After more than 50 years of performing, legendary singer-songwriter Neil Diamond announced his retirement from touring Jan. 22 because of a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
The son of Jewish immigrants, Diamond earned the nickname “the Jewish Elvis” for his high-energy performance style. The Brooklyn-born singer has had 10 No. 1 singles and received a 2018 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
I first encountered Diamond in the obscure 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman.” The film is about three buddies who have a Neil Diamond cover band called Diamonds in the Rough. It was ripped by critics and has an 18 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but the scenes with Diamond songs (and his strange cameo) were enough to get me to look up more about his music and career.
Diamond dropped out of New York University to take a songwriting job in the early 1960s. Though a gifted lyricist, he didn’t find much early success. But Diamond broke out in 1966, writing several songs for The Monkees, including the No. 1 hit “I’m a Believer.”
That songwriting success jump-started Diamond’s solo career, and a multitude of hits followed, including “Cherry, Cherry,” “Solitary Man,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Song Sung Blue.”
In 1980, Diamond starred in a remake of the Al Jolson classic “The Jazz Singer,” in which he played an Orthodox cantor’s son dreaming of a career in secular music. Though the movie received less-than-stellar reviews, the soundtrack contained three top 10 singles: “Love on the Rocks,” “Hello Again” and “America.”
Diamond would later say, “Who else but this Jewish Elvis could go multiplatinum with an album that featured a version of Kol Nidre?”
Diamond remained busy recording and performing in the 1990s. “Sweet Caroline” became a popular sing-along at sporting events.
The past 20 years, Diamond, now 77, has continued to record and tour around the world while collecting awards and honors. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and received a lifetime achievement award at the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2012, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Perhaps it’s a reminder of our own mortality, but it’s melancholy to see a beloved musician such as Neil Diamond retire from the road.
Here’s to you, Neil. The good times never seemed so good.
Sunday, Feb. 11
Art Garfunkel. The iconic singer performs Feb. 10 and 11 at City Winery Atlanta, but the first show is sold out. Best known from Simon & Garfunkel, he also found success as a solo artist and an actor after the duo split in 1970. Tickets start at $90; www.citywinery.com/atlanta/tickets/art-garfunkel-2-11.html.
Friday, Feb. 16
Y-Studs A Cappella. The Yeshiva University group performs at a Congregation Ariel Shabbaton on Feb. 16 and 17. The Y-Studs (Yeshiva Students) are an all-male a cappella group known for bright harmonies and youthful energy. Sponsorships are available starting at $180; www.congariel.org.
Saturday, Feb. 17
Noa. The Israeli singer-songwriter (full name Achinoam Nini) has shared the stage with Sting, Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli. She has released more than 15 albums with collaborator Gil Dor. On Feb. 17, Noa performs at the Marcus JCC. Tickets are $40 to $55; atlantajcc.org/pldb-live/noa-37564.
Monday, March 5
Matisyahu. The Jewish-American singer-songwriter performs a stripped-down, melodic show at City Winery Atlanta on March 5 to support his most recent release, “Undercurrent.” The album has been called Matisyahu’s most musically courageous release. Tickets start at $40; www.citywinery.com/atlanta/tickets/matisyahu-3-5-18.html.
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