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Date of Birth: 24/01/1941
Biography: Neil Leslie Diamond is an American singer-songwriter. As a successful pop music performer, Diamond scored a number of hits worldwide in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. According to David Wild, common themes in Diamond's songs are "a deep sense of isolation and an equal desire for connection. A yearning for home - and at the same time, the allure of greater freedom. The good, the bad and the ugly about a crazy little thing called love."
By 2001 Diamond had sold 115 million records worldwide, including 48 million records in the U.S. In terms of Billboard chart success, he is the third most successful Adult Contemporary artist ever, ranking behind only Barbra Streisand and Elton John.
Though his record sales declined somewhat after the 1980s, Diamond continues to tour successfully, and maintains a very loyal fan following. Diamond's songs have been recorded by a vast array of performers from many different musical genres.
Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, and in 2000 he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. On Monday, March 14, 2011, Neil Diamond was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants. His father, Akiva Diamond, was a dry-goods merchant. Diamond grew up in several homes in Brooklyn, attending Abraham Lincoln High School.
At Lincoln, the school from which he received his high school diploma, he was a member of the fencing team. He later attended NYU on a fencing scholarship, specializing in sabre, and was a member of the 1960 NCAA men's championship team; into his adult life he maintained his swordsmanship skills and continued to warm up with fencing exercises before his concerts. In a live interview with TV talk show host Larry King, Diamond explained his decision to study medicine by pointing out: "I actually wanted to be a laboratory biologist. I wanted to study. And I really wanted to find a cure for cancer. My grandmother had died of cancer. And I was always very good at the sciences. And I thought I would go and try and discover the cure for cancer." However, during his senior year in NYU, a music publishing company made him an offer he could not refuse: an offer to write songs for $50 a week. This started him on the road to stardom.
Diamond spent his early career as a songwriter in the Brill Building. His first success as a songwriter came in November, 1965, with "Sunday and Me", a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans on the Billboard Charts. Greater success as a writer followed with "I'm a Believer", "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)", and "Love to Love," all by the Monkees. There is a popular misconception that Diamond wrote and composed these songs specifically for the made-for-TV quartet. In reality, Diamond had written and recorded these songs for himself, but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence was that Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. "I'm a Believer" was the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966.
In 1966 Diamond signed a deal with Bert Berns's Bang Records, then a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. His first release on that label, "Solitary Man", became his first hit. Prior to the release of "Solitary Man," Neil had considered using a stage name; he came up with two possibilities, "Noah Kaminsky" and "Eice Charry." But when asked by Bang Records which name he should use, Noah, Eice, or Neil, he thought of his grandmother, who died prior to the release of "Solitary Man". Thus he told Bang, "...go with Neil Diamond and I'll figure it out later".
Diamond began to feel restricted by Bang Records, wanting to record more ambitious, introspective music. Finding a loophole in his contract, Diamond tried to sign with a new label, but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a dip in his professional success. Diamond eventually triumphed in court, and secured ownership of his Bang-era master recordings in 1977.
After Diamond had signed a deal with MCA Records, he moved to Los Angeles in 1970. His sound mellowed, with such songs as "Sweet Caroline", a US hit in 1969, "Holly Holy", "'Cracklin' Rosie" and "Song Sung Blue", the last two reaching No. 1 on the Hot 100. "Sweet Caroline" was Diamond's first major hit after his slump. Diamond admitted in 2007 that he had written "Sweet Caroline" for Caroline Kennedy after seeing her on the cover of Life Magazine in an equestrian riding outfit.
In 1973, Diamond hopped labels again, returning to the Columbia Records for a lucrative million-dollar-advance-per-album contract.
In 1980 Diamond instead starred in a remake of the Al Jolson classic, The Jazz Singer, opposite Laurence Olivier and Lucie Arnaz. Though the movie was not a hit, the soundtrack spawned three Top 10 singles, "Love on the Rocks", "Hello Again" and "America".
During the 1990s Diamond would produce six studio albums. He would cover many classics from the movies and from famous Brill Building-era songwriters. He also released two Christmas albums, the first peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard’s Album chart.
On March 19, 2008, it was announced on the TV show American Idol that Diamond would be a guest mentor to the remaining Idol contestants who would be singing Diamond songs broadcasts of April 29 and 30, 2008.
In August 2008, Neil Diamond allowed cameras to record his entire four-night run at New York's Madison Square Garden and released it in the United States on August 14, 2009, on DVD, one year to the day of the first concert. 'Hot August Night/NYC' debuted at No. 2 on the charts and is exclusively available at Wal-Mart and has sold out at many locations all over the country. Also on the same day the DVD was released, CBS (the former parent of his label, Columbia Records) aired an edited version of the DVD, which won the ratings hour with 13 million viewers. The next day, the sales of the DVD surged and prompted Sony to order more copies to meet the high demand.
Diamond married his high school sweetheart, school teacher Jaye "Posey" Posner, in 1963. They had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before they divorced in 1969.
In December 1969, Diamond married Marcia Murphey, a production assistant; they also had two children, both sons, Jesse and Micah. Diamond's second marriage ended in 1995.
Diamond was in a relationship with Australian Rachel Farley, whom he met while she handled marketing during his 1996 Australian tour, until 2008. The album Home Before Dark is largely based on Farley's struggles with severe chronic pain from a back injury she suffered (very similar to Diamond's own in 1979), surgery and ongoing recovery. Diamond said that "She had back surgery and it wasn’t going well. She was in extreme pain for a year and the surgery did not really work. If anything, it made it worse. And I never left her side. I was within 20ft of her for the entire year that I took writing this album."
In 1979 Diamond had a tumour surgically removed from his spine and underwent a long rehabilitation process just prior to beginning principal photography for his 1980 film The Jazz Singer. Diamond still suffers from chronic, and often severe, back pain.
Diamond is known for wearing colourful sequin-adorned shirts in concert. Diamond has said that this was originally done out of necessity, so everyone in the audience could see him without the aid of binoculars. The Bill Whitten-designed and made shirts cost approximately US$5,000 each. Whitten designed and made the shirts for Diamond from the 1970s until 2007.
On September 7, 2011, Diamond announced his engagement to 41 year old Katie McNeil in a message on Twitter: "Good news coming from sunny LA/ and you're the first I want to tell/ Katie & I just got engaged/ and I hope you wish us well."