Neil Diamond on embarrassing Glastonbury moments and why he’s happy doing the housework
By Amanda Cable
Neil Diamond’s gravelly tones have sold millions of records worldwide, providing him with homes in Los Angeles, New York and Colorado.
The 68-year-old has been married twice, has four children, and his 1995, £75 million divorce from his wife, Marcia Murphey, is in the top ten of costliest settlements.
What is your earliest memory?
Walking along a railroad track in Cheyenne, Wyoming with my parents. My dad was in the army, and about to be sent to fight in World War II. They were both very scared.
I remember picking up on their nerves. I was only three, but I’ve kept that memory with me ever since, so I think their emotions must have been pretty raw.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
The worst thing that could possibly happen to any musician on stage is that the sound goes out, which is exactly what happened when I played at Glastonbury last year.
Of course, it always works itself out, because somebody realises that a switch has to be turned back on, but it’s the most helpless feeling in the world. I just carried on playing with the band, but we were the only ones who could hear the music.
The silence seemed to last for about two years, but I think it was only a few minutes.
Neil Diamond: I know it’s predictable but I’d have to take my guitar if I was stuck on a desert island
Have you ever considered another career?
Well, it really is a case of who would have me! I have sometimes wondered if there was anything else I could have done but, frankly, I would have been useless at most things.
Mechanically, I’m an idiot, technology is all beyond me… there’s really nothing I can do. Apart from cleaning – I do clean up my home pretty well. I can put dirty plates in the sink, but I don’t like washing up.
I worked as a waiter when I was at school and I wouldn’t want to do that as a living now, not at my age, but I would if I had to feed my kids – I’d do any job.
What advice would you offer to your teenage self?
I’d say, ‘Hang on to your hat kid, it will be one hell of a ride!’
Actually, I was a nice, quiet teenager, and I didn’t ever get into trouble. I just took my time trying to find my own pace in life, to see what I wanted to do. I discovered music by the age of 15, and that gave me the focus I needed. When I was 17, I wrote my first song, for my girlfriend – and I never looked back.
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Which of your belongings would you never throw out?
I treasure a watch my dad gave me. But perhaps my most meaningful possession is a gold medal I won when I was 17 at a fencing tournament between all the high schools in New York. Until that wonderful moment, when the medal was handed to me, I didn’t know what it was like to be a champ. I shall never forget the feeling of pride.
In fact, it really did change me, because it raised my self-esteem. It was a defining moment for me. This really tiny fencing medal sits beside my Grammy and Golden Globe awards. It has been a good omen for me. I do believe in luck, and I somehow think this medal brings me such good fortune.
DID YOU KNOW?
Neil’s birthname was Noah Kaminsky. He nearly chose the stage name Eyce Charry before settling on the considerably more starry, Neil Diamond
Who was the last person you received a text from and what did it say?
I only get texts occasionally, and the last one was from my daughter.
To be honest, I don’t like using a mobile; it’s a kind of electronic leash. Although it’s helpful sometimes, you can never truly get away from work, and it’s a real distraction.
However, I do tweet on Twitter every once in a while. I’ve had a real battle with machines and mechanical things all my life. I’ve no understanding of anything that is mechanical. Frankly, it either works or it doesn’t work; I’ll fix it or I’ll throw it away.
Does anything keep you awake at night?
I sleep very well and never wake in the middle of the night, no matter what is going on in my life. I like to read a book last thing and that usually does the trick.
Things aren’t as easy in the mornings, though. It takes me a little bit to wake up, and I’m never as bright as a button. I stumble around in a bit of a daze – almost as if I’m sleep-walking, until my brain eventually kicks in and decides it is time to catch up with the rest of the world. I have a cup of tea and then get on with my day.
What would you take as your desert island luxury?
I guess every musician will give the same answer, and I hate to be predictable, but, yes, I would probably have to take my guitar, and that’s all I would need to keep me happy and occupied.
Mind you, I wouldn’t be strumming for long, because I’d be so busy waiting for someone to bring me lunch that I would probably starve to death. I can honestly say I would be pretty useless stuck on a desert island.
Neil Diamond’s CD and DVD, Hot August Night: NYC Live From Madison Square Garden, is out now on Sony Music.
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