What is INME? The Internet has made music so much more accessible…I feel like the world is a cup overflowing with music to hear…I feel like Lucy at the chocolate factory…I feel like I Need More Ears!
Grantland had a great write up on Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night recently…
Neil is part salesman, part seducer, and all Professional Goddamn Entertainer…[he is] straddling the line between old-time showbiz and new-school rock-and-roll spectacle. His trick wasn’t so much to pick one or the other but to point out that they were one and the same.
…which reminded me of a post that I wrote on the original INME, and will repost here…originally posted November 8, 2008.
My parents aren’t really music people. My dad had a record player and together they had small record collection: a Rolling Stones album, a The Beatles White Album and few others like Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. Basically, the set of albums you’d expect someone who went to college in the mid-60′s to have.
Oh…and every Neil Diamond album. I don’t really remember listening to music with my family much, but I remember sitting as a family in the living room and listening to The Jazz Singer when it came out. It is fair to say that I was raised on a steady diet of Neil Diamond.
Which is why I decided to go to my first live Neil Diamond show a few weeks ago; I figured that since Neil Diamond was so important to my parents he’d be at least worth checking out.
And, now I understand: a Neil Diamond show is practically a revival. I mean, where on Earth did all these people come from? Neil Diamond is selling out arena shows night after night. Who else has been selling out arenas for 30 years? We can list those bands on one hand: Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, U2…are there any others? Probably a few, but not many.
And, the crowd and the energy…it’s just indescribable. You have a whole wide range of people from age 10 to age 70 who are absolutely into it. I’ve been to a lot of shows, but really I have never seen anything like this. If you’ve been to a Neil Diamond show, you already know this. If you haven’t been, go: it’s nothing short of spectacular.
And, then there’s Neil: once I saw Prince perform and it was an excellent performance. Of the many things that stood out about Prince’s performance was that he has not once ounce, not one cell, not one sub-atomic particle of self-doubt in his body. He is supremely confident, and when Prince is on stage, you are there for him: he is the show, and no question about it.
I had never seen a performer like Prince and I never thought I would again. But, then I saw Neil Diamond, and it was the same, if not more. That man simply owned it. It was his arena and his audience and he was the show. Period.
Nevertheless, Neil Diamond has always posed a conundrum to me: I could never make sense of where he fit in and who were his fans. His rise to popularity came in the late-60′s and early-70′s, but his music didn’t fit in the mold of the popular pop/rock genres or memes of the time. I mean, he wasn’t blues rock like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin or Eric Clapton, and he wasn’t disco like The BeeGee’s or whomever…I don’t even really know disco. It wasn’t until I saw him perform in person that I finally figured it out: I wasn’t evaluating him using the right criteria.
I always considered Neil Diamond in the context of the rock-n-roll tradition, but like I said, he just never seemed to fit in. After seeing him live, I realize that I had it all wrong: Neil Diamond doesn’t come from the rock-n-roll tradition, but rather from what I’ll call the “big band-singer-songwriter” tradition. His musical ancestors aren’t early rock-n-roll legends like Chuck Berry or Lil Richard, but rather he comes from the same tradition as Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack. Think of it like this: Neil Diamond isn’t a super mellow rock star, he’s a super edgy big band crooner.
So, one I had that figured out, all the other parts of the Neil Diamond recipe came together really quickly. Built on a base of edgy big band crooner there are two other ingredients mixed in for flavor: a healthy dose of summer camp song leader and a dash of gospel. For goodness sake, half his songs are sing-a-longs.
And, there you have it. Of course, it makes perfect sense—my parents were just a wee-bit too old for musicians like Jimi Hendrix. They really came of age in the late-’50′s and early-’60′s versus the late-’60s. Their era was more American Graffiti than Easy Rider. Neil Diamond was a good fit for people like them, a little bit of edge, but not too far gone.
P.S. Special thanks to Russ and Mindy who took Lisa and I to the show!