Fred: Neil Diamond talks about his theory of song writing and the story of one of his biggest hits “I Am I Said”
Neil: Well I Am I Said was really a difficult song because I really had to spend a lot of time thinking about what I was before the song was written and I spent about 4 months writing it and it’s easily the most satisfying lyric that I’ve written because it’s very personal and touches me maybe more deeply than some of the other songs
Fred: You’ve got your whole early life wrapped up in this song ??
Neil: Yeah I guess I do have a lot myself wrapped up in it.
Neil: Well for the last couple of years the things that I can become most deeply involved with are songs that reflect my real feelings about things and so that’s what I’ve been writing about.
Fred: Can you say what you look for when you pick an outside song? Something that’s such a personal statement because all your songs are so intimate and personal and soulful you know they get right to the heart of a guy.
Neil: Well it would be foolish of me to assume that the only music that I could be moved by and affected by is my own music there are many songs that I love that touch me and move me and that’s really the only yardstick that I use to determine whether I’ll record a song, an outside song or not if it can affect me if it has meaning to me if I feel I can do it well I will do it and record it and that’s why I recorded these songs they’re all lovely and beautiful and special in their own way.
Fred: Do you feel that the songs that you’ve done are different than the generally accepted theory up until this time Neil, you know the pop songs, the 32 bar songs, the love songs and so on. Your theory of songs is different isn’t it?
Neil: Well because my musical training has been limited I’ve never really been restricted by what technical musicians might call a song. I’ve never limited it to 32 bars. The main objective in any song, the songs that I write has always been that it reflect the way I feel that it touch me when I’m finished with it, when I’m finished writing with it that it move me, that it can take me along with it and involve me in what it’s saying and it’s really the only rule that I use when writing. There are no limitations other than that.
Fred: Are you an inspiration writer? Do you get a flash like that or do you sit down and just hack it out on command?
Neil: I have to be moved, I have to have a reason to write a particular song. If the word inspiration fits then I guess that can be used, I like to use the word moved.
Fred: Neil Diamond during a recording session in Hollywood. This is Fred Robbins on Assignment Hollywood.