Real name: Neil Leslie Diamond
Birthdate: January 24, 1941
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Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, and then in 2000 was given its Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been eligible for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame since 1989, but has thus far been ignored.
Neil Diamond was born and reared in New York City, growing up in the borough of Brooklyn, New York in the United States, and he attended Erasmus Hall and Abraham Lincoln High Schools. At Erasmus Hall, he took part in SING! and sang in the school choir with Barbra Streisand, who was then spelling her name "Barbara." At Lincoln, the school from which he received his high school diploma, he was a member of the fencing team, and even to this time, he still warms up with fencing exercises before his concerts. He learned to play guitar after receiving one as a gift on his 16th birthday, and has cited Pete Seeger as an early inspiration.
Diamond was awarded a fencing scholarship to New York University, and was a pre-med student, interested in biology, but dropped out with less than a year left, both due to his dislike of organic chemistry and to pursue a career in music.
At some point during this time, Neil considered changing his name to Noah Kaminsky, as reported in a New York Times article on October 1, 1972. Some sources, including pre-2000 editions of Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" book, subsequently incorrectly reported that this was his real name. Neil also considered changing his name to Eice Cherry, as he told Barbara Walters in a 1985 televised interview.
Diamond then signed a deal with the Bang Records label in 1966. "Solitary Man" was his first hit on the music charts, and Diamond followed it with "Kentucky Woman," "Cherry, Cherry" and other hits. An alternate version of "Cherry Cherry" can be found on the "In My Lifetime" album. Diamond's Bang recordings were produced by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, both of whom can be heard singing backgrounds on many of the tracks.
However, Diamond began to feel restricted by Bang Records, and wanted to record more ambitious, introspective music. Finding a loophole in his contract with Bang, Diamond tried to sign with a new record label, but the result was a series of lawsuits that coincided with a dip in Diamond's professional success. Diamond eventually triumphed in court, and secured ownership of his BANG-era master recordings in 1977.
On January 15, 2006, Diamond performed a concert on the opening night of the new Stockton Arena in Stockton, California. Diamond had been paid a $1,000,000 fee to perform, but, due to slow ticket sales and inadequate time to promote the event, the city budget suffered a nearly $400,000 loss that resulted in the dismissal of the Stockton city manager several days later.
Diamond is a fan of the Australian Rules Football team the Brisbane Lions. He stated this in newspaper interviews that appeared leading up to and during his March 2005 tour of Australia. "Dinkum Diamond barracks for Lions," which correspondent Paul Stewart reported from Los Angeles in The Sunday Mail, August 22, 2004, and "Diamond lustre," published in The Courier Mail on March 11, 2005, tell more of the story.