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I Am...I Said by Neil Diamond

Album: StonesReleased: 1971Charted:
4
4
  • David Wild, author of He Is...I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond, told us: "Neil began the song after doing a screen test to play rebel comedian Lenny Bruce in a film. Feeling that he had failed, Neil was thrown into something of an existential funk and started the song. It would take months for him to finish the song, but in the end it would become a classic. One postscript: around 2000, Neil allowed me to see the 'failed' screen test that set him off, and I was surprised to see that after all that he was really wonderful in the part. Still, things worked out pretty well for Neil."
  • Neil Diamond told Q magazine July 2008 that he had to write this autobiographical song "to find myself." Diamond added "It's a tough thing for me to gather myself after singing that song."
  • This took Diamond four months to compose.
  • Neil Diamond told Mojo magazine July 2008 that this song came from a time he spent in therapy in Los Angeles. He said: "It was consciously an attempt on my part to express what my dreams were about, what my aspirations were about and what I was about. And without any question, it came from my sessions with the analyst."
  • This featured in the 1999 film Holy Smoke.
  • Unless you have heard the album, you may not realize the song is divided into halves; the first half of the song opens Side One and the second half closes Side Two. The song was reassembled for the single.
  • This is a powerful song, though it has been parodied on occasion, particularly for the lyrics, "No one heard at all, not even the chair." However, as a song of frustration and self-declaration, it is a timeless classic. (thanks, Kelley - Hickory, KY, for above 2)
  • Journalist Dave Barry says that the inspiration to write his Book Of Bad Songs came from one newspaper column he had written regarding songs he didn't particularly care for, which generated such an incredible response that he knew he had tapped into a nerve. The catalyst of all of this was none other than Neil Diamond. Dave writes: "It would not trouble me if the radio totally ceased playing ballad-style songs by Neil Diamond. I realize that many of you are huge Neil Diamond fans, so let me stress that, in matters of musical taste, everybody is entitled to an opinion, and yours is wrong."
    He goes on to say: "Consider the song 'I Am, I Said,' wherein Neil, with great emotion, sings: 'I am, I said, to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair.' What kind of line is that? Is Neil telling us he's surprised that the chair didn't hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, 'Whoa, I heard that!' My guess is that Neil was really desperate to come up with something to rhyme with 'there' and he had already rejected 'So I ate a pear,' 'Like Smokey The Bear,' and 'There were nits in my hair.'"
    The response of hate-mail was so overwhelming that he combined them all into one all-purpose-irate-Neil Diamond-fan hate letter, beginning "Dear Pukenose..."
    When all was said and done, he had to write a public apology to all the Neil Diamond fans he offended: "Please stop writing! You have convinced me! Neil is a music god!  I worship Neil on a daily basis at a tasteful shrine to him erected in my living room! I love ALL the songs Neil sang to us! Not to mention all the songs he brang to us!" (Thanks to Kent Kotal at the Forgotten Hits newsletter)
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Comments: 7

Neil had to fight to keep the line "not even the chair" in the song. It is a song about being absolutely alone and lost. The chair is an allegory. It obviously represents a person very close who is not there. It is probably too deep for most Neil Diamond fans to understand, but the hook in the chorus is powerful enough to make the record a classic without understanding the lyric.Coy - Palestine, Tx
I guess I'm more like Dave Barry...I never cared for this song, and I'm a huge fan of Neil Diamond. How can you not love songs like "Sweet Caroline", "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "Hello, Again, Hello"? But this one left me cold.Carolyn - Knoville, Tn
I just recently heard a live interview with Neil Diamond regarding this song on an oldies station. After hearing in his own words how the lyrics was written I decided to check this web site and see what was written. Many of the above posts are on the money. However, here a few points of interest from the interview. He wrote the lyrics in less than an hour while in his room at a Holiday Inn in L.A.. He described how he was depressed about how the audition went when he entered his hotel room alone and sat at the little table by the window where he took in all the sunshine and palm trees, but at the same moment felt extremely homesick for New York. He said he began to seriously doubt his move to the West Coast and felt very alone in the world when he began writing the lyrics to one of his finest songs. He said that many people, including the record company, questioned the use of "the chair" in the song, but he insisted that it remain. The "chair", he says, actually refers to the second chair at the table with him in the hotel room while he wrote the lyrics . . . it was the closest thing he had to a companion, yet even it would not hear him. In conclusion, even though he wrote the song in a mere hour it took him several months to recapture those immense feelings on a track. Hope this was helpful.Hikin4views - Wappingers Falls, Ny
The chair line could be a sarcastic allusion to Jailhouse Rock: "If you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair."Tim - Raleigh, Nc
Neil's best song.....closely followed by Holly Holy and Song Sung BlueRick - Belfast, Me
This track featured on Neil's live album 'Hot August Night'. An absolute classic album!Howard - Wakefield, United Kingdom
Regarded by many as his best song, and you will never find a Neil Diamond compilation album - and there's enough of them - without it. Personally, I'd put it fourth behind Home Before Dark, Brooklyn Roads, and Cracklin' Rosie. A darn good song though.John - London, United Kingdom