Diamond is probably the most famous Jewish male musician. He is known in some circles as "The Jewish Elvis."
He began his career as a songwriter, working in New York City near the end of the Tin Pan Alley era in the mid-'60s. His songs were recorded by Jay and the Americans, Cliff Richard and The Monkees.
He went to Erasmus high school in Brooklyn, New York, where he sang in the chorus with Barbra Streisand (they never spoke). He later went to Abraham Lincoln High, which is where he graduated. Carole King and Neil Sedaka also went there.
Unlike many Rock Stars, Diamond tends to stay out of trouble. Will Ferrell used to imitate him on Saturday Night Live, poking fun of his mild demeanor in bits where he would use crude language and talk about things like hanging his agent out of the Brill building.
Neil Diamond is his real name, but despite this good fortune, he considered using that stage names Eice Cherry and Noah Kaminsky. He explained during a Reddit AMA: "Although Neil Diamond may sound cool now, when I was about to put my first record out, it was just my name and pretty boring. My first name - Neil - was the one the kids around the street made fun of, because there was hardly anybody around who had it, so I was anxious to get rid of that name on my first record, but chickened out for personal reasons."
"My two other main choices were:
Noah Kaminsky (which had biblical underpinnings and great character) and secondly, Ice Charry (which I thought was pure rock & roll)."
He wears shiny shirts adorned with beads on stage. This can come off as cheesy, but he does it to make himself easier to see.
In 1968, Neil Diamond and Bert Berns, founder of Bang Records, had a disagreement about the path Neil Diamond's career was to follow, and as a result, Berns refused to release the song "Shilo" as a single. After a heated confrontation, Neil Diamond left Bang Records and signed on with Uni Records.
Asked if he enjoys the songwriting process by the Daily Telegraph in 2014, Diamond replied: "No, I hate it. I hate it. But all right, nobody told me it was gonna be easy. And so what? I'm a ditch-digger when I'm writing songs. My back hurts? Who cares? I gotta get that ditch dug deep and strong and it's gotta serve its purpose. There are no short cuts. There are only long cuts. That's what it is. But I've been doing it a long time now. I can't find another way to make a living."
Legendary Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry ("Chapel Of Love
," "Leader of the Pack
," "Da Doo Ron Ron
," "Do Wah Diddy Diddy
") helped discover Neil Diamond when he was recording demos in the studio one day. "We brought Neil to our partners and wanted to sign him, and quite frankly they just didn't get it," Jeff told KRTH 101.1 FM's Gary Bryan. "So I took him over to one of my best friends Bert Berns who had Bang Records, so he ended up over there."
Diamond's first hits including "Solitary Man
" and "Cherry, Cherry
" were produced by Jeff Barry with Ellie Greenwich. The two producers can both be heard singing background on many of the tracks.
Neil Diamond gets asked to play "Sweet Caroline
" all the time, but he revealed during a Reddit AMA that his favorite song to perform is "I Am...I Said
." He explained: "I can really dig into it, the lyric has a real resonance in my life, and I don't do it nearly as often as "Sweet Caroline" but it is easily my favorite song to sing."
Neil Diamond's favorite covers of his songs are UB40's version of "Red Red Wine
" and Frank Sinatra's rendition of "Sweet Caroline."
Neil Diamond's 2008 release Home Before Dark was his first #1 on the US album chart, 42 years after his debut LP.
Before Diamond was offered a songwriting deal during his senior year at New York University he planned on going to medical school and becoming a laboratory biologist. He recalled during a 2003 CNN interview with Larry King: "I really wanted to find a cure for cancer. My grandmother had died of cancer. And I was always very good at the sciences. And I thought I would go and try and discover the cure for cancer."