THE ENIGMA THAT IS
Since Neil Diamond announced his retirement from live touring at the beginning of 2018, he has been very quiet. In October 2017 he had come off the stage of the O2 arena in London’s docklands, the last of his UK engagements, and was basking in the glow of his hugely successful 50th Anniversary World Tour, and was looking forward to taking the tour to Australia and New Zealand, two countries where Neil has an immense following, but he was hit with the devastating news that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He cancelled the Australia and New Zealand shows with immediate effect, much to the disappointment of his army of Antipodean fans, but more to the immense disappointment Neil Diamond himself would have felt.
This was major news around the world, as his many fans and music lovers in general reeled from hearing that one of music’s most enduring and beloved stars was retiring from touring. Neil himself issued a statement that he would continue to write and record new music, but as of now things are eerily quiet, and it could be suggested that Neil Diamond may have retired completely. His last album was five long years ago, the fabulous ‘Melody Road’ but since then, silence.... However,
If I have learned anything about Neil Diamond throughout the many years of my fandom and following him around the UK, it is that he has a penchant for surprising us out of the blue, we have had long periods of nothingness in the past, and then suddenly, a whole plethora of activity... but this time it is different, his condition is a massive factor, as too is his age. Has Neil’s creative spark been dimmed by where he is at in his life, I sincerely hope not.
In the recording studio where Neil Diamond works, the walls are lined with gold, and platinum albums, on the facing wall are framed covers of his albums, five decades of American mainstream music, an achievement unmatched by many artists.
Neil Diamond is passionate about his craft, and I cannot think that despite being unable to perform “Live” will prevent him from exploring new projects, I do believe Neil has come full circle, where his desire was always to be a songwriter first and foremost, he now has the opportunity to be just that, and let his song-craft do his talking for him, as well as that rich velvet voice.
We all know Neil Diamond as that larger than life performer, who dazzles his audiences with a mix of sequins and charisma, but away from the spotlight, he is intensely private, still that shy, lonely “Solitary Man” who enjoys being surrounded by nothing more than family and closest friends, where he has never been one to mingle with the party crowd. Only to fulfil post concert obligations is he to be found amongst the in-crowd, and paparazzi.
Neil Diamond started his career as a songwriter in New York in the early 1960s, but, he has something of a split profile in the music world, where his albums have included forays into every genre, Country, African, Gospel, and Religious, the “Kol Nidre” attests to that. His concerts attract fans in their millions, where Neil once said, “I line the hallways of more arenas than
Wilt Chamberlain" (basketball player), referring to the ubiquity of his concert posters, and to the loyalty of his fans.
In recent years Neil Diamond has attracted a secondary audience, one that embraces him in loving caricature, through the high-concept cover band Super Diamond or the soundtracks to movies like Saving Silverman, or Pulp Fiction.
Neil Diamond had always opined about being accepted or regarded as hip, it is possible that the critics who regard Diamond as naff, is probably the coolest and “Hippest” artist out there. It is his unabashed genuineness, and sincerity which garners such adulation, and the fact of how he is perceived flies above his head, never one to worry about criticism, he merely does his own thing. I always loved his response to the criticism of his flamboyant shirts, where he replied, “I don’t care, I’ll just go out and order another dozen of them.”
To my mind, Neil Diamond is probably the only artist who hasn’t lost a sense of where he came from, despite residing in California, his heart is still in Brooklyn, New York, he is still that young kid looking to make a name for himself.
My greatest wish is that Neil Diamond would provide us with one more album of absolute majesty, I believe his desire to continue to make music still burns strong, but I also think the pangs of wanting to present it to the wider world could be holding him back, as that has always been at the very core of Neil’s writing, to allow his audiences to judge his efforts, as he believes we are the best judges, he has never failed.
No-one knows what Neil may be involved in right now, if anything, but my intuition is that he may be forming ideas in his mind, new music, to get back on stage, whatever he decides it will be worth the wait, as after all, Neil Diamond never disappoints.
The current trend in Hollywood appears to be “Biopics” first Freddie Mercury, and now Elton John, I am sure Neil Diamond’s story is worth being told, as after all, Neil himself said, “I’m not afraid of these rock and roll guys,
I was there at the beginning, and I’ll be there at the end."
That sums up the enigma that is Neil Diamond.
Thanks and appreciation to Dave Radstock for his invaluable and informative contributions