Stars honor Neil Diamond at MusiCares gala

Stars honor Neil Diamond at MusiCares gala

Enlarge By Mario Anzuoni, Reuters

“I love the idea of other people singing my songs. They’ll do it their own way,” Neil Diamond said .

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Neil Diamond was hardly music’s solitary man as friends and admirers lauded him Friday night at the annual MusiCares gala.
“Welcome to your bar mitzvah,” said Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, who earlier snagged the singer/songwriter’s donated 1956 Thunderbird convertible at a live auction with a bid of $75,000. Diamond later asked for a ride in the car, which years ago had been a gift from his band.

Anointed 2009’s Person of the Year, Diamond was honored for his artistic and philanthropic works by the academy charity, which offers financial, medical and personal assistance to musicians in need.

An eclectic array of Diamond devotees paid homage in song at the dinner and all-star tribute, attended by 2,200 in the Los Angeles Convention Center, The Jonas Brothers opened with Forever in BlueJeans, followed by Jennifer Hudson’s Holly Holy, a soulful stunner that brought the night’s only standing ovation. Adele, her right thumb bandaged, sang Cracklin’ Rosie, Kid Rock turned in an animated Thank the Lord for the Night Time, and Urge Overkill reprised its Pulp Fiction version of Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.

Coldplay submitted a playful acoustic version of I’m a Believer, a Diamond tune made famous by The Monkees. Chris Cornell belted Kentucky Woman, while Eric Benet delivered a subdued Heartlight and Tim McGraw sang a nearly twangless Hello Again. Cassandra Wilson’s jazzy September Morn spotlighted Terence Blanchard on trumpet. For Play Me, Josh Groban accompanied himself on piano, and Raul Malo, one of Diamond’s favorite singers, strummed guitar during his plaintive Solitary Man. Foo Fighters, the only act to dip into Diamond’s 21st-century songbook, turned Delirious Love into a rock blast.

Midstream, host Jimmy Kimmel cracked, “This is like the greatest karaoke night ever, right?”

In a video segment, Diamond recalled phoning Eddie Vedder. “I have this benefit coming up,” Diamond told him, inviting the Pearl Jam singer to perform.

The response: “This is really Neil Diamond?”

Diamond paused: “Are you Eddie?”

Diamond quickly figured out he was talking to someone named Eddie Rodriguez. Since the conversation was going nicely, Diamond said, he pressed ahead and asked Rodriguez about himself. “We do Tejano music.”

That’s how Rodriguez and Los Volcanes, his accordion-based Conjunto band, wound up playing Red Red Wine, in Spanish and English, on an A-list bill at a fancy charity ball.

Before Diamond cherry-picked his catalog to close the show (Cherry Cherry, Love on the Rocks, the recent Pretty Amazing Grace, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers with Faith Hill), he commended the evening’s performers for their renditions of “my little musical creations.”

The 68-year-old singer thanked his children, who “forgave me for leaving so often to do my work and my touring.”

His mother, in the audience, got credit for setting him on the path to greatness.

“I started taking guitar lessons when the Brooklyn Dodgers left Brooklyn,” he says. “I was so depressed. My parents bought a guitar and paid it off $1 a week for 10 weeks. It was a good investment, Mom. You made a life for me.”

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