He’s the Jewish Elvis. The Diamond that is Forever. Now his assertive performance on his new album — the starkly introspective Home Before Dark — earns him yet another moniker: The Basher.
After all this myth making, why does Neil Diamond still fear writing a new song, or recording a new album?
“You always have that lingering doubt when you take on a project,” Diamond said during a recent conference call. “You just never do know whether something’s going to come out.”
And yet for Diamond, something always has. Since first picking up a guitar at age 16, he’s sold well north of 100 million records worldwide and ranks with Barbra Streisand and Elton John as one of adult contemporary’s most successful artists. Unbelievably, Home Before Dark is the 67-year-old Diamond’s first No. 1 record.
“It’s nice to feel that in this market — that’s filled with young people — that an [older performer] can come along and knock a few of them off their perches,” he said.
Home Before Dark and its predecessor, 12 Songs, (both produced by the esteemed Rick Rubin) represent the austere side to Diamond’s sequined sparkle. While both have garnered him some of the best reviews of his career, Diamond says he’s not trying to reinvent himself.
“I like the way I was invented originally,” he said. “I’ve kind of gotten used to it. This is just another step, that’s all. I’ve been taking steps since the beginning. I’m not reaching out to anybody but the audience that wants to listen.”
He’s still finding receptive ears. Reviews of his European tour earlier this year were glowing. Attendees of his upcoming 37-date North American jaunt can expect the requisite opulence mixed with the intimacy of his recent work.
“Basically, I’m trying to cover a lifetime of music and be as close with the audience as I possibly can,” he said of the setup.
Perhaps his success rests not just in the memorable melodies, but his relatable message.
“Being a member of the human race in good standing, I feel a lot of people experience the same feelings and aspirations as I do,” Diamond said. “Maybe that’s why some of these songs have struck a chord in people.”
Diamond may be a polarizing figure in some circles, but he assures it’ll never be because he aped any cultural proclivities.
“I’ve always had to follow my own thing because it was the only thing I could do,” he said. “To me trends don’t exist. The only trend is music: Either it’s good or bad, beautiful or not, involves the listener or doesn’t, moves me when I perform it or not. These are the considerations.”