every performance! Of late, his last three albums, for me, have on them some of the best songs he's ever written!
PAMELA WHEELIS - MILTON, FLORIDA, USA
The thrill of the 60s and 70s with all the experimentation and novel ways of presenting music and ideas, the honesty of the 80s and 90s baring even more of his heart and soul, on to the 2000s when he has nothing else to prove and is able to just channel the songs...
Hard choices, but I choose 2000s and beyond. And that may say more about me than about Neil's music, but these latest works touch me in a way that is more profound, more fundamental, more complete than any of his previous work. I definitely relate more to this era.
Songs like ‘Leave A Little Room For God’ and ‘Man of God’ reflects my spiritual walk. ‘We’ and ‘The Best Part Of Me’, speak to where I am in my relationship as do
‘Pretty Amazing Grace’ and ‘Delirious Love’. Who would have thought that love in your 50s & 60s could be so exciting? The fun songs… ‘Baby, Let's Drive’ and
‘At the Movies’, are just fun to listen to and contemplate. Neil's magnum opus…
’Hell Yeah’ brings me to tears every time I hear it. The whole of ‘Melody Road’
(yes, including ‘Seongah and Jimmy’) is beautifully crafted, in my opinion. Even the ‘Dreams’ album causes me to pause and reflect on life in a different way.
I still enjoy all of Neil's music and I sincerely hope he is working on new material. But if all we have is the existing body of work it may be enough, barely.
SHERRI OWENBY - MARION, NORTH CAROLINA, USA
For me, my love of Neil's music began in the mid-60s and has lasted throughout my life. Choosing a favourite era is a challenge, but I must go to the '70s. I have attended 12+ concerts and I find that many of the 70s era songs are the ones that make me cry or send chills over my body. I love seeing him in person and I leave the concerts overwhelmed, but craving more - ecstatic but heartbroken that it is over. My favourite songs of the 70s, they reach inside you to your very soul.
Neil was, is and forever will be the very best at what he does!
KAREN HINKLE - FAIRFIELD, IDAHO, USA
THE 70s... sort of...
I really don’t have a favourite era, but probably the 70s because that is when I fell in love with Neil and his songs! Then, as the years went by, I enjoyed all of his new songs and bought all his albums, 8 tracks, cassettes and then CDs. I have a closet full of them and played only his when I went for walks!
I like to listen to other singers and recently saw ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and absolutely loved it. I knew I liked Queen, but really didn’t know much about them or all their songs. Freddie Mercury was an amazing man and singer/songwriter, gone too soon! He then was running a real close race to Neil as my favourite BUT Neil won and always will! In my opinion, there is NO ONE that can compare to Neil Diamond! Well, that is my story about his years. I have loved them all! I wish Mr Diamond nothing but the best!
MITCH COCHRAN - HULL, ENGLAND
The stand out moment, which I hold dearly, was Neil’s appearance at Woburn Abbey in the summer of 1977; never to be forgotten.
I have had the greatest pleasure of seeing Neil every time he has toured the UK. Every era stands out for me as Neil continues to entertain with his music and lyrics.
Sadly, his personal performances have been curtailed but he has my very best wishes and heartfelt thanks for providing such happy memories and my total admiration for the man and his music!
KATHY ARP - TOLEDO, IOWA, USA
The 70's for sure. The first song of his that I heard on my Mom's radio was ‘Cracklin' Rosie’. I was hooked, and when I had earned enough money, I bought the grey album of his '12 Greatest Hits’. This was followed by 'Hot August Night'.
Next, I believe I bought 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull', and after that came
'Love at the Greek'. The intro on that album STILL gives me goosebumps. Beyond that, I don't remember the order, but I bought most of his LPs, and when they came out, on CDs. I have a good collection there also. It's so wonderful to hear him crystal clear again after playing the vinyl, so many times that it is scratchy and grey.
I was saddened and disappointed to learn that he was not going to continue touring due to Parkinson's disease, but it must have been affecting him too much to continue. These so called "Golden Years" are more rusty than golden.
BISSERKA VASSILEVA - VENICE, ITALY
I first heard Neil in the 60s and fell in love with him. He is absolutely brilliant; has been so throughout the 4 decades.