Childhood & Early Life
Neil Leslie Diamond was born on January 24, 1941 to Rose and Akeeba ‘Kieve’ Diamond, a Jewish couple, in Brooklyn, New York.
He attended Abraham Lincoln High School, where he received his high school diploma. During his school years that he was a part of the fencing team. He was later offered a fencing scholarship to New York University, where he specialized in saber.
During his time at the university, he was a member of 1960 NCAA men’s championship team. In his senior year at the university, a music publishing company made him an offer of $50 per week to write songs, which he took up.
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In 1962, he signed his first recording contract as ‘Neil and Jack’, with his high-school friend, Jack Parker. The duo recorded two singles ‘You Are My Love At Last’ b/w ‘What Will I Do’ and ‘I’m Afraid’ b/w ‘Till You’ve Tried Love’; both of which, became unsuccessful.
In 1962 itself, he signed a solo contract with Columbia Records. After releasing a couple of singles under the record label, Columbia dropped him from the label because he was not very successful with singles like ‘Clown Town’. He then went back to writing songs.
In 1965, he had his first success as a songwriter with the song, ‘Sunday and Me’, which he wrote for ‘Jay and the Americans’. A string of other successful singles followed including, ‘I’m a Believer’ and ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’. The next year, he signed a record deal with ‘Bang Records’.
His first hit was ‘Solitary Man’. He later followed this hit with a number of singles such as ‘Cherry, Cherry’, ‘Kentucky Woman’ and ‘Do It’. Despite working with ‘Bang Records’, he felt that he had not yet reached his maximum potential. Thus, in 1968, he signed a record deal with MCA Records.
In 1970, he moved to Los Angeles and delivered hits like ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, ‘Song Sung Blue’ and ‘Sweet Caroline’, which all rose to the top of music charts. The next year, he came up with one of the best hits of his career, ‘I Am… I Said’, which took nearly 4 months to complete.
1972 was an extremely busy year for the singer-songwriter as he performed in 10 full-house concerts at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. All of his performances were compiled and released the same year in a live double album titled, ‘Hot August Night’. He also performed at the Winter Garden Theatre the same year.
He switched back to Columbia Records once again in 1973 after they offered to give him a million dollars in advance for each of his albums. His first album received positive reviews and peaked in the top positions on charts, despite being used as a soundtrack for a flop film.
In 1976, Diamond released ‘Beautiful Noise’, which was his tenth studio album overall. He performed the song ‘Dry Your Eyes’ with ‘The Band’ on their sendoff show. This album became a critical hit because it showcased his production style and compositional variety. The same year, he performed at the ‘Theater for Performing Arts’ which gathered sold-out crowds.
He released ‘I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight’ in 1977. Two years later, he released his last album for the decade titled, ‘September Morn’, which featured hits like, ‘I’m a Believer’ and ‘Dancing in the Street’.
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He was cast in the American drama film, ‘The Jazz Singer’ alongside Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his role in the film. Some of the singles in the movie’s soundtrack such as, ‘Love on the Rocks’ and ‘America’, became hits.
In the 1980s, his record sales collapsed with the last single making the Billboard charts in 1986.
From 1993 to 1998, there was a resurgence in his popularity when he released a number of albums under Columbia Records including, ‘Up on the Roof: Songs from the Brill Building’, ‘The Christmas Album 2, ‘Tennessee Moon’ and ‘The Movie Album: As Time Goes By’.
In the new millennium, Diamond continued to record and tour. His ‘12 Songs’, which released in 2005, is regarded as one of his finest albums till date. Other albums that followed were ‘The Best of Neil Diamond’ and ‘Classic-The Universal Masters Collection’.
‘Home Before Dark’, one of his albums released in 2008, was featured at the top of the charts in New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States and became one of his greatest selling albums till date. The next year, he released another hit album, ‘A Chery Cherry Christmas’.
His most recent albums from 2009 to 2011 include, ‘Dreams’ and other compilation albums including ‘The Essential Neil Diamond’, ‘Icon’, ‘The Bang Years’ and ‘The Very Best of Neil Diamond: the Original Studio Recordings’.
In 2013, he made an impromptu entrance at Fenway Park to sing ‘Sweet Caroline’ during the 8th inning.
‘Beautiful Noise’, his 1976 album, was his 10th album overall and is considered his ‘finest all around alum’. After his career slumped a bit, it was this album that brought him back to the forefront and marked the advent of a highly successful career then on. The album featured hit singles including ‘Stargazer’, ‘If You Know What I Mean’ and ‘Dry Your Eyes’. It reached the number 1 position on the Australian Kent Music Report and was certified Platinum in the US and Gold in UK.
‘Home before Dark’, which released in 2008, received positive reviews upon its release and topped music charts in USA, UK and New Zealand and was certified 4X Gold and Platinum in USA and UK, respectively. The album also featured hit singles like ‘If I Don’t See You Again’ and ‘Forgotten’.
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Awards & Achievements
He was presented the Sammy Cahn ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, in 2000.
In 2007, he was inducted into the ‘Long Island Music Hall of Fame’.
In 2009, he was honored as the ‘MusiCares Person of the Year’.
He obtained a Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Original Score’ for the film version of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’.
He also won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture’ for ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’.
In 2011, he became an honoree at the Kennedy Center.
In 2012, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1963, he married Jaye Posner with who he has two daughters. The couple divorced six years later in 1969.
In 1979, he collapsed on stage while giving a performance and it was diagnosed that he had a tumor growing on his spine. Despite having surgery for the tumor, he continued to have persistent, severe back pain.
He then married Marcia Murphey, with whom he had two sons. He divorced his second wife in 1994 or 1995, according to different sources.
On April 12, 2012, he married Katie McNeil in front of family and friends. Prior to marrying Katie, he was in a brief relationship with Rae Farley.