Neil (Leslie) Diamond Critical Essays

Introduction

Neil (Leslie) Diamond 1941–

American songwriter.

Diamond rose to fame in the 1960s with the recordings of his compositions "Cherry, Cherry" (1966) and "Sweet Caroline" (1969). Since then he has consistently secured top positions on the record charts with numerous hit singles, albums, and the motion picture soundtracks for Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973) and The Jazz Singer (1980). Diamond's songs are in a wide range of styles, including ballad, pop and country rock, folk, and gospel, as well as rhythms from African and Caribbean music. Because of his diversity, Diamond attracts a variety of audiences. His exploration of universal themes, such as the search for identity in "I Am, I Said" (1971) and "Be" (1973) and the elusiveness of love in "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" (1978) and "Love on the Rocks" (1980), has also contributed to his popularity.

Diamond's songs often reflect his personal experiences. His album Beautiful Noise (1976) was inspired by his years as a Tin Pan Alley lyricist. Similarly, the story of The Jazz Singer, a movie remake in which Diamond starred as an actor and for which he wrote the lyrics, parallels Diamond's break with his traditional Jewish family in his pursuit of a career in music.

With a Grammy, a Golden Globe award, and an Oscar nomination, all for Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and more than twenty gold and platinum records, Diamond's popular and financial success is indisputable. Yet critical response has not always been favorable: some reviewers consider Diamond's lyrics sentimental, pretentious, and clichéd. Critics generally agree, though, that Diamond's engaging melodies and powerful performances make him one of the most appealing entertainers in contemporary music.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 108.)