Neil Diamond (born Neil Leslie Diamond on January 24, 1941) is an American singer/songwriter who had a number of hits in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and who maintains a very loyal following with popular live performances to this day.
Diamond was born and raised in Brooklyn, attending high school with Barbra Streisand (and singing with her in the school choir). He learned to play guitar after receiving one as a gift on his 16th birthday.
He spent his early career as a writer in the Brill Building, and had an early success writing the song, "I'm a Believer", for The Monkees
When he first auditioned to record, his producers wanted him to change his name so it would be less ethnicized. Such names as Eice Cherry and Noah Kaminsky were pondered, but, at the last moment Neil decided to keep his real name stating that "How would I explain to my Grandmother about changing my name."
He signed a deal with Bang! Records, and had a string of singles as the primary performer, including "Kentucky Woman", "Cherry, Cherry", and "Solitary Man".
He moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1970, and signed a deal with MCA Records (then called Uni Records). His sound mellowed, with such songs as "Sweet Caroline" and "Song Sung Blue". "Sweet Caroline" has since become a rallying cry of Red Sox Nation
, however unlikely this may seem. Neil married Marcia Murphey, whom he had met while doing a television appearance.
In 1973, Diamond hopped labels again, this time to Columbia Records, where he recorded the soundtrack to Jonathan Livingston Seagull
. In 1974, he released the album, Serenade
(songs: "Longfellow Serenade", "I've Been This Way Before"). In 1976, he released Beautiful Noise
, produced by The Band's
In 1977, he released an album, I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight
, which included the track, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers". The song was covered by Barbra Streisand on her album, Songbird
, which led one disc jockey to combine the two in a virtual duet. The popularity of the virtual duet motivated Diamond and Streisand to record the real thing, which became a very large hit in 1978. A movie version of the song (starring Diamond and Streisand) was planned, but plans fell through when Diamond starred in a remake of the Al Jolson classic, The Jazz Singer
in 1980, opposite Sir Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz.
Though the movie was not a blockbuster hit at the box office, the soundtrack was a hugely successful album, spawning the singles, "America"" "Love on the Rocks", and "Hello Again". This would be the apex of his recording career.
In 2000, he was awarded the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence in Diamond's popularity. His songs have become nearly iconic. The 2001 comedy film, Saving Silverman
(starring Jack Black), plays up this theme. The main characters play in a Neil Diamond cover band, and Neil Diamond makes a cameo appearance.
Today, Diamond continues to tour, and still releases new studio and live compilation box sets of his greatest hits, and most recently recorded an album of movie songs. He recently released an album entitled 12 Songs
with producer Rick Rubin.
As of May 2005 he has sold 120 million records worldwide (Source: NY Times), including 50 million records in US (Source: RIAA).