Monday, 27 April 2009

Neil Diamond - The 1980s

A movie version of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" was planned to star Diamond and Streisand, but plans fell through when Diamond starred in a remake of the Al Jolson classic The Jazz Singer in 1980, opposite Sir Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. Though the movie was not a blockbuster hit at the box office, the soundtrack was a hugely successful album, spawning the 3 Top 10 singles "Love on the Rocks," "Hello Again," and "America." For his role in the film itself, Diamond became the first ever Winner of a Worst Actor Razzie Award, yet he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the same role.

Another Top 10 chart selection, "Heartlight," was inspired by the blockbuster 1982 movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Though the film's title character is never actually mentioned anywhere in the lyrics, Universal Pictures, which had released E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and was the parent company of the Uni Records label, by then referred to as the MCA Records label, for which Diamond had recorded for years, briefly threatened legal action against both Diamond and the Columbia Records label.

Neil Diamond’s record sales slumped somewhat in the 1980s and 1990s, and as of this time, his last single to make the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart was in 1986. However, his concert tours continued to be big draws. Billboard Magazine ranked Diamond as the most profitable solo performer in 1986. In January 1987, Diamond sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl. His song "America" was the theme song for the Michael Dukakis 1988 Presidential campaign. That same year, UB40’s reggae interpretation of Diamond’s ballad “Red Red Wine” would top the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart. Like the version of “I’m a Believer” that The Monkees had recorded, this version became better known than Diamond’s original version.

Neil Diamond - The 1970s

After Neil Diamond had signed a deal with the MCA Records label of Universal Pictures' parent company, MCA Inc., whose label was then called the Uni Records label in the late 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, California in 1970. His sound mellowed, with such songs as "'Cracklin' Rosie," "Sweet Caroline," "Holly Holy," and the country-and-western tinged "Song Sung Blue," which reached #1 on the Hot 100. "Sweet Caroline" was Diamond's first major hit after his slump. Neil Diamond recently admitted in 2007 that he had written "Sweet Caroline" for Caroline Kennedy after seeing her on the cover of Life Magazine in an equestrian riding outfit. It took him just one hour, in a Memphis hotel, to write and compose it. The 1971 "I Am...I Said" was a top five hit in both the U.S. and UK, and was his most intensely personal effort to date, taking upwards of four months to complete.

In 1972, Diamond played ten sold-out concerts at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. During the performance on Thursday, August 24, which was recorded and released as the live double album Hot August Night, Diamond said: "Thank you people in the audience that pays. Tree people out there, God bless you, I'm singing for you too." His reference was to the people hiding and listening from the trees on the hills surrounding the theatre. A few weeks later, in the fall of 1972, Diamond performed a series of one-man concerts on 20 consecutive nights at the Winter Garden Theater in New York. Every one of these reportedly sold out, and the small (approximately 1,600-seat) Broadway theater provided an intimate concert setting not common at the time. Hot August Night demonstrates Diamond's skills as a performer and showman, as he reinvigorated his back catalogue of hits with new energy. Many consider it his best work; critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls Hot August Night “the ultimate Neil Diamond record ... [which] shows Diamond the icon in full glory.” The album has become a classic. It was remastered in 2000 with three additional tracks not included in the original release (Walk on Water, Kentucky Woman and Stones). In Australia, it spent a remarkable 29 weeks at number 1 on the music charts; in 2006, it was voted #16 in a poll of favourite albums of all time in Australia. Also, in 1976 Neil Diamond's final concert of his 1976 Australian Tour (The "Thank You Australia" Concert) was broadcast over Channel 9 Australia to 36 television outlets nationwide on March 6, 1976 and remains the most popular and most watched music event ever broadcast in Australia. It also set a record for the largest attendance ever at the Sydney Sports Grounds. The 1977 concert Love At The Greek, a return to the Greek Theatre, includes a version of "Song Sung Blue" with duets with Helen Reddy and Henry Winkler a.k.a. Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli of Happy Days.

In 1973, Diamond hopped labels again, returning to the Columbia Records label with a lucrative new million-dollar-advance-per-album contract. His first project, released as a solo album, was the soundtrack to Hall Bartlett's film version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The film received hostile reviews and did poorly at the box-office. The album grossed more than the film did. Richard Bach, author of the best-selling source story, disowned the film. Both Bach and Diamond sued the film’s producer. Diamond felt the film butchered his score. Despite the shortcomings of the film, the soundtrack was a success, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard albums chart. The film score would also earn Diamond a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award (for "Skybird"), and an Oscar nomination. Diamond often includes a Jonathan Livingston Seagull suite in his live performances (as he did in his 1977 "Love at The Greek" concert). In 1974, Diamond released the album Serenade, from which the songs "Longfellow Serenade" and "I've Been This Way Before" were released. The latter had been intended for the Jonathan Livingston Seagull score, but was completed too late for inclusion.

In 1976, he released Beautiful Noise, produced by The Band's Robbie Robertson. On Thanksgiving night, 1976, Neil made an appearance at The Band's farewell concert, The Last Waltz. He performed one song, "Dry Your Eyes," which he had jointly written and composed with The Band's Robbie Robertson, and which had appeared on what was then his most recent album, Beautiful Noise. In addition, he joined the rest of the performers onstage at the end in a rendition of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."

In 1977, Diamond released an album titled I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight, which included the selection "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." He had composed its music and collaborated on its lyrics with Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. The song was covered by Barbra Streisand on her album Songbird, which led Gary Guthrie, then Program Director at WAKY Radio in Louisville, Kentucky, to combine the two recordings in a virtual duet. The popularity of the virtual duet motivated Diamond and Streisand to record the real thing, which was a number one hit in 1978 and became his third song to top the Hot 100 to date. His last 1970s album was September Morn, which included his newly-recorded version of I'm a Believer. It and Red Red Wine are the two best-known selections of his authorship and composition to have had other artists make them more famous than his own versions.

In February 1979, "Forever in Blue Jeans", an up-tempo song by Neil Diamond which was co-written with his guitarist Richard Bennett was released as a single by Columbia. It taken from the previous year's Neil Diamond album You Don't Bring Me Flowers.

According to Cotton Incorporated "Neil Diamond might have been right when he named his 1979 #1 hit “Forever in Blue Jeans”: 81% of women are planning their next jeans purchase to be some shade of blue." The song, needless to say, has been used to promote the sale of blue jeans, most notably Will Ferrell, impersonating Neil Diamond singing, for The Gap. Ironically, Diamond himself did radio ads for H.I.S. brand jeans in the 1960s, more than a decade before he sang this song.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Neil Diamond - The 1960s

In 1966, Neil Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns's Bang Records label, which was then a subsidiary company of Atlantic Records. His first release on that label, "Solitary Man," was his first hit. Prior to the release of "Solitary Man," Neil had considered using a stage name; he came up with two possible stage names, "Noah Kaminsky" and "Eice Chary." But when asked by Bang Records which name he was going to use, Noah, Eice, or Neil, he thought of his grandmother, who died prior to the release of Solitary Man. Thus he told Bang Records, "...go with Neil Diamond and I'll figure it out later." Diamond followed it with "Cherry, Cherry," "Kentucky Woman," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time," "Do It," and others. Diamond's Bang recordings were produced by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, both of whom can be heard singing background on many of the tracks.

His first concerts saw him being a "special guest" of, or opening for, everyone from Herman's Hermits to, on one occasion, The Who, which he confirmed on an installment of VH1's documentary series program Behind The Music. Neil Diamond began to feel restricted by Bang Records, wanting to record more ambitious, introspective music. Finding a loophole in his contract with Bang, Neil Diamond tried to sign with a new record label, but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a dip in his professional success. Diamond eventually triumphed in court, and secured ownership of his Bang-era master recordings in 1977.

Neil Diamond - Early Career

Neil Diamond’s first recording contract was billed as "Neil and Jack", an Everly Brothers type duo, where Diamond appeared with a high school friend, Jack Packer. They recorded two unsuccessful singles, "What Will I Do" b/w "You Are My Love at Last" and "I'm Afraid" b/w "Till You've Tried Love" both released in 1962. Later in 1962, Diamond signed with the Columbia Records label as a solo performer. Columbia Records released the single "At Night" b/w "Clown Town" in July, 1963. Despite a tour of radio stations, the single failed to make the music charts. Billboard Magazine gave an excellent review to "Clown Town" in their July 13, 1963 issue, predicting it would be a hit. Unfortunately sales were disappointing and Columbia dropped Diamond from their label. Soon after that, Diamond was back to writing songs on an upright piano above the Birdland Club.

Diamond spent his early career as a songwriter in the Brill Building. His first success as a songwriter came in November, 1965 with the song "Sunday and Me" performed by Jay and the Americans, which was a top 20 hit on the Billboard Charts. Greater early success as a writer followed with "I'm a Believer", "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," and "Love to Love" which were all recorded by The Monkees. There is a popular misconception that Diamond wrote and composed these songs specifically for the "Pre-Fab Four." In reality, Diamond had written, composed and recorded these songs to release himself, but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence of this was that Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. "I'm a Believer" was the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966. Other notable artists who recorded early Neil Diamond songs were Elvis Presley, who interpreted “Sweet Caroline” as well as “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”, Mark Lindsay, former lead singer for Paul Revere & the Raiders, also covered "And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind", the English hard rock band Deep Purple which interpreted “Kentucky Woman”, Lulu, who covered “The Boat That I Row”, and Cliff Richard, who released versions of “I’ll Come Running”, “Solitary Man”, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", “I Got The Feelin’"(Oh, No, No), and “Just Another Guy.”

Neil Diamond - Intro

Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter. Neil Diamond is one of pop music's most enduring and successful singer-songwriters. As a successful pop music performer, Neil Diamond scored a number of hits worldwide in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. According to David Wild, common themes in Diamond's songs are: "A deep sense of isolation and an equal desire for connection. A yearning for home - and at the same time, the allure of greater freedom. The good, the bad and the ugly about a crazy little thing called love."