He’s 74. He’s sold more than 125 million albums worldwide and has 37 Top 40 hits.
He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is a Kennedy Center honoree.
After more than 50 years, Neil Diamond could certainly rest on his laurels. And just rest. But he says that’s the last thing on his mind.
“I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing,” says Diamond, who brings his latest tour to town on Friday, March 20, at The Palace of Auburn Hills. “When I finish an album, within a matter of weeks I start writing again. I can’t help myself.
“It’s built into my genetic code at this point. The are songs to be written. I just have that thing that hurries me up and says ‘Don’t sit around and don’t waste time, ’cause it’s fleeting and if you have any songs that are still inside yourself you better get to work.’ That whole concept has become part of me, and as I get to be older it’s a more insistent whisper in my ear — ‘Go to work. Go to work. Do not dawdle. Do not waste time. Write your songs. Do them as well as you possibly can.’”
Diamond — a Brooklyn native who began his career writing in New York’s Brill Building, including hits for the Monkees, before “Solitary Man” hit big in 1966 — has certainly done that throughout his career. He may take a few years between projects, but he’s never disappeared, nor has he stood pat.
On 2005’s “12 Songs” and 2008’s “Home Before Dark” he worked with Grammy Award-winning producer Rick Rubin, who’s best known for his rock and rap albums. And on last year’s “Melody Road” Diamond brought in Detroit native Don Was and Garret “Jacknife” Lee, both contemporary forces. Despite that, Diamond says, he “didn’t approach it any differently” than anything he’s worked on before.
“I think it’s one of my best albums, and it just hits the spot for me,” Diamond notes. “I don’t like intellectualizing the songs, but ... ‘Melody Road’ is really a place in the mind, especially a songwriter’s mind and particularly mine. I don’t want it to be too thought out; I just want it to move from one piece of music to another and add up to something.”
And though he maintains the album is “not a story, per se” he does acknowledge an autobiographical thread that runs through the album and was inspired by his third marriage, in 2012, to manager Katie McNeil.
“The songs are pretty positive,” he says. “It’s telling where my head’s out now. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and there’s a lot of hope for the future in this album. There’s no question my own personal life and my own personal experience is what gives rise to that.”
A new album, of course, presents Diamond with the challenge of adding to an abundantly familiar repertoire that’s much loved by his fans. So while he’ll do “a bunch of songs from the ‘Melody Road’ album because they work,” Diamond promises he won’t leave the old hits to the side of that “Road,” either.
"There’s always a lot of songs in a show people know,” Diamond says. “I can’t leave them out, so the shows get bigger and bigger. This show will probably have more songs in it than any show I’ve ever done because I don’t want to take out ‘I Am I Said’ or ‘Sweet Caroline’ or ‘Holly Holy.’ And there are 15 or 20 like those, and I also want to make sure I do a fair share of the new songs and keep the audience involved in every way.
“It’s going to have a lot of songs, and it’s gonna be a big show.”
And, if Diamond has his way, there will be more new songs to add to that list — hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
“One of the things that motivates me now is that time is limited,” he says, “so I’m taking advantage of every moment I have to make music. I think that’s my purpose here — to make music and to share my music with people, and I’m on a mission to do that.”
• Neil Diamond
• 8 p.m. Friday, March 20.
• The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75.
• Tickets are $49.50-$150.
• Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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