By: Linda White-Francis
Neil Diamond is truly an American icon, not unlike Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Rick Nelson, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Neil Sedaka, and Barry Manilow. Diamond et al have been extremely instrumental in building an international library of musical celebration, rare originality, and staying power beyond belief. I will remember these artists until the day I leave this planet because they are men of my era: the glorious era of rock n’ roll.
Sure, all of these extraordinary performers are older now, and some, unfortunately, have died, but one thing for certain; neither the essence of Neil Diamond’s splendid talent nor the incredibleness of rock and roll will ever die! Thankfully, Neil Diamond lives, and so does rock and roll for all of us to keep on enjoying-plus the many live performances hopefully coming our way.
Grand and graciously, Neil Diamond can still rule a stage anywhere in the world and he is 61 years old for heaven’s sake! Personally, his age is insignificant to me; happily it only means we have something in common. We both started our life’s journey about the same time of the 20th century. I recently turned 60; a milestone in anyone’s book.
Watching Diamond perform at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida, on February 16, 2002, was exhilarating. It put me in touch with my senses once more. And judging by the looks of the packed house, I was not alone, and not everybody was an old codger like me either. There were young girls with bare midriffs and sexy hip-hugger jeans screaming and jumping to the beat of the music; as well, elegant middle-aged socialites dressed to kill, inaudibly dancing in the aisles, and literally “getting down” to the music of their memories of their youth. My sister Diana, (a year younger than I), who had treated me to this beautiful occasion, were basically awestruck or star-struck would be a better word. There were times our eyes filled with tears as we squeezed each other’s hand trying to overcome the emotion welling in our souls.
The exhilaration this wonderful showman empowered on stage-seemed to gently, but confidently swaddle us in the arms of his loving devotion; we were falling for him, and falling fast like we did so many years before. That divine evening at the Palace, seemed to melt away our everyday woes like ice under a sunlamp. And, like magic our lost youthful glee was restored in the heat of the moment. The music was timeless. We felt like kids again; our feelings almost indescribable.
Neil Diamond’s concert was a blast from the past with a few new twists thrown in for good measure. It provided me a carefree feeling of remembrance and heartfelt spirit that one needs occasionally to clear the cobwebs from the attic. It was also for me, a time of reflection-on a time long ago when my sister and I were both young, and what lay ahead was anyone’s guess. And, for a no nonsense kind of gal like myself, it felt good to mingle with the tingle of nostalgia for a change.
Yes, old Neil did alright for himself and the whole world knows that. As for me, I made out okay too, but I am only famous with my grandkids for the chocolate cookies I bake at Christmastime, and our delightful excursions to the thrift stores-digging the darkest corners for hidden treasures. Neil Diamond and I are blessed, but only in different ways, and that’s the way it should be or what would life really mean? I don’t envy him, I revere him. And, just like his 1980 hit song Coming to America written for the movie The Jazz Singer of which he starred alongside Lawrence Olivier, and Lucy Arnez, we are both proud Americans making our way in this great land of liberty!
I came away from Diamond’s concert feeling warm in the afterglow stirred by his musical elixir. I am still humming, Sweet Caroline off and on through the day as I write this three weeks later. I am happy to say that I lived during Neil Diamond’s heydays (which began in the 1970s) and his many comebacks since and certainly to come.
Sixteen years ago, I, along with my sister Diana and my daughter Michele attended our first Neil Diamond concert held at the Sundome at the University of South Florida. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and wished we could relive this treat all over again as soon as possible, but that didn’t happen, but life went on. Our wish didn’t come for years, but my sister saw to it that it finally would happen and for that I will always be grateful. I pray Neil Diamond never goes away. The man has still got it, and at $68 a ticket I am sure glad he does!
BRINGING THINGS UP TO DATE
On a new note: Sadly, Neil Diamond 76 at the time, announced in 2018 he was retiring from the concert touring part of his business. Diamond unbelievably had been performing all over the world for 50 years when he received a crushing diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, and due to doctor’s recommendations he needed to slow down. Diamond now 80 years old, assured his audience he plans to remain active for a long time to come by writing songs, recording, and other projects. His latest project on the horizon is planned for June 21, 2022. The bio musical titled A Beautiful Noise will kick off at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre for a four week engagement. I would love to be there, and, I know my sister Diana would love to be there too if only she could be, but the Lord took her too soon on August 21, 2003, just 18 months after our fabulous evening at the Palace. I miss her every day. She was my best friend in all the world.
Diamond, a Brooklyn, New York native, is one of pop music’s best-selling artists of all time with an astounding 10 single #one hit’s, included here with other successful tunes one might remember: Song Sung Blue, Forever in Blue Jeans, Sweet Caroline, Holly Holy, Red, Red Wine, Hello Again, Beautiful Noise, Coming to America, Solitary Man, Cherry, Cherry, I am a Believer (which he wrote for the group the Monkees), Cracklin Rosie, Heartlight, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, September Morn, Shilo, Play Me, Kentucky Woman, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Someday, Morningside, and Soolaimon, and Love On the Rocks.
Neil Diamond’s official website is: https://www.neildiamond.com/