Who doesn’t know all the words (or at least the chorus) to “Sweet Caroline?”
Sure, you’re familiar with that hit, but how much do you know about the man behind it?
Neil Diamond recently announced his retirement from touring following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Over the course of his multi-decade career, he released 32 studio albums and sold more than 125 million records.
Here are five facts about the legendary singer-songwriter. (And here’s a bonus fact: “Sweet Caroline” is about Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy. She was only 11 when the song was written.)
Diamond was born Jan. 24, 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He received his first guitar for his 16th birthday, but didn’t originally plan to pursue music as a career. Instead, he was a pre-med major and member of the fencing team at New York University, but grew bored with his studies and switched his focus to songwriting. He dropped out of college his senior year to take a 16-week job with a music publisher.
While trying to make it as a musician, Diamond considered going by a stage name — Ice Charry and Noah Kaminsky were both contenders — before settling on his real name.
He signed a deal with Bang Records in 1966 and released his first hit single, “Solitary Man.” Diamond moved to Uni Records two years later and produced a string of popular songs, including “Sweet Caroline” (1969), “Song Sung Blue” (1972), and his very first number one, “Cracklin’ Rosie” (1970).
During a four-year break that began in 1972, he composed the score for the film “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (1973) and won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special for his effort. The soundtrack ended up making more money than the movie itself.
Many famous artists have covered Diamond’s songs. Notable examples include Johnny Cash (“Solitary Man”), the Monkees (“I’m a Believer”), Elvis Presley (“And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”), and UB40 (“Red Red Wine”).
Despite all that success, it took 42 years for one of Diamond’s albums to hit number one. The 2008 album “Home Before Dark” took that honor.
But his hard work has not gone unrecognized by the Recording Academy, which will grant him its Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.