Neil Diamond ‘succeeded’ beyond his wildest expectations
By MARVIN GLASSMAN, Special to The CJN
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Singer/songwriter Neil Diamond is proud of his latest accomplishments: The 67-year old grandfather of three boys is the oldest artist both to headline a North American tour of arena shows, and to have a CD debut at No. 1 on the music charts.
Diamond has been on a whirlwind, 45-city tour since Home Before Dark, released last May, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
He will be in Toronto on Dec. 2 and 3, performing at Air Canada Centre, and in Ottawa on Nov. 30, at ScotiaBank Place. He played Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg in September.
Diamond’s career seems to go on forever. He has sold 120 million records in 45 years, yet he seems to be humble enough to avoid the excesses of stardom. His new CD has generated many positive reviews of his new songs.
“I am grateful that, after all these years, people resonate with my songs. I try to be honest and truthful in everything I do, just the same as when I was struggling in the 1960s. But for me, it is not the fame or money that moves me – it is the challenge of expressing myself in new songs,” said Diamond in a phone interview.
Nearly 40,000 fans will stand up and cheer to Diamond’s songs when he comes to Air Canada Centre. Many fans will fondly remember Diamond starring in the 1980 film The Jazz Singer, a remake of the tale of a cantor who found fame as a pop singer.
Diamond’s current tour will feature Jazz Singer songs such as Love on the Rocks and America.
Although he didn’t receive critical acclaim for his acting in the film, the soundtrack of the movie includes the bestselling songs of Diamond’s career.
“The Jazz Singer is memorable as my first movie. I worked very hard to retell this classic story of a Jewish cantor who left his expected place in society for a world in show business. I loved the retelling of the Jewish experience. So much of the story reminds me of my grandparents and their kind of life. They were immigrants to America and taught Yiddish to me as a child,” he said.
“I wanted Yiddish in this movie. In fact, I tried to convince the director at one point to have the whole opening in Yiddish with subtitles as they did [with Italian] in The Godfather. Yiddish is a beautiful language, and I wanted to do my bit to keep it alive.”
Diamond’s first language at home was Yiddish, taught to him by his grandmother.
Born in Brooklyn in 1941 to Akeeba and Rose Diamond, young Neil knew he wanted a career in music, but to satisfy his father’s wishes, he enrolled as a pre-med student at New York University, on a fencing scholarship.
After taking his first job as a songwriter for $50 a week in 1961, Diamond was hooked on a music career. He married his high school sweetheart, Jewish schoolteacher Jaye Posner, in 1963. Divorced in 1969, they have two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn.
Like his character Jess Robbins in The Jazz Singer, who found more success with the gentile girl in show business than his wife, Diamond courted Marcia Murphy, a production assistant at ABC Television and married her in 1969. Diamond’s marriage with Murphy lasted 25 years, and they had two sons, Jesse and Michah.
“Marcia was my rock. I looked up to her as my source of inspiration. I honestly blame myself for the breakup of our marriage – and my marriage to Jaye, as well. The career I have, of making music, travelling on the road, and all the time I need to be in the studio, takes a toll on a marriage,” he said.
In support of Chabad, Diamond sang America at the 2002 L’Chaim To Life Telethon, and he supported Hebrew University at a 2003 dinner in honour of Barbra Streisand, where he sang You Don’t Bring Me Flowers with Streisand.
Although Diamond is ambivalent about organized religion, he eagerly embraces Jewishness and raises funds for organizations he admires. “I am Jewish. I believe in God, love the traditions I learned growing up, and tend to be very spiritual, so I want to give back to organizations that reflect my beliefs,” he said.
Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995. “I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. My goal was to exist as a musician, and when your songs work, it tells you that you, too, are worthwhile.
“But when the tour is over, I want to go back home and spoil my grandchildren,” he said.
For tickets to his concerts go to www.ticketmaster.ca