Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond turns eighty years old today. Before his retirement in 2018, his career spanned over fifty years. During that time, he wrote some of the biggest songs in pop music. He is the man behind The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” and his signature tune “Sweet Caroline.” Today, we’re looking back at some of the biggest moments in his career.
Let’s take a trip back in time and look at Neil Diamond’s beginnings, biggest hits, awards, and his recent efforts to inspire unity in a divided world.
Neil Diamond’s Beginnings
Neil Diamond’s interest in music started at the young age of sixteen, according to Britannica. That is when he got his first guitar and started taking lessons. Soon, he was writing his own songs. After high school, he attended college at New York University. He planned to finish there and go to medical school. Instead, he dropped out in his final year of college to take a job as a songwriter.
He originally took a position as a staff songwriter with Sunbeam Music Company. Before long, he moved on from Sunbeam. He became part of the pop-rock assembly line at New York’s famous Brill Building. During his time there he wrote songs that would be hits for other artists. The biggest hit among those was “I’m a Believer” which was performed by The Monkees. It went gold two days after its release and stayed at the top of the charts for almost two months.
Neil Diamond released what would become his signature song in 1969. Though the song peaked at number three on the charts, it remains Diamond’s most popular song. Over the years it has been used by several college and professional sports teams.
In 2019, it was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
Last year, Neil Diamond released a video featuring hundreds of fans singing his signature song. It was meant to inspire a feeling of togetherness in a year full of both literal and figurative division.
To this day, you can go just about anywhere and belt out “Sweet Caroline” and it will be answered by a chorus of “Ba-ba-ba” from anyone in earshot.
It might not have been a chart-topper but “Sweet Caroline” made Neil Diamond a household name.
Neil Diamond in “The Jazz Singer”
Neil Diamond made his acting debut in an episode of the 60s detective show “Mannix.” His biggest role would come years later. In 1980, Diamond starred in a remake of “The Jazz Singer.” He also wrote and performed the score for the film.
The film was a financial success but was panned by critics. However, critics praised the live musical performances in the film and its soundtrack. The soundtrack for “The Jazz Singer” is one of the most successful soundtracks ever pressed. It is also one of Diamond’s most successful albums. It was certified quintuple platinum. Proving once again that Neil Diamond knows what it takes to write hit songs, even if his acting chops aren’t the most impressive.
Awards and Accolades
Over Neil Diamond’s long and successful career, he has earned several awards. In 1974, he took home the Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for the soundtrack to “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” The same year he took home the Golden Globe for the soundtrack.
Ten years later, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The same organization honored him with the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.
2011 was a huge year for Neil Diamond. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that year. He also took home the Billboard Icon Award as well as a Kennedy Center Honor.
In 2018 he was given the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement.
Neil Diamond Announces His Retirement
With just over a week left in his 50th-anniversary tour, Neil Diamond announced his retirement from touring. “It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years. My sincerest apologies to everyone who purchased tickets and were planning to come to the upcoming shows.”
Neil Diamond followed his dreams. He walked away from a medical degree to write and record music that stirred his soul. That, in and of itself, is worth celebrating.