Neil Diamond’s music career has not only stood the test of time but continues to pay dividends, as evidenced by his current multicity trek, which will see him play L.A.’s Greek Theater for five dates beginning Saturday night. The run will serve to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his landmark “Hot August Night” double album, recorded at the venue during the course of 10 sold-out performances there in 1972.
When Variety asked the singer-songwriter, who cut his teeth at New York’s legendary Brill Building, to list the top five moments that stood out in his mind, Diamond graciously deferred, says, “my entire career seems like one big highlight to me.” Instead, he recounts an event early in his rise to stardom that helped him turn a significant corner and lead him to the platinum-lined path he’s been on ever since:
“My single most important career highlight was ‘Solitary Man’ making the national charts in the U.S. way back in 1966,” he says. “It didn’t go very high on the charts (“Solitary Man” peaked at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100), but it took me from being just another songwriter pounding the pavement on Tin Pan Alley to being a songwriter with a potential future.
“Better yet, a singer-songwriter with a potential future. Having that first chart record as a songwriter and artist gave shape and form and also a direction to a guy who’d been all over the lot trying to figure out his place in the world of music. With that record on the charts, I now knew what I was: I was a singer-songwriter (soon to be a stage performer) and that information made all the difference in the world; I knew what I had to focus on.
“I like to joke that ‘Solitary Man’ took me from the ‘streets’ to the ‘suites,’ but there were years of dues still to pay before I got to those suites. But having that record on the charts began to open doors for me at radio stations, TV shows and, let’s not forget, live stages to perform on such as they were at the very beginning (radio hops, bowling alleys, ski lodges, high school gyms etc.).
“These were all avenues which were previously closed to me but were now beginning to open due to ‘Solitary Man.’ All I had to do was keep pushing, writing and recording chart records and then trying to do it again … and again … and again … while at the same time learning how to present those new musical creations on stage for a live audience. All the while pushing at those doors which were opening wider with each release and each performance.
“It took eight years of writing and knocking on doors to get to ‘Solitary Man.’ It was the first and most important highlight of my entire career. It provided me with the spark, which I have been fanning for the past 46 years. The resulting fire has kept my family warm and me busy and happy for every one of those years.
• August days