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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The early days of Neil Diamond

By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

It all started for Neil Diamond at the Brill Building. The fledgling singer-songwriter crafted tunes in an office at the famous Times Square landmark along with a number of unknown songsmiths who would become stars. Carole King, Burt Bacharach and Neil Sedaka honed their skills along with Diamond by writing for other recording artists.

“It was an amazing time since we all worked at our craft,” Sedaka said while calling from New York. “We worked every day from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. I learned how to write there. I learned that you need to evolve. You can’t write the same song again and again. I embraced that way of writing and so did Neil and Carole and the rest of the songwriters at the Brill Building.”

Diamond’s initial success as a Brill building songwriter came in November 1965 with “Sunday and Me,” a Top 20 hit for Jay and the Americans.

Diamond reached another level by connecting with the Monkees. “I’m a Believer,” “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You,” “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow),” and “Love to Love” were all recorded by the Monkees. Diamond recorded the songs for himself but the cover versions were released before his own.

“I’m a Believer” went gold and was on the top of the Billboard pop charts for seven weeks. It was Billboard’s No. 5 hit for 1967.

“It was obvious how talented Neil was,” Sedaka said. “He certainly has a gift.”

Diamond writes catchy and clever songs. More than 130 million Diamond albums have been sold worldwide. Those sales were buoyed by a staggering ten tunes that reached the top of Billboard’s pop chart.

Diamond looked back at his extraordinary career during his 50th anniversary tour in 2017. The marathon show was filled with 29 songs, but the two-hour 40 minute event wasn’t enough time to cover all of the hits. His fans were treated to a sonic stroll down memory lane. “Solitary Man,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “Love on the Rocks,” “Sweet Caroline” and the show closer, “America” inspired standing ovations.

The fans had no idea that was the end of the road, as far as jaunts go for Diamond, who announced in 2018 that he will no longer tour due to Parkinson’s Disease.

“Neil is incredible,” Sedaka said. “I’m sure he feels the same way I do in that we owe so much to those early days at the Brill Building. We learned so much about the art of songwriting.”

But not every singer or songwriter excels at live performance. Diamond’s high school pal, fellow Brooklyn native Barbra Streisand, has rarely toured due to stage fright. However, Diamond became a confident showman who easily engaged the audience in between belting out the hits.

“I don’t think there is anyone that I can compare Neil to,” Sedaka said. “That’s probably the ultimate compliment I can give someone.”