TERRY GROSS, HOST:
That is FRESH AIR. I am Terry Gross. We’re going again into our archive to hearken to our 2005 interview with Neil Diamond. His life is the topic of the present Broadway musical “A Lovely Noise,” which options his songs. In 2018, Diamond revealed he’d been recognized with Parkinson’s illness. Neil Diamond began out writing songs for a music publishing firm within the hopes that somebody would file them. He wrote The Monkees’ No. 1 hit “I am A Believer,” however it was Diamond himself who made most of his personal songs well-known – songs like “Candy Caroline,” “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry” and “Lady, You may Be a Lady Quickly.”
As a whole lot of his contemporaries fell off the charts, he moved from teen pop to grownup pop, together with his duet with Barbra Streisand and his hits from his remake of “The Jazz Singer.” Earlier than we get to the interview, let’s hear the piece about him that our former rock historian, the late Ed Ward, recorded in 2011 after a compilation of his songs was launched.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “I’M A BELIEVER”)
NEIL DIAMOND: (Singing) I assumed love was solely true in fairy tales, meant for another person however not for me. Love was out to get me. That is the way in which it appeared. Disappointment haunted all my goals. Then I noticed her face. Now I am a believer, not a hint of doubt in my thoughts. I am in love. I am a believer. I could not go away her if I attempted.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
ED WARD: In all probability the strongest unfavourable response I’ve ever gotten to something I’ve written was once I panned a Neil Diamond present throughout my stint at Austin’s each day newspaper. His fan membership publication picked it up, and for two 1/2 years, we received letters denouncing me, the final of which got here from Vanuatu within the South Pacific. However my disappointment within the present was based mostly on remembering the place Diamond had come from. Diamond was born in Brooklyn to immigrant dad and mom in 1941 and received a guitar for his sixteenth birthday. Virtually instantly, he began writing songs and performing them with a neighbor. He went from one unsuccessful file contract to a different, from probably the most obscure to a one-single cope with Columbia.
Subsequent got here a songwriting contract with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which saved him fed however produced solely six songs in a single 12 months. He’d been mentored by the good songwriting workforce of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich after Greenwich sang backup on a demo he’d reduce. And after getting fired from Leiber and Stoller, he requested Barry and Greenwich in the event that they’d take an opportunity on him. At that time, one thing occurred.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CHERRY, CHERRY”)
DIAMOND: (Singing) Child loves me. Sure, sure she does. The woman’s out of sight, yeah. Says she loves me, sure, sure she does – going to point out me tonight. Yeah. Hey. She received the way in which to maneuver me, Cherry. She received the way in which to groove me. She received the way in which to maneuver me. Cherry, child. She received the way in which to groove me. All proper.
WARD: Barry and Greenwich scored him a cope with Bert Berns’ new label, Bang, and his second single, “Cherry, Cherry” wound up within the prime 10 in 1966. All of the sudden, he was writing greater than he might file. So Talleyrand Music, the corporate Barry and Greenwich had arrange with him, was putting his songs in all places.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “RED RED WINE”)
TONY TRIBE: (Singing) Purple, crimson wine goes to my head, makes me neglect that I nonetheless want her so. Purple, crimson wine…
WARD: “Purple Purple Wine,” for example, discovered its approach to the Jamaican expat group in London the place a man named Jimmy James recorded it, solely to be scooped by Tony Tribe, who put a reggae beat to it. Twenty-five years later, the British band UB40 recorded it on an album of the songs they’d grown up with, launched it as a single and topped the British charts, and ultimately many others, too, over an incredible two-year interval. There was little doubt he was sizzling. The Monkees’ model of “I am A Believer” was 1967’s top-selling track. And so it was no shock when The Field Tops, led by Alex Chilton, selected a track of his to file the subsequent 12 months.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “AIN’T NO WAY”)
THE BOX TOPS: (Singing) Ain’t no approach to get you out of me. Oh, child, there ain’t no method in the entire vast world. I am about to see. By and by, you are all I ever want. once I neglect how good life is, you carry it residence to me. And I say hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Come on. Hey. Ain’t no method. Oh, don’t you already know that there ain’t no method…
WARD: Nonetheless, Diamond was decided to have his personal profession and labored arduous at it, even when he, too, typically recorded wonderful variations of different individuals’s songs.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “MONDAY MONDAY”)
DIAMOND: (Singing) Monday, Monday, so good to me. Monday morning – it was all I hoped it could be. Oh, Monday morning, Monday morning could not assure that Monday night, you’d nonetheless be right here with me. Monday, Monday…
WARD: The issues at Bang have been untenable. Bang’s view of who he was and his personal concept have been at odds with one another. And when he and the label locked horns over what his subsequent single must be, it resulted in a lawsuit for possession of his recordings, which went all the way in which to the Supreme Courtroom, which present in his favor in 1977. Bert Berns, the label’s head, had died throughout the course of all of it, and by early 1968, Neil Diamond had signed to a different label and was on his approach to superstardom.
GROSS: That was the late Ed Ward recorded in 2011. For a few years, he was FRESH AIR’s rock historian. Now let’s hear my 2005 interview with Neil Diamond.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
GROSS: I feel it is honest to say your first large break – right me if I am unsuitable – was whenever you had recorded a demo and the songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry heard the demo they usually actually favored you, they usually – a few of their songs are “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Chapel Of Love”…
DIAMOND: “Be My Child.”
GROSS: “Be My Child,” yeah. So how did they hear you?
DIAMOND: I used to be making a demo. Normally, whenever you bought a track to a writer, they’d mean you can go in and make your personal demo, which was invaluable expertise to me. However I went and made the demo and employed Ellie as a backup singer, which she did even though she was having large hits. She favored to sing within the studios with the opposite ladies. And so I employed her for this session. And he or she favored one thing about what I used to be doing, my writing or my singing. And he or she introduced me to her husband, Jeff. And he favored one thing about what I used to be doing. I do not know if he favored the writing or the singing, however one favored one and the opposite one favored the opposite. So we began a working relationship. We have been each working for a similar music writer. And I sort of received let go by that music writer. And I requested Jeff and Ellie in the event that they have been interested by producing me.
GROSS: Within the first session that you simply did with them, you recorded “Solitary Man.” Did you want the concept of horns on this?
DIAMOND: I favored the concept of something on these information.
DIAMOND: I used to be simply thrilled to be there.
GROSS: Nicely, let’s hear “Solitary Man,” which, I’ve to say, I feel it is actually a terrific recording.
GROSS: Yeah. So OK, let’s hear it. That is your first hit, sure?
DIAMOND: Sure, should you can name it successful.
GROSS: That you just recorded your self, yeah? OK.
GROSS: OK. So that is Neil Diamond, “Solitary Man.”
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SOLITARY MAN”)
DIAMOND: (Singing) Melinda was mine ’til the time that I discovered her holding Jim, loving him. Then Sue got here alongside, cherished me robust. That is what I assumed, me and Sue. However that died, too. Do not know that I’ll, however till I can discover me the woman who’ll keep and will not play video games behind me, I will be what I’m – a solitary man, solitary man. I’ve had it to right here…
GROSS: That is Neil Diamond. Now, did you write this track for your self or for someone else?
DIAMOND: No, I wrote this for myself. I had a contract with Jeff and Ellie. And I began to focus in on simply what I needed to do. And so “Solitary Man” was written for me and for the primary classes that I used to be to do with Jeff and Ellie.
GROSS: So how did “Solitary Man” change your concept of what you needed out of your musical life?
DIAMOND: As soon as I had a chart file of my very own, I used to be not a child knocking round on the streets. I used to be now – nicely, we did not name them artists at the moment. We known as them vocalists. However I used to be a vocalist, and it was an entire completely different factor. I used to be writing for myself, so I needed to actually dig in and write in addition to I probably might. And I’ve to say, earlier than that point, I do not know if I used to be doing that. I used to be simply writing, and writing, and writing, perhaps simply to get an advance from a writer. However there was not a whole lot of me in these songs. And “Solitary Man” was the primary of a protracted line of me songs, my expertise songs.
GROSS: Whenever you have been working within the rock ‘n’ roll Tin Pan Alley, have been you really – and also you have been writing for music publishers. Had been you really going to an workplace constructing on daily basis to put in writing?
DIAMOND: After I was signed to a workers publishing firm, a music firm, I might go in as typically as I probably might. The subway practice from Brighton Seaside, the place I lived, that took us to New York College went additionally just a few extra stops additional to Tin Pan Alley. So there was a whole lot of chopping of lessons, going up and attempting to hawk the most recent track, in all probability that I had written in one of many lessons in school. So it was an attraction. It was a seduction that was simply a few stops past NYU. And I sadly spent a whole lot of time skipping that, the NYU Eighth Road cease, and going as much as the forty ninth Road cease, which is the place Tin Pan Alley was. And that was nice enjoyable, too.
It was that period when rock ‘n’ roll had simply are available. And anyone, anyone, might get a listening to their music as a result of the publishers did not perceive what rock ‘n’ roll was. They usually have been prepared to hearken to anyone and signal anyone that they thought might need the vaguest likelihood of getting some success. So it was an open sport for plenty of years. However then issues received severe. I received married. I used to be having a child on the way in which. And I needed to get severe. Sufficient with this enjoyable.
GROSS: Whenever you have been working as a songwriter for publishers, writing for different individuals, have been you writing for particular individuals? Had been you writing with particular singers in thoughts?
DIAMOND: Nicely, that is often the way it went again then, though I used to be by no means a ok author to sort of write for another singer, to grasp what they did finest – the keys, the sort of track. Normally, you have been instructed that so-and-so is arising for a session in three weeks, they usually want a track of this kind. And it was often as shut as attainable to the track that they’d beforehand, which was successful if it was successful. And also you needed to write a – sort of like a replica of that in a method, as a result of that is the way in which it labored in these days. You’ve gotten successful file, and your subsequent file sounds or ought to sound as very like the hit file as you may make it. However I wasn’t superb at it. That is in all probability why I spent eight years down there in Tin Pan Alley and had little or no success, nothing extra, actually, than promoting a track and taking a small advance for it to get me by the week.
GROSS: We’re listening to my 2005 interview with Neil Diamond. We’ll hear extra of the interview after a break. That is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF PETE YORN SONG, “ON YOUR SIDE”)
GROSS: That is FRESH AIR. Let’s get again to my 2005 interview with Neil Diamond. The present Broadway musical, “A Lovely Noise,” is about his life and options his songs.
Now, The Monkees did a few your songs – “I am A Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” Did you write these with them in thoughts or for your self? I am attempting to think about what the chronology was. Like, you began recording in – what? – like, ’67.
GROSS: ’66. OK. And…
GROSS: What 12 months are The Monkees? Like, is that after that?
DIAMOND: I feel ’67 – one thing like that. I recorded a few songs, together with “Solitary Man” and “Cherry, Cherry,” which was a giant hit. And due to that hit, the individuals who have been producing The Monkees known as and mentioned, we like “Cherry, Cherry.” Do you have got some other songs? I mentioned, nicely, I haven’t got something like “Cherry, Cherry,” however I’ve an album popping out quickly, and I am going to ship it over, and take your decide.
GROSS: , it is humorous. The frequent knowledge goes when telling the story of, like, songwriters from the Brill Constructing and The Beatles is that The Beatles modified every little thing. After The Beatles, bands began writing their very own songs. It drove out the skilled songwriters. However, in fact, The Monkees are a band that is, you already know, a sort of fabricated band copying The Beatles. And you’ve got this super success writing for them. And in that sense, like, The Beatles’ success inadvertently actually helped you as a songwriter.
DIAMOND: Oh, yeah, no query about it. Nevertheless it was not solely within the sense of The Monkees doing a few songs. It was within the sense that the doorways started to open for songwriters who have been in a position to sing, and I simply occurred to be considered one of them who’d been knocking across the streets for years and now, instantly, was getting a brand new and recent listening to my work. So The Beatles made an unlimited change, as did Bob Dylan. They introduced the songwriter as much as the entrance of the road and mentioned, you already know, you guys do it. And it had a devastating impact on the music publishing enterprise in Tin Pan Alley, however it opened up many doorways for individuals like me.
GROSS: My visitor is Neil Diamond. This is his model of “I am A Believer.”
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “I’M A BELIEVER”)
DIAMOND: (Singing) I assumed love was solely true in fairy tales – meant for another person however not for me. Love was out to get me. That is the way in which it appeared. Disappointment haunted all my goals. Then I noticed her face. Now I am a believer – not a hint of doubt in my thoughts. I am in love. And I am a believer. I could not go away her if I attempted. I assumed love was roughly a given factor.
GROSS: One of many issues that has saved you so musically profitable over the a long time is your excursions. Would you describe a little bit bit how you place collectively your concept of what a present must be?
DIAMOND: It is a good query. I’ve by no means labored with a director. I wish to put the exhibits collectively myself with the assistance of a whole lot of different individuals, together with the band – my band who’ve been with me for a few years. And we begin proper initially. I’ve an enormous blackboard within the studio, and we begin with the songs that I need to embrace and that we have not included in earlier exhibits. I attempt to discover a good opening track, an excellent closing track, which is often – historically for me has been “Brother Love’s Touring Salvation Present” as a result of it sort of sums up what I am about and what I might just like the world to be about. And also you fill in, and also you attempt to make one thing attention-grabbing. And every track has to have one thing that is new and recent and authentic about it even when it was written 30 years in the past.
GROSS: What about determining what to put on on your exhibits?
DIAMOND: I by no means considered it. I’ve a clothes designer. His title is Invoice Whitten. He is been doing my stage garments for 35 years now. And so I let Invoice take the lead in that. I’ve feedback, clearly, issues I like and do not like. However Invoice handles that, and I feel he determined within the mid-’70s that he needed to go together with glass beading and sparkly sort of issues mainly, I feel, as a result of nobody else was utilizing it and it could change into mine. So, OK, I attempted it, and I feel it labored very nicely, though it is change into some extent of competition. I imply, simply the truth that you carry it up is what has been occurring over time. I am going to get a assessment for a present, they usually’ll assume the present is fantastic, however they’re going to put down the shirt, which is terrific. I might somewhat have them put down the shirt than one thing essential. However I have been carrying these sort of shirts, and now it is – perhaps it is really fizzling out now. However the shirts have been a part of my persona on stage for so long as I can keep in mind.
GROSS: We’re listening to the interview I recorded with Neil Diamond in 2005. We’ll hear extra after a break. That is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF EDDIE GOMEZ’S “MATCHMAKER”)
GROSS: That is FRESH AIR. Let’s get again to the interview I recorded with Neil Diamond in 2005. The present Broadway musical “A Lovely Noise” is about his life and options his songs. I need to ask you about one other track that you simply wrote and recorded – a giant hit for you, “Candy Caroline,” which is now performed at Purple Sox video games at Fenway Park, and perhaps you already know the story of why that’s. However let’s begin with the track itself. Is there a narrative behind the writing of the track?
DIAMOND: Yeah. I feel so. I used to be heading all the way down to Memphis for my first recording session down there. There have been some producers I needed to work with. And I solely had two songs written, and in these days, a session was three hours, and also you often had three songs that you simply recorded. So the night time earlier than the session, at some motel in Memphis, I knocked out this track “Candy Caroline.” It was one of many quickest songs I’ve ever written, and we recorded it the subsequent day. And it turned considered one of my greatest songs, if not the most important track. However songs often do not come like that. There’s often a whole lot of work and tooth gnashing and agony and torment over any of those songs. However that one simply popped out, and there it was. And right here it’s now. Nonetheless, individuals can sing it.
GROSS: It is also sung quite a bit in bars.
DIAMOND: Nicely, the very fact is that it is enjoyable and straightforward to sing with. And I feel that that is the underside line so far as that track is anxious. It is simple to sing. It is enjoyable. Folks wish to sing it. And that is why it is standard in bars – ‘trigger anyone can sing it irrespective of what number of drinks you’ve got had.
GROSS: Nicely, Neil Diamond, thanks very a lot for speaking with us.
DIAMOND: My pleasure, Terry.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SWEET CAROLINE”)
DIAMOND: (Singing) The place it started, I can not start to know when, however then I do know it is rising robust. Was within the spring, and spring turned the summer time. Who’d have believed you’d come alongside? Arms, touching arms, reaching out, touching me, touching you. Candy Caroline, good instances by no means appeared so good. I have been inclined to imagine they by no means would. However now I take a look at the night time, and it do not appear so lonely.
GROSS: My interview with Neil Diamond was recorded in 2005. In 2018, he revealed he was recognized with Parkinson’s illness. The Neil Diamond musical, “A Lovely Noise,” is at the moment on Broadway. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we’ll function our interview with Janelle Monae. She grew up desirous to carry out on Broadway however turned well-known for her afrofuturist funk, soul and hip-hop. She additionally co-starred within the movies “Glass Onion,” “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight.” Monae, who identifies as nonbinary, has a brand new album known as “The Age Of Pleasure.” I hope you may be a part of us.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEIL DIAMOND SONG, “AMERICA”)
GROSS: To maintain up with what’s on our present and get highlights of our interviews, comply with us on Instagram @nprfreshair. FRESH AIR’s govt producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with extra engineering right now from Adam Staniszewski. Our interviews and evaluations are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Ann Marie Baldonado, Therese Madden, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Susan Nyakundi. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the present. Our co-host is Tonya Mosley. I am Terry Gross.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “AMERICA”)
DIAMOND: (Singing) Far – we have been touring far with out a residence however not with out a star. Free – solely need to be free. We huddle shut and dangle onto a dream. On the boats and on the planes, they’re coming to America, by no means trying again once more. They’re coming to America. Dwelling – do not it appear so far-off? We’re touring gentle right now within the eye of the storm, within the eye of the storm. Dwelling, to a brand new and a shiny place – make our mattress, and we’ll say our grace.
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