Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and occasional actor. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has had ten No. 1 singles on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts: “Cracklin’ Rosie”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Longfellow Serenade”, “I’ve Been This Way Before”, “If You Know What I Mean”, “Desirée”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “America”, “Yesterday’s Songs”, and “Heartlight”.
Thirty-eight songs by Diamond have been featured in the Top 10 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts. He also played in movies such as The Jazz Singer, a musical drama film.
Early life and education
Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. His parents were Rose (née Rapoport) and Akeeba “Kieve” Diamond, a dry-goods merchant. He grew up in several homes in Brooklyn, having also spent four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where his father was stationed in the army.
In Brooklyn he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club, along with classmate Barbra Streisand; Diamond recalled they were not close friends at the time: “We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes.” After his family moved to Brighton Beach, he attended Abraham Lincoln High School and was a member of the fencing team. Also on the team was his best friend, future Olympic fencer Herb Cohen.
Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, and he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. In 2011, he was an honoree at the Kennedy Center Honors, and he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
In 2019, his 1969 signature song “Sweet Caroline” was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
For his 16th birthday, he received his first guitar. When he was 16 and still in high school, Diamond spent a number of weeks at Surprise Lake Camp, a camp for Jewish children in upstate New York, when folk singer Pete Seeger performed a small concert. Seeing the widely recognized singer perform, and watching other children singing songs for Seeger that they wrote themselves, had an immediate effect on Diamond, who then became aware of the possibility of writing his own songs. ”
And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs,” he said. He added that his attraction to songwriting was the “first real interest” he had growing up, while also helping him release his youthful “frustrations”.
Diamond also used his newly developing skill to write poetry. By writing poems for girls he was attracted to in school, he soon learned it often won their hearts. His male classmates took note and began asking him to write poems for them, which they would sing and use with equal success. He spent the summer following his graduation as a waiter in the Catskills resort area. There he first met Jaye Posner, who would years later become his wife.
Diamond next attended New York University as a pre-med major on a fencing scholarship, again on the fencing team with Herb Cohen. He was a member of the 1960 NCAA men’s championship fencing team. Often bored in class, he found writing song lyrics more to his liking.
$50 a week
He began cutting classes and taking the train up to Tin Pan Alley, where he tried to get some of his songs heard by local music publishers. In his senior year, when he was just 10 units short of graduation, Sunbeam Music Publishing offered him a 16-week job writing songs for $50 a week (equivalent to about US$430 per week, in 2020 dollars), and he dropped out of college to accept it.
Neil Diamond facts: Singer’s age, wife, children, net worth and more revealed
Neil Diamond was born on January 24, 1941. He celebrated his 80th birthday in 2021.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family that descended from Russian and Polish immigrants.
How did he get his start in music?
In Brooklyn, he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club, alongside classmate Barbra Streisand.
However, they were not close friends at the time: “We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes.”
For his 16th birthday, Neil received his first guitar. After seeing folk singer Pete Seeger perform at a summer camp, he immediately realised he wanted to be a singer.
“And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs,” he said.
Neil soon began skipping school classes, taking the train Tin Pan Alley, where he tried to get some of his songs heard by local music publishers. Later, Sunbeam Music Publishing offered him a 16-week job writing songs for $50 a week (around $423 per week in 2019), and he dropped out of college.
Who is Neil Diamond’s wife and does he have children?
Neil Diamond has been married three times in total.
In 1963, he married his high-school girlfriend, Jaye Posner, who was a schoolteacher. They had two daughters: Marjorie and Elyn. However, they separated in 1967.
In 1969, Neil married production assistant Marcia Murphey. They had two sons: Jesse and Micah. Their marriage lasted 25 years, ending in the mid-1990s.
In 1996, Neil Diamond started a live-in relationship with Australian Rae Farley, after they met in Brisbane, Australia.
In 2011, a 70-year-old Neil Diamond tweeted of his engagement to 41-year-old Katie McNeil. The couple married in Los Angeles in 2012.
Three years ago, Neil Diamond shook the music world with the news that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and wouldn’t be touring anymore. But did that mean the end of his music? Not at all. “I’m working on new songs right now,” he says brightly, on a Zoom call with Parade from his home in the mountains of Colorado. “I always have a scrap of paper or a pad around to jot down ideas. Then, when I have more time, I develop them. It’s part of my life.”
The new songs he plans to record will extend one of the deepest, and most popular, catalogs in pop history, one that has given him gold or platinum albums in six consecutive decades. In the process, he has racked up no fewer than 13 Top 10 Billboard singles, from the rousing “Sweet Caroline” to the solemn “Holly Holy” and the No. 1 sing-along “Song Sung Blue.”
Diamond reworked those three songs, and 11 more of his hits, for his latest album, Classic Diamonds(available now), while at the same time modifying them, pairing his voice with grand arrangements by the London Symphony Orchestra. It was about time, he thinks, for those songs to get a new shine and a renewed sense of reflection. “I’m older and wiser,” says Diamond, 79. “I’m different.”
But the quality of his voice isn’t that different. Unlike Linda Ronstadt, whose experience with Parkinson’s made it impossible for her to sing, Diamond’s voice shows none of the effects of the neurodegenerative disorder. “In a strange way, I think I’m singing better than ever,” he says. “It’s probably because I’m not on the road singing full-out and tearing up my voice. So it’s in very good shape, which I didn’t expect.” Also, he adds, “I take my medication. I do my exercises and my workouts.”
As for the emotional impact of the disease, he says, flatly, “I don’t deal with it. I think I’m in denial or something. I feel fine. And it’s music—I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager. I don’t tense up when I get in front of a microphone. That’s when I loosen up and let it all hang out.”
Diamond recorded all of the vocals for the album in his studio in another one of his homes, in Los Angeles. (The London Symphony cut its parts at Abbey Road Studios in the U.K.) He finished cutting his vocals just as the COVID-19 lockdown went into effect last March. Most of the time since then he has been holed up in Colorado, at his gorgeous and sprawling cabin made of enough wood to fill a forest. “It was a kit house, like you send for in the mail,” he says with a smile. “The people who put it together made it great. Then I came in years later and made it a little bigger, and it’s home.”
It looks especially homey on this late November day, with his wife since 2012, Katie McNeil, sitting off to his side while their golden retriever, Mighty, romps in the background. Out the soaring windows is a panoramic view of the Rockies. An enormous, and fully trimmed, Christmas tree is in the living room. “When I was a Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn, I never got to celebrate Christmas,” he says. “Now, as an adult, I can do whatever I want. My wife loves Christmas, and so do I. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, which we call Christmukkah.”
The celebratory atmosphere Diamond has created at his home has helped ease the frustration of this terribly isolating year, with a pandemic, social-distanced isolation and divisive politics. “No one asked for this,” he says. But “I happen to be very lucky to be in a location in the mountains, which is very conducive to feeling good.”
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