January 24 ~  What I Am Essential Neil Diamond

"My music says what I am. It speaks about what I feel as a person, what I dream about, what I hope to be, what I ache for, what I love." ~ Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond

Singer-songwriter Neil Leslie Diamond (1941-) was born in Coney Island, New York where his dad ran a dry goods business and moved his family from one Brooklyn location to another, looking for success.

"I was a solitary child," Diamond recalled, unable to make and keep friends. "I was a sort of black sheep." His loneliness drew him to music--the Western singing cowboys, Frank Sinatra, and show tunes.

At 16, Diamond taught himself the guitar and started writing songs as "an outlet for a great deal of frustration."

A pre-med student with dreams of finding a cure for cancer, Diamond dropped out and signed with Columbia Records. "An offer I couldn't refuse... a 16-week contract, 50 bucks a week," he said.

In 1966, Cherry Cherry and Solitary Man were the first of many hits that he would pen and record.

"I'm a perfectionist. I like to get it right. I like to get it good," said Diamond, who released his 46th album and appeared on American Idol in 2008.

His distinctive, velvet voice, once marketed as "the voice with a tear in it," has continued to croon romantic love songs with impassioned earnestness. Performing concerts with charismatic, "touching you...touching me," his 2-1/2 hour shows sell-out arenas worldwide. For legions of adoring fans, "good times never seemed so good."

"It all comes from the same source," Diamond told the New York Times in May 2005, "whether it's rock 'n' roll or country or folk. I'm not afraid of these rock 'n' roll guys. I was there at the beginning. I'll be there at the end."

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