NEIL DIAMOND..... SINGER
"The human voice is the most important instrument at our disposal, yet it is one of the most difficult to understand or define. You either hear it or you don't. It either moves you, or it leaves you cold... it is more than just a sound... it is the soul itself." - Neil Diamond 1974
It is one of the music industry’s surprises that Neil Diamond never had any formal training in the art of singing, and yet he possesses one of music’s most defining and instantly recognisable voices, his smooth rich vocal delivery bringing to life his many famous songs. It is a bigger surprise that Neil Diamond never intended to become a singer, where a career as a songwriter was his main aim and ultimately more appealing, where he didn’t crave the limelight, and yet it appears he took to singing like the proverbial duck to water.
Singing seemed to become a means to an end for the young Diamond, as he struggled to sell his earliest compositions, and so took the tentative step of singing his own songs in an effort to get them heard. Such a step paid off, as he got noticed by songwriting husband and wife team Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, which as we now know, launched Neil’s massively successful career.
When we listen to Neil Diamond, we are drawn in by the warmth in his voice, there is a truth and sincerity in his voice not heard in many singers, and I do believe that as Neil Diamond never had any musical training, he wasn’t restricted to what he could do in order to convey what his songs were saying, this allowed him to make a strong connection with the listener. It is that aspect which initially switched me on to Neil Diamond, I was aware of his great song-writing, but his voice gave his wonderful songs a life and feeling all their own. Very few artists connect with their fans the way
Neil Diamond does, I can immerse myself in Neil’s music without tiring as one does with many other artists.
I often wonder if Neil Diamond had not become a singer, and worked solely as a writer. Would his songs have become as famous as they are in being sung by someone else? I honestly don’t believe they would, not because his songs lack quality, far from it, but I believe Neil Diamond himself interprets them the way he intended them to be when he wrote them. I don’t think there is another singer, who could do justice to Neil’s biggest hits, and deliver them with the same style, emotion, feeling, truth and ultimate sincerity that Neil gives them.
Let me be totally honest here, Neil Diamond is not the greatest singer I have ever heard, I think that honour goes to the likes of Domingo, Carreras, or Pavarotti, or the earlier Mario Lanza, but there is an undeniable truth as to why I gravitated towards Neil Diamond as my music hero, and that is Neil Diamond’s voice fits his songs like a glove, and the dynamics make the connection irresistible. The listener identifies the song through the voice singing them, and it is that combination which makes Neil Diamond’s voice unique, and the only voice that should sing them.
I stated earlier that Neil Diamond had no formal training in the art of singing, where he concentrated more on writing, and song construction, and melody, never thinking that he himself would one day be the person singing his songs, however, I do believe that with Neil understanding words and melody he would have an idea of how to deliver a song, and his rich, emotive vocals were the perfect match for his compositions.
What is remarkable about Neil Diamond’s singing is his great ability to tailor his voice to fit where he is at in his career. We are aware that the voice changes with age and constant usage, and yet Neil Diamond still sounds as he did when he recorded his first records, albeit a somewhat deeper and richer. There are artists that came through with Neil, whose voices are totally shot, McCartney, Dylan, Jagger, and yet Neil Diamond has maintained the quality and clarity in his voice. I think he has learned how to sing, and protect the most vital tool of his trade.
When one listens to Neil Diamond these days, one notices slight changes in delivery of his songs, he emotes more, and his voice contains more pathos, and poignancy, most evident in his most recent recordings, particularly the Rick Rubin produced albums, ’12 Songs’ and ‘Home Before Dark’.