NEIL DIAMOND..... SONGWRITER
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
"Performing is the easiest part of what I do, and songwriting is the hardest" - ND
Many of us know Neil Diamond as the larger than life, glitzy, consummate live performer, with the rich velvet voice, that sells out arenas and stadiums around the world, but his origins were first and foremost as a songwriter, a trade Neil Diamond himself said he would be happy to be a success at. The only reason Neil took to singing and performing his own compositions was that he struggled to sell his earliest songs, peddling them from publisher to publisher, facing rejection after rejection, eight long years of striving to be recognised as a songwriter of any worth.
When Neil Diamond finally started getting recognition as a songwriter, the hits began to flow, his catalogue contains many of music’s all time standards, but what was it that enabled this shy, quiet loner to become possibly the world’s most prolific songwriter.
Neil Diamond wasn’t typical of the conveyor belt of singer-songwriters that emerged in the mid to late sixties, people like Lennon & McCartney of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and James Taylor, whose songs appeared to speak of the times, and of the people, no, Neil Diamond’s songs had a very spiritual element to them, and seemed to be immensely personal, his songs are beautifully composed, with an eloquence of lyric seldom seen.
When we look at the themes of Neil Diamond’s songs, they seem to follow a pattern, for me there are a few big themes, there is a deep sense of isolation, that sense of loneliness he often felt as a young boy, there are yearnings of wanting to belong, to fit in, or be part of something, or of a loving and lasting relationship, home and family are often a focal point of many of his songs. There is a desire for connection, but also an allure for a greater freedom, last but not least, the good, the bad and the in-between of that thing called love.
Neil Diamond is very gallant, there is a romance about him, much like the romantic poets of the Renaissance, and this trait is encapsulated in his writing, and offers a good reason as to why his songs come from deep within his being. Beyond his pure genius and dedication to his craft, which is a gift and difficult to explain, where nothing but his absolute best would do, and also his unapologetic, un-ironic dedication to the emotional truth, balanced with a genuine desire to communicate with his audience.
The most fundamental aspect of all Neil Diamond songs is the brutal honesty, and stark simplicity of his songs, and whilst his early compositions were on the face of it, typical bubblegum pop, dig a little deeper and you have a master-class of utilising three chords to their best effect, and in each, Diamond is telling a story of himself and his life, ‘Solitary Man’ being a prime example.
As time passed, Neil Diamond’s songs became more spiritual, with strong religious overtones, songs like ‘Holly Holy’, ‘Canta Libre’, and ‘Soolaimon’ were typical of Diamond songs of the early seventies, and to this day, I have yet to hear a song as majestic as
‘Lady Magdalene’, I previously stated it is poetic, and is musical and lyrical perfection, and soars with a greatness not often heard. There are many more songs from Diamond’s catalogue with equal majesty, how could this one man write a score so explicitly and exquisitely beautiful as ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ unless he was in touch with the musical gods.
There is an inherent beauty in many of Neil Diamond’s songs, speaking of all the nuances of relationships, love, joy, happiness, anger, hate, sadness, the whole gamut of human emotions is explored and on the show, where Neil appears to have a unique insight into the very heart of the human condition. This cannot be learned, but exists in the man himself, and says much of his up bringing, his deep moral intuition, and of himself.
It could be said that Neil Diamond is yet to receive his full and due recognition for his immense talents as both a songwriter, and singer/performer, where many have held a sneering attitude to his music, perhaps when
Neil Diamond is no longer with us will he be fully acknowledged as an all time great, where his work will be fully appreciated, I truly believe he is the Beethoven of our times.