Neil Leslie Diamond was born on January 24, 1941. His father was a shopkeeper, who also served in the military for a time. Diamond grew up in Brooklyn, except for a couple of years in Wyoming – the family had moved when his father was stationed there.
His interest in music began at an early age. He was part of the chorus at Erasmus Hall High School. Barbra Streisand was also part of the chorus at that time. At 16, he received his first guitar as a birthday gift and began song writing.
He formed a singing duo with Jack Packer, a friend of his younger brother, and the two released songs under the name Neil & Jack. He met little success with Neil & Jack and the duo soon broke up.
He attended New York University on a fencing scholarship as a pre-med student before leaving to pursue his song writing career. He penned several hits for other artists, including “I’m a Believer” for The Monkees. He also composed the score for the 1973 film Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Although the film did not garner much critical acclaim or box office success, it did earn Diamond a Grammy Award for “Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special.” He worked on the soundtracks for many films over the course of his career, including 1994’s Pulp Fiction.
His first album included the singles “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry” and led to appearances on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” He also appeared on The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and in an episode of the show “Mannix.” He turned down many acting roles, preferring to work behind the scenes on soundtracks, or to appear as himself, which he did in the 1978 documentary The Last Waltz.
In 1970, at Hollywood’s Troubador nightclub, Diamond introduced Elton John – it was the British star’s first appearance on stage in the US. According to allmusic.com, “[E]arly in the 21st century, [Diamond] ranked third, behind only Elton John and Barbra Streisand, on the list of the most successful adult contemporary artists in the history of the Billboard chart.”
Diamond has been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (1984) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2011). He has also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Kennedy Center Honor.
In 2018, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and abruptly cancelled the final leg of his 50th Anniversary World Tour. He has been married three times and lives with his current wife in Colorado. Diamond has four children.
We here at Life 103.1 are pleased to include in our “Timeless Favorites” playlist a number of his most popular hits, songs that are indeed timeless in their appeal.
(allmusic.com, imdb.com, liveabout.com, biography.com)