Diamond Anniversary as Neil voews to make Scots show special

Neil Diamond welcomes me to his plush suite in the famous Dorchester Hotel in London, asks for quiet for our interview then mockingly rolls his eyes as his PA yaks on to the Sunday Mail photographer.

“You can see my word carries a lot of weight around here,” says the superstar with a smile.

Neil is counting down to his show at Glasgow’s Hampden Park on July 2 and he’s planning to make it a real celebration.

When the singer, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, strolls on stage at the national stadium, it will mark 50 years since he signed his first record deal.

Back then, he was one half of Neil And Jack an Everly Brothersstyle duo formed with a high school buddy who released the single You Are My Love At Last.

No, I don’t remember it either. But despite being a chart flop, the song paved the way for a phenomenal career in which he’s sold more than 120million records and won countless music awards.

He’s also seen his songs performed by some of the biggest names in the business including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, The Monkees, Deep Purple and our own Lulu.

At 70, Neil concedes he’s now in the “late afternoon” of his time as a performer but he is looking forward to the Hampden show with a youthful enthusiasm.

He told me: “I recently received the Billboard Magazine icon award. I’m not exactly sure what it means but I think it’s a good thing.

“I’ve played Scotland many times and love it there. The audiences are superb and ready to have a good time.”

When he last appeared at Hampden in 2008, he got soaked as he wowed a capacity crowd during a thunderstorm performing hits such as Sweet Caroline, Cracklin’ Rosie and a showstopping I Am… I Said.

He joked: “This time, I’ll say a little prayer and hope for the best. All I need is a willing and enthusiastic audience.

“I don’t get nervous before a gig… I get excited. It’s still a thrilling situation. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. There’s no set ritual. I just want to get out there and do my show. It’s what we came for.”

But in a career spanning more than five decades Neil has seen the record industry change out of all recognition.

He learned his craft in the legendary Brill Building in New York, the music publishing house whose team of songwriters included Neil Sedaka, Paul Simon and Carole King.

In 2008, Neil guested on American Idol and, while impressed by the young performers, he fears he’d never have got past the first audition if a similar style of TV talent show existed in the late 1950s.

He said: “I started songwriting when I was 17 and didn’t have my first chart record until I was 25. I took a long time to develop. I was a late bloomer.

“I spent eight years trying to get a foothold and a break. I don’t think I’d have done well on American Idol. Would I have passed the selection process? Probably not.

“But I think American Idol is a good thing. It gives a few people the opportunity to be seen. I preferred to work in tiny clubs, bowling alleys or ski lodges. I’d play any place which would take me and I really learned my trade. I did what I had to do out of the public eye.

“But on American Idol you’re judged by the whole nation. That’s a tremendous pressure and I would not like that at all.

“It’s a very nervewracking thing for these kids to go through. Most handle themselves very well but I wouldn’t like to have had to go through that process.”

Neil has been married twice. In 1963, he wed high school sweetheart Jayne Posner and they had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before divorcing six years later.

In 1969, he tied the knot with Marcia Murphey and they also had two children, sons Jesse and Micah, before splitting in 1995. The following year he was romantically linked with Rachel Farley, who worked on his tours.

The superstar is still idolised by millions of women who might have been impressed by his bedside manner if his early career plans had taken a different path.

He studied to be a doctor and revealed to US TV talk show host Larry King: “My grandmother died of cancer. I thought I would discover a cure for it.”

But during his final year studying medicine at New York University, he quit to take up a job writing songs for $50 a week.

He told me: “It’s a shame as Dr Diamond has a certain ring to it.

“I thought it was a respectable profession and wanted to help people but I realised after my first year at university I wasn’t going to make it.

“I was also on the fencing team and was training three days a week and competing on weekends.

“If you’re studying medicine, it’s got to be the thing you focus on but my real passion lay with music.

“I’ve been singing since I was a youngster and was taking music lessons by my midteens. It stayed with me while everything else came and went. Music was always there and still is, so I think I made the right choice.”

Neil still travels the globe playing sellout concerts and the superfit singer doesn’t see his OAP status as a handicap.

He said: “I don’t know if I’m in the twilight of my career maybe the late afternoon.

“I feel very blessed to have been able to do this for all my life and want to continue as long as I can. I’m still in good voice. I have the energy and enthusiasm for it.

“If I didn’t, I’d maybe have to find a second occupation like delivering newspapers.

“But I’m gonna keep going in music for as long as people come and enjoy themselves. If they do that, I’ll be there.”

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