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Archive for Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Diamondhead’s tribute to a songwriter of substance

December 6, 2009

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If Neil Diamond had had his druthers, “Sweet Caroline” would never have been born 40 years ago.

Decades before the cast of TV’s “Glee” discovered the wonders of “Caroline,” Diamond was at New York University on the way to finding the cure for cancer.

Or so he thought. “That’s why I studied medicine. If this darn songwriting thing hadn’t come up, I would have been a doctor now,” Diamond said.

Instead, Diamond’s the subject of music journalist Bream’s affectionate coffee table book, “Neil Diamond Is Forever: The Illustrated Story of the Man and His Music” (160 pages, $25), a lavish collection bound to please Diamond devotees

Bream, who has done interviews with Diamond since 1976, traces his subject from his Coney Island birth 68 years ago to the triumph of a 2009 MusiCares Grammy gala honoring Diamond and featuring performances of his songs by Coldplay, Jennifer Hudson and Foo Fighters.

Bream provides some 300 photographs and memorabilia such as concert ticket stubs (including a $15.50 one from a Nov. 22, 1982, gig at the defunct Hollywood Sportatorium) and thumbnail critiques and the stats of the singer’s 35 albums.

Bream cops to being a fan from the first page and gets others — Paul McCartney, Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift, Kid Rock and Bruce Springsteen — to admit to that same diagnosis. They’re all Diamondheads.

Bream’s well-balanced book gives readers an insight into how Diamond writes the songs the whole world sings (yes, Barry Manilow’s a fan, too).

“Hip was something frivolous people had time to be,” Diamond revealed in a 1976 Rolling Stone interview. “I was dealing with something that was much more important: with my life and trying to write songs that had substance.”

Bream handily taps into the core of that substance.

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