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Get away from it all to find a secluded corner to kinda sort thing out and, you know, get a hold on our feelings is a very difficult need to fulfill for most of us, I think and if you’re a pop superstar riding a wave of popularity, it’s especially tough to let go and put it aside for a while. And few do.
But singer/composer Neil Diamond is the exception. Almost four years ago he ran away from the stage and his screaming fans, dropping out of sight to search his soul.
Now Neil Diamond has returned. He just played a week long, sell-out engagement at The Greek Theater, where everyone agreed, the Neil Diamond they saw on stage was a new person. A newness that was even more evident a few weeks before in Las Vegas. The first time Diamond set foot on a stage in this country since he dropped out in 1972.
(Playing some concert instrumental music)
I love performing. It’s uh, in a sense, it’s different than songwriting, in the sense that uh, song writing really tears you up. You could spend a year looking at a legal pad and trying to the lines and trying to dig inside and find what you want to say.
Performance is here and now baby! That’s where it’s happening and uh, the gratification is immediate. It’s over immediately also. I mean, you walk off stage and suddenly, you know, you’re back to normal human existence again. But while you’re on stage, there is nothing as exhilarating. There’s nothing like it.
(Part of “Sweet Caroline” plays)
And I think the last three and a half years of being away from it, of getting to know more about myself, uh, I left the stage thinking of myself as a boy and came back beginning to know that I was growing up and becoming a man.
(Part of “Song Sung Blue” plays)
My attitude uh, on stage uh, I’m much more relaxed on stage, I enjoy it more. I used to leave the stage and it almost didn’t matter the kind of audience response. I would leave the stage and I’d be terribly depressed and I’d slam doors and be really angry at myself for having done such a miserable job and uh, uh, it was a psychological thing. I, I’d been touring for about seven years and uh, doing as many as a hundred or a hundred and twenty cities per year. There’s no way that you can even find yourself, you can find the person that’s inside, you know?
That had a great deal to do with it. Also I went through analysis in that period, which, it taught me to a degree how to talk. I never really did talk before. It was always through the music and I spent three and a half years talking to someone who never answered me uh, and uh, I learned how to talk!
I finally learned how to get over that, whatever it was that was choking me up and I feel much freer about it now.
(Neil speaks to the audience during “Song Sung Blue”: “The extraordinary thing about this song, and I guarantee you, if you sing it, you feel good. I don’t know why but somethin’ happens that makes you feel good if you sing it. Anybody want to sing it? Okay all those who raised their hands, stand up, you’re gonna sing it with me”.
I don’t want to become a performer that’s swept away by the celebrity of it all. I, it’s not real. It’s fantastic, but it’s not real.
(Plays part of “Stargazer” from a live concert)
I want to be a terrific father. I want to be a great husband. I want to be a hell of a songwriter. I want to be the BEST performer in the world. I want to be all those things. I, I don’t want to settle for any one of them. I want to be well rounded. It’s not about just to be a celebrity or performer ’cause it’s, it’s gone too quick. It’s over. It’s cotton candy. It’s delicious, but it won’t stick to the ribs.
(Plays “Rosemary’s Wine)
Neil Diamond’s need for some time alone to reflect is a need we all share I think, if only all of us had the luxury of two or three years to drop out for soul searching. Of course, most of us will never have that luxury and that’s all the more reason why we need to carve out little chunks of private time to examine our lives and get to know ourselves. Let everybody think we won’t make much of our future if we don’t spend some time thinking about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it right here and right now.