Neil Diamond – Then And Now

by New Music Michael on January 24 2018

SJM-L-GOODTIMES-0727-05I don’t remember hearing a lot of music growing up with my parents and younger brother. Perhaps that’s strange, what with my dad getting his start in the media industry as a radio engineer and then DJ. But regardless, there are three distinct genres of music I do recall as a youngster: German pop (especially when visiting my relatives out in Ontario); my dad’s Zamphir pan flute collection (don’t even get me started); and my mom’s Neil Diamond tapes (they were probably eight tracks at the time, to be fair).

Let’s face it, as soon as I was old enough, I branched out into my own musical journeys. But those Neil Diamond songs remained entrenched in my mind, there to live forever more. And for so many of them, I know the words like the back of my hand, especially the choruses, and can’t help but sing along with every time I do hear them. And probably will, forever more.

Because that’s what his songs are to me – singalong pop songs that are both so catchy and so kitsch at the same time. And I don’t mean that to sound mean, because it’s not meant at that. In fact, it’s a tribute. Pop songs should be catchy and easy to sing along to. And that’s what Diamond’s true genius was. For so many, many years. Kentucky Woman. Red, Red Wine. Shilo. Sweet Caroline. Holly Holy. The list goes on and on. Song Sung Blue. Forever In Blue Jeans. And on and on. Every single song. Just amazingly written, perfectly catchy. And playful. And flirty.

The news that Mr. Diamond is retiring from touring because he’s been stricken with Parkinsons Disease has stuck in my ire the last couple of days. Both for the loss to his fans. To my mom. To my wife’s mom. And the incredible loss to the musical world, and also with a hand on my heart knowing it’s a path from which there is likely no recovery. Like my brother. Like our dear friend Gord Downie, who we lost last year.

In his statement, Diamond stated “it is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years.”

He struck a central chord with so many of his era, and the eras surrounding it. And to fall prey to such a horrendous, horrendous disease.

And while he still intends to stay active writing and recording, it’s hard to say how long that will last with such a devastating diagnosis. But be that as it may, he can certainly retire with his head held ever so high. At 77 years old, he will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy later this week. He’s sold more than 130 million albums worldwide. 38 of his singles have climbed the ranks into the top 40. He’s a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

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