When I turned on the news this morning, the first thing I heard was legendary singer/songwriter Neil Diamond announced his retirement from touring due to his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s. I couldn’t believe it. Fans around the world are stunned.
Just last year, I went to see Neil at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The man is a master songwriter and entertainer, who never ceases to disappoint. His show was a trip down memory lane not only for him, but his audience as well. (At least, for me, it was.)
Thanks to my mom, my earliest childhood memories include Neil Diamond. My mom was a huge fan, and I became one as well. She discovered Neil in the ‘60s with his very first album. She loved that he was a local boy from Brooklyn. More than that, she always said to me, “He’s a poet. He speaks to the soul.”
How right she was. From songs like Cherry, Cherry, Brooklyn Roads and I Am, I Said to You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Story of My Life and Nothing but a Heartache, Neil always knows how to tug at the heartstrings and reach into your soul to bring back a memory.
I recall in particular this one year when my dad and I got my mom Neil’s latest album for Christmas. My mom and I would sit in the living room every day and listen to it, along with all his other albums. (This was back in the day of the LP records.) She would sing along, and I would, too, while trying to complete a puzzle of the United States that was spread out on the living room floor, the sun pouring in through the front window. I remember this like it was yesterday. It’s one of my favorite memories of me and my mom.
The first Neil Diamond concert I went to was with my mom at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. In fact, every concert of his I went to was with my mom—except for last year. She had passed away a few months before, so I went solo to see our favorite singer, to just “be” there with mom, like all the other times. It wasn’t the same without her, but I’m glad I went, now knowing that was the last Neil Diamond concert I would ever see in person.
This morning, after I heard the news, I put on Neil’s music and sang along, just as mom and I did for all those years. Only this time, my eyes burned with tears. Nothing can take away my memories of me and mom and Neil, but nothing will ever be the same again for me. No more attending live concerts, no more singing Sweet Caroline with Mom at Neil’s shows. Thankfully, I have all his music to enjoy for years to come. And, while he has retired from touring, I can look forward to hearing new songs from Neil in the future, as he’s now sticking to writing, recording and pursuing other projects.
Thank you, Neil Diamond, for bringing your poetry into my and my mom’s lives. My childhood wouldn’t have been the same without you.
Okay, now it’s time to pour me some Red Red Wine with a splash of Cracklin’ Rose.