I have always stressed the belief that Neil’s music lives forever, and that it is necessary for young fans to carry the message of that music forward.
I went to see Neil in Nashville on November 20, 2001. It was just two days before Thanksgiving. Several fans had gathered at Neil’s hotel for a bus call.
Within the group was a 17-year-old young lady from North Carolina. A gentle tap on my shoulder, mutual introductions, and ensuing questions and answers about whether Neil was staying at this hotel, and we became instant friends. She and her mother had traveled all the way to Nashville just to attend her first Neil Diamond concert. By pure coincidence, they were staying at the same hotel as Neil and the band. When she realized that Neil might be walking through the lobby, the look on her face was priceless. “You mean I may get to see Neil Diamond walk through this lobby?” I explained that, yes, it was possible that he would pass through the lobby on his way to the arena.
The waiting got long, and I thought that perhaps Neil had slipped out before we had arrived. We had all but given up hope of seeing him when, at last, he appeared. For some fateful reason, he walked over to me. He checked out the name tag I wore on a lanyard around my neck. We exchanged a few private words and a hug. I wanted to introduce him to my new friend, so I turned to my side but the girl wasn’t there.
“Where is she?” I asked. She had just been at my side and suddenly she was gone! Her mother told me that she had gone up to their room for a moment. So I told Neil about this girl, how she had come so far to see him, and how I was sure she would love to see him and maybe get a hug! He nodded and proceeded to shake hands and give hugs to other fans and admirers who wanted one. By the time he had chatted with everybody who was there to see him, the girl finally returned to the lobby. She caught a glimpse of Neil and she was literally jumping up and down much like a pogo stick — just at the prospect of meeting him!
Neil looked at me from across the room questioningly, pointed to her, and asked, “Is she the one?” I nodded, confirming that she was. He looked down at her and said, “We’ve been waiting for you!” She was so excited, continuing to jump up and down uncontrollably! Neil continued by scolding her, “You’re holding up an important event!” Imagine how she felt, speaking one-on-one with Neil Diamond for the first time! Neil gave her one of those bear hugs of his (oh, those are so good, so good, so good), and said, “Isn’t she just the cutest thing?” Then, they posed for pictures.
How sweet it was for Neil to delay his departure from that lobby for this young person! I firmly believe that he gained another fan for life—and that the music will live forever!! After Neil left, I became aware of the magnitude of what had just happened in such a brief period of time, and was just so overcome with happiness and glee that I cried! I recalled earlier in the year, when I had seen Neil in New York before the tour began, he said in an interview that he had lots of surprises for this tour. And, happily, he does NOT disappoint!
I am thankful for Neil Diamond and his music—and the effect it has on people of all ages.