The protagonist in the movie “What About Bob” attributes his failed marriage to this time-tested rule: “There are two types of people in the world — those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. My ex-wife loves him.” Well, despite the fact that Neil Diamond is sometimes rebuked by rockers for his symphonic serenades, I’m proud to say I’m a fan. He wrote some of the most memorable pop songs of the 1960s, including “Cherry, Cherry,” “I’m a Believer,” “Solitary Man,” and “Cracklin’ Rosie.” And he’s a good sport, too, appearing in movies (“Saving Silverman”) and TV shows (“Saturday Night Live”) that have playfully mocked him for his sometimes grandiose anthems and dramatic delivery.
He’s best known for the ubiquitous “Sweet Caroline,” a composition based on his memory of a Life magazine cover photo of young Caroline Kennedy, decked in riding regalia, sitting atop a horse. The homage was a charming gesture, in an era when most rockers were penning acid-tinged odes to maharishis and drug doctors. While the song only reached #4 on the charts, it later went on to platinum status and would one day be heard in sports stadiums across the land. Boston Red Sox fans are just plain Caroline-crazy, singing along to the tune during the eighth inning of every home game. Other teams have embraced the song, as well, from the New York Mets and Washington Nationals to the New York Rangers and Pitt Panthers. One of life’s great mysteries remains: What’s the connection between Caroline and cleats?
After turning out nearly 40 albums and 56 singles over the past 50 years, Neil Diamond was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. In introducing his friend, Paul Simon said, “My question is: what took so long? I’ll give you my theory. Six words: ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore.'” Okay, so Neil has gone down schmaltzy streets from time to time (so have born-rockers Rod Stewart and Elvis Costello), but you can’t deny the brilliance of his writing and beauty of his voice.
Neil Diamond is sometimes referred to as the Jewish Elvis. It’s an interesting comparison, if you don’t count the King’s diet (fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches), wardrobe (bursting-at-the-seams jumpsuits), and hobbies (using TV screens for target practice).
Still, both Elvis and Neil were graced with dark good looks, powerful voices and a passion for performing. But according to the “Jew or Not Jew” website, which rates Jewishness on a scale of 1 to 10, Neil falls short as a true-blue Jew: “It has everything to do with his Christmas album. That’s right, a supposed observant Jew released something called ‘The Christmas Album.’ How does that make any sense? Why did you do that, Neil?”
Hey, he’s Neil Diamond and he’s earned the right to make whatever musical noise he wants. He is…he said.
Here’s Neil, playing “Cherry, Cherry,” a great little rock-n-roll tune.
© Dana Spiardi, Jan 24, 2012