Monday, 9 May 2011

Music That Made Me #19 - Neil Diamond - I Am I Said

“Don’t blame the kids, blame the parents,” the saying goes. So it’s my mother’s fault for this post.

My mum has had two major musical obsessions. In the 70’s it was Neil Diamond. After that it was Bruce Springsteen. When I was too small to be defiant or too young to know any better, I would willingly agree to anything Neil related.

“Want to go and see Neil Diamond at the London Palladium? It will be a late night.” A late night? On a school day? Oh yes, I was so easily bribed.

“How about writing in to Radio 1 and requesting a Neil Diamond song? You might get your name read out on the radio.” Ok great having my name on the radio would make me the envy of my friends,so I did and sure enough I got my tune played and my name mentioned - together with comments about how neat my writing was for a seven year old.

And so it went on. Our house was full of his songs all the time. The arms in the air sing-a-long of Sweet Caroline, the groovy pop of Cracklin’ Rosie, the reflective Song Sung Blue and later in the early 80’s after the success of his film The Jazz Singer, Love On The Rocks and America.

Rather like kids clothes, as I got older I grew out of Neil Diamond. It wasn’t cool to like him as a teenager. Being cool and fitting in with your peer group is everything at that time of life. It’s only as you get older that you realise that the coolest thing to do is be yourself and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of your taste, because people like you best for who you are, not who you think you should be.

So as I reach middle age I’ve come to understand and appreciate Neil Diamond for many more reasons than getting to stay up late mid-week and yawning your head off the next day at school. He’s a brilliant songwriter – not only has he had countless hits on his own, but tracks like I’m A Believer by The Monkees and Red Red Wine by UB40 were penned by Diamond. Even now his popular appeal is gigantic – witness the fact that in 2008 he had his first ever UK number 1 album with Home Before Dark – his twenty ninth body of work excluding compilations and live albums. I’ve even been to a couple of his gigs since, where I was surprised to find besides plenty of people in their 60’s and 70’s a raft of ‘younger’ fans many raised on a Diamond diet as children or even grandchildren.

Neil Diamond is therefore, without any sense of shame or embarrassment part of the music that made me. This is my favourite song of his.

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