I Am...I Said

Album: Stones (1971)
Charted: 4 4
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  • Neil Diamond goes through a full-on existential crisis in this song as he screams out, knowing no one will hear him. David Wild, author of He Is...I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond, told Songfacts: "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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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, he knew he had tapped into a nerve.

    The catalyst was none other than Neil Diamond. Barry 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)

Comments: 23

  • Shirley E. from CanadaI am, I Said resignates with pure hearts capable of deep feelings and pain. You, Mr. Commentator, do not qualify..
  • John T Sinclair from Glace Bay Nova Scotia Its always great to see others trying to interpret artist songs it tells me music as a whole is fine shape and is still and will always be the universal language .
  • Jesus from HeavenSongs - “HOLLY HOLY” and “I AM” can most definitely be about Jesus. Love them both!!
  • John from Colonia, NjI think “the chair” refers to his analyst not understanding or hearing him
  • T from Santa Clara, CaIsn't that exactly how God must have felt before he created everything? God ALWAYS was. Alone and lonely before he created the universe. THAT'S why we need to follow the FIRST commandment! God deserves our love more than anyone! If it weren't for God, we wouldn't even be here. How do we KNOW God truly exists? We know we exist! God IS as real as you and I.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyExactly fifty years ago today on April 25th, 1971 "I Am...Said I" by Neil Diamond peaked at #2 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Easy Listening chart, for the two weeks it was at #2, the #1 record for both those weeks was "If" by Bread...
    "I Am...Said I" reached #4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart and in Ireland and New Zealand it peaked at #1...
    Between 1969 and 2016 the Brooklyn, NY native had fifty-nine records on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart, thirty-six made the Top 10 with eight reaching #1...
    Three of his fifty-nine charted records were duets; "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with Barbra Streisand {#3 in 1978}, "Hooked On The Memory of You" with Kim Carnes {#23 in 1992}, and "Delirious Love" with Brian Wilson {#27 in 2006}...
    Neil Leslie Diamond celebrated his 80th birthday three months ago on January 24th, 2021...
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, the remainder of the Easy Listening Top 10 on April 25th, 1971:
    At #3. "Me and My Arrow" by Nilsson
    #4. "Put Your Hand In The Hand" by Ocean
    #5. "Me and You and A Dog Named Boo" by Lobo
    #6. "I Won't Mention It Again" by Ray Price
    #7. "Someone Who Cares" by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition
    #8. "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" by Glen Campbell
    #9. "Another Day" by Paul McCartney
    #10. "Time and Love" by Barbra Streisand
  • David Van Zandt from Comet, WvI am
    I said
    To no one there
    And no one heard at all not
    Did anyone care?
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenWell said, Marty. And I never knew about the song being in two halves on the album.
  • Marty from IdahoThis song is the heart cry of many people who come to God in their darkest hour. Unfortunately some come to God having already decided He does not exist, they throw down the gauntlet, saying in their heart, “God this is your last chance, do something miraculous and actually talk to me from this empty chair.” But God is always there and is appealing to our hearts, not our brains. We need to come to Him humbly asking to reveal Himself in the way He decides, not in the way we think He should act.
  • Agon The Conqueror from Seoul, KoreaWell seeing as the inspiration for this song came while he was in therapy, I'm surprised no one pointed out that the chair is his therapist who hears but doesn't listen.
  • Larry In Green Bay from Green Bay, WiI would just like to say all songs have lyrics that seem "stupid" or out of place. For instance, the Bee Gees song they wrote titled "Islands in the Stream." One of the lyrics for that song is "I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb." Not especially meaningful. Probably meant to rhyme with the previous line ending in the word unknown. So I am a huge Neil Diamond fan but I would also say there are about a dozen of his songs I do not like - at all (September Morn anyone?). Same for very popular artists from the same time frame, such as U2, Beatles, etc.
  • Jenny from SydneyNeil is from a Jewish background At Passover the Jewish people keep an "empty chair" for Elijah, the one who is coming to announce the coming of the Saviour If you don't know anything about the Jewish faith then of course you won't understand the line "No one heard, not even the chair" Even if you don't quite get the religious undertones it is an amazingly beautiful song, both the melody and lyrics Neil has a true gift.
  • Coy from Palestine, TexasDiamond is still touring at age 76 his 2017 tour is setting records. He has the highest listed net worth for a male singer at 255 million dollars!
  • Violet from VirginiaI used to like Dave Barry till I read his ridiculous critique of I Am I Said. So glad he caught lots of flak for it.
  • Mel from UkConsidering Neil's Jewish background, it is surprising that no one has considered its religious undertones in its key line: "I am, I said, to no one there. And no one heard at all, not even the chair." "I am" is the Old Testament name for God revealed to Moses in the burning bush and then passed onto to the Pharaoh, when he is trying to get him to release his people from slavery. (Being lost being two coasts is metaphorically like the escape through the red sea too). By saying "to no one there" adds a note of atheism; it becomes the line of an ex-believer in God. At Passover, Jewish people keep an empty chair for Elijah, the one who was to announce the coming saviour (another like Moses). The line comes to mean, not only do I not have a God, but I don't even have the hope of a saviour. Neil may not have been consciously aware of these meanings and they may have come from a subconscious part of his mind, who knows. That's what makes the song epic.
  • Susan from Atlanta, GeorgiaI think when people hone in on a single line like "not even the chair", they are trying to find something to criticize because everything around that line is so beautifully written and emotionally compelling that they have to latch onto that to keep themselves from going with the emotion. How is "not even the chair" any more bizarre than Faron Young singing Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls"? Both songs point to the sentiment of solitude, and it doesn't take many brain cells to figure out that.
  • Coy from Palestine, TxNeil 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.
  • Carolyn from Knoville, TnI 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.
  • Hikin4views from Wappingers Falls, NyI 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.
  • Tim from Raleigh, NcThe chair line could be a sarcastic allusion to Jailhouse Rock: "If you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair."
  • Rick from Belfast, MeNeil's best song.....closely followed by Holly Holy and Song Sung Blue
  • Howard from Wakefield, United KingdomThis track featured on Neil's live album 'Hot August Night'. An absolute classic album!
  • John from London, United KingdomRegarded 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.
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