Neil Diamond: Solitary Man, 27 April 2024, BBC TWO

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Neil Diamond: Solitary Man is a 60-minute documentary airing on Saturday 27 April on BBC Two, that includes an interview with the singer-songwriter and exclusive footage of him in New York and Los Angeles. Robbie Robertson, Jeff Barry, Mickey Dolenz, and other contributors join the programme to discuss Diamond’s life and career.

The documentary traces Diamond’s journey from his childhood in Brooklyn to his early days in the Brill Building, his nascent solo career, and superstardom in the early 1970s. It also covers his lean years in the 1980s, his career reboot in the 2000s, and his Glastonbury success.

Diamond, born in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1941, began writing music while attending Erasmus Hall High School. He wrote his first song, “Here Them Bells,” at age 15. He attended New York University as a pre-med student on a fencing scholarship but dropped out to pursue songwriting. Diamond’s early career was marked by his time in the Brill Building, a hub for music publishers and songwriters in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Diamond’s first recording contract was as a duo with his high school friend Jack Packer, billed as “Neil and Jack.” They released several unsuccessful singles before Diamond signed with Columbia Records as a solo performer in 1962. However, Columbia dropped him after his initial singles failed to chart.

Diamond’s first taste of success came as a songwriter when his song )”I’m a Believer” became a hit for the Monkees in 1966. This was followed by other hits written for other artists, including “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You,” “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” and “Love to Love,” also performed by the Monkees.

In 1966, Diamond signed with Bang Records and released his first solo hit, “Solitary Man.” This was followed by other hits such as “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman.” Diamond’s early concerts featured him opening for bands like Herman’s Hermits and The Who.

By the late 1960s, Diamond wanted to move away from simple pop songs and record more ambitious, introspective music. He signed with Uni Records in 1968 and later moved to Los Angeles, where his sound mellowed with songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Holly Holy.”

In the 1970s, Diamond achieved superstardom with hits like “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue,” and “Longfellow Serenade.” He also scored a number one single with “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” a duet with Barbra Streisand. During this period, he took a break from live performances to focus on writing and recording.

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The 1980s saw Diamond’s music career experience a slump, but he continued to be a popular live performer. He also made his acting debut in the 1980 film “The Jazz Singer,” for which he wrote and performed the soundtrack.

In the 2000s, Diamond released well-received albums like “12 Songs” and “Home Before Dark,” and he made a cameo appearance in the film “Saving Silverman.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Diamond continues to create music and perform, solidifying his place as one of the best-selling musicians of all time.

Neil Diamond airs on BBC Two at 9.00 pm on Saturday 27 April 2024.

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