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Neil Diamond Discusses Brooklyn Roots, Great Guitars A Q&A with the performer, who will return to Brooklyn for a one-night-only show

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Hat tip to Mags who posted this on her status.  I really wanted this one to be in the forum so everyone could find it.





Pia Catton
March 22, 2015 8:42 p.m. ET

Decades before Neil Diamond was a Grammy Award-winning musician with 37 top-40 singles to his name, he was a Brooklyn kid singing along with the radio in his dad’s dry-goods shop.


In September, he returned to Brooklyn to give an intimate concert at Erasmus Hall High School, where he was once a student. Now, as part of his 2015 tour, he heads back to the borough for a one-night-only show at Barclays Center on March 26.

Before this marquee homecoming, Mr. Diamond looked back on his days in New York, as well as career highlights and creative inspirations.


WSJ: The lyrics of your 1968 song “Brooklyn Roads” suggest that visiting your old neighborhood would be difficult. When you performed at Erasmus, did you go for a walk in the neighborhood?


ND: I did. I get good vibes from people. There is a thread of DNA that runs from the days that I was a young teenager to these days. It feels good to go back there.


After Erasmus, you attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Brighton Beach. What are your recollections?

ND: I found fencing at Lincoln and made close friends. I started in earnest to write songs. There were kids there were who were budding musicians and hopeful songwriters. It was good for me to see that other kids were dreaming the same dream.


BN-HN635_NYNEIL_JV_20150322175553.jpgNeil Diamond at his father's store on Church Avenue in the
Flatbush section of Brooklyn in the early 1950s. Photo: Courtesy of Neil Diamond


What were your earliest exposures to music?


ND: I had always sung in my dad’s shop. I worked there after school, and I’d be singing along with the top-40 records of the day.

I fell in love with folk music at Surprise Lake Camp. It was the songs of Woody Guthrie and the Weavers. I learned them by taking guitar lessons at 15. I started taking piano at 16.


When you return to Brooklyn to play at Barclays, what will you play?


ND: I’ll be performing my hits, my hits and then I’ll be doing some more of my hits. Oh, I’ll be doing the new songs, too.


You tweeted that Bob Dylan called you and praised your new album “Melody Road.” Can you share more?


ND: He went on about what he liked. I asked him if I could quote him. He demurred the first time. The second time we both had a good laugh, and he said you can quote me any time you want. It’s something to tell your grandkids about: the day Bob Dylan called me at home to tell me he loved my album.


What was going on in your life when you wrote your 1971 song “I Am, I Said”?


ND: I was feeling dejected. I had just done a screen test for a film that I had no chance at getting. I realized it during a lunch break, and I started writing “I Am, I Said” in my camper outside of the sound stage.

It also pointed me in the direction of psychotherapy. I hired a therapist within a matter of months. He helped me create that song. It took about a year. I did it in the therapist’s office.


Is that what ‘the chair’ refers to?


ND: I never figured out what the chair refers to. I was focused on the feeling. I wasn’t trying to describe the furniture. It’s as good an explanation as I’ve heard, so maybe I’ll start using that.


Do you have your first guitar?


ND: Unfortunately, it is long gone. It would be hanging on a wall if I had it. It was a very inexpensive instrument, and I use that word broadly. It was a cheap $10 guitar.

I had always sung in my dad’s shop. I worked there after school, and I’d be singing along with the top-40 records of the day.

—Neil Diamond

What guitars are you into now?


ND: For the most part, acoustic guitars. They each have their own character and personality. On a particular day, I might pick one up and start noodling around, looking for some emotional content in the chords.


I remember working on the “Home Before Dark” album [2008], and I had pretty much all of it written. I went to visit a guitar collector. There was a 1953 Gibson that I picked up, and I liked a lot. I bought it on the spot at an outrageous price. I think I paid $11,000 for it. I wrote two songs on it. I have never written anything else on that guitar since. It served its purpose. It generated the creative character that I was hoping for.


There’s a new documentary film, “The Wrecking Crew,” about session musicians in L.A. during the 1960s. Did you work with any of them?


ND: I didn’t start to use my own musicians until the 1970s. I remember the Wrecking Crew, but I knew them before they had a nickname. They were the top studio musicians in Los Angeles. They came loaded for bear.


Your costumes used to be heavily sequined. Why are they more subdued now?


ND: My costume designer from way back is no longer with us, Bill Whitten. He invented the glove for Michael Jackson. For me, he picked the radical sparkle that I wore simply to be seen onstage. Those were days before video screens. I never paid attention to the costumes.


Anything you want your fans to know?


ND: I never did pay my ex-wife $150 million. That’s about it. I communicate with fans on Twitter. I enjoy the ability to impulsively write something and ship it out to the fans and fellow tweeters out there.


Link: http://www.wsj.com/articles/neil-diamond-discusses-brooklyn-roots-great-guitars-1427071339




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Hat tip to Mags who posted this on her status.  I really wanted this one to be in the forum so everyone could find it.


Melissa,  This is a great article!!  I know ND cant wait until Thursday to give his fans a great performance in his hometown. 

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