Neil Diamond: 50 years on the road, no plans to slow down

Music legend Neil Diamond, who has crafted such classic songs as Solitary Man, Sweet Caroline, Cherry Cherry, and Cracklin’ Rosie – to name only a few – over the past five decades, has no plans to pack it in anytime soon.

”Well, maybe in 20 years from now, but not right now,” he cracked during a recent teleconference interview with North American music writers, including Sun Media.

In fact, the 67-year-old New Yorker has been on the road since mid-July and had Western Canadian dates back in September in support of his latest critically acclaimed disc, Home Before Dark.

He’s now on the third leg of the tour that will take him across the United States until early January.

Diamond, who has sold more than 125 million albums worldwide, explained what keeps him going after all this time and how his longevity has surprised even him.

”I never would have predicted this,” he said. ”It seems that my whole career has been just stumbling from one place to another in search of new music and good music, and new people to work with, and new shows to do. I never expected that I’d be around this long when I first started.

”It’s been 42 years since (my first single) Solitary Man.”

Diamond said the first two legs of the tour were ”spectacular,” even though he did come down with laryngitis before starting the third leg of the trek.

”For some reason, I just lost my voice. But I took the rest,” he said. ”I came back and the voice is as good as ever.”

One aspect of Diamond’s live show has always been those trademark sequined shirts he favours, although he claims to have toned things down in that department.

”I wanted the shows to be fun. And rock and roll has always been lot of a circus to me and I never hesitated to make the costumes reflect that. But I guess now I’m kind of toning things down a little bit and feeling right about it.”

Helping motivate Diamond to remain on tour after all this time is the fact that Home Before Dark was the first No. 1 record he’s ever had, believe it or not.

”Frankly, it came as a surprise to me when I was told that this was my first number one,” he said. ”I thought I had one or two before this, so it’s nice to have that little milestone. But then even more important I was very pleased with the way the album came out. It doesn’t do any good to have a number one record that stinks. I would much rather have a wonderful album. And for me, this album, I think it’s one of my best.”

Home Before Dark saw Diamond reuniting with Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Metallica, Dixie Chicks, Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers), who was also at the helm of Diamond’s critically acclaimed 2005 effort, 12 Songs.

As with the past record, there is a sense of Rubin – who Diamond describes as ”an objective listener, not in your face” – wanting to distil the essence of Diamond’s sound with very personal and intimate songs (although the artist didn’t see it that way).

”When we got into the studio, we got in with a very small ensemble not knowing what would happen or what would come out of it,” Diamond said. ”Rick may have wanted to hearken back to simpler days of my career when I worked with a five piece group and maybe he was shooting to capture that in the session, I’m not sure, we never discussed that.

”Basically, we were going into kind of find out what these songs would sound like and what they would feel like in a studio setting with a couple of additional musicians aside from myself.”

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