Hamilton, Ontario, Canada - McMaster University

Oct 22, 1970

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  1. McMaster University–Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    In search of a performer
    An interview with Diamond

    By John Barker

    What makes Neil Diamond tick?

    How does it feel to fly to an alien little place called Hamilton, walk on stage in front of a capacity crowd and find 3,000 people shouting a welcome? Or to turn on the radio and hear yourself singing?

    Well, Neil Diamond does these sorts of things for a living, and very good living too. Thursday night he sang for about an hour and a half and picked up $8,500. Mind you, he had a few expenses to meet, like paying a road manager, and an absolutely top accompanying group. Still he makes a fair buck.

    “Well, yes, I am happier now, than I was when I was broke, because…well I can say what I want, without struggling to get it heard. It’s frustrating to have things you want to say and not be able to find people who want to hear.

    That’s what success apparently means for Neil, the freedom to write what he wants and have it heard.

    “No, I’ve never really been eager for fame. (despite what he’d told the audience earlier about his childhood fantasies). Actually, I’d prefer to be able to walk around in anonymity, when I’m not doing concerts, which I only do because I enjoy being personal with a lot of people. “In Europe, I’m known more as a writer than a singer. If I weren’t singing myself, I’d be writing all the time. As it is, I write 60 percent of the material I sing any way.

    “I have always had in mind that I am a writer. About a year and a half ago, I virtually gave up singing for a while and wrote all the time, because I felt that’s what I wanted to do. Even though I enjoy sharing my feeling directly with an audience, there are things I feel strongly that I must write about.

    “I very much want to see doors opened that have been closed. That’s why I admire men like Ralph Nader, who took on General Motors and made them back down when he saw them doing something that was wrong. Or Albert Schweizer, who devoted his whole life to doing something that needed doing.”

    Neil made these statements, quietly, without any apparent affectation, to half a dozen interviewers, after having worked a lengthy concert. At no time did he hesitate, or even seem to resent questions that were as heavy as my father clumsily direct: “Are you happier now?”

    Easy as it is to dismiss Diamond’s seeming sincerity as a press conference performance, the impression he fully conveyed was one of directness and gentility. Neil conducts conversations with the quiet ease of a man who has a lot he wants to say, and a genuine interest in other people.

    So, to return to my original question, what makes Neil Diamond tick?

    He’s doing what he wants to do, in a surprisingly unobtrusive way; and, because he is very skillful in articulating emotions that a lot of people feel, they like to listen to him. That’s my guess, anyway.



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