Rolling Stone Interview
Welcome to Evening Magazine.
I’m Donna Hanover and I’m Dave Dorian.
Tonight we’d like to take you on a drive to the farm and, in this case, we don’t have to drive very far from the city at all because we’re going to the Floyd Johnston family farm which happens to be right smack in the middle of Monroeville.
Later tonight, we’ll catch up with composer and performer Neil Diamond to see what’s new in his personal life and also to hear him make some beautiful noise.
Songs are sung blue, but his record sales are definitely in the black. Neil Diamond. He’s one of America’s most popular singer/songwriters.
He says his life has changed a lot in the last two years and he talked about those changes with an editor of Rolling Stone Magazine just before going on stage for a concert in California.
Musical introduction from concert:
One of the first times that Neil Diamond appeared in the Bay area he was at a small nightclub in Hayward called Frenchies. This last time he was in the Oakland Coliseum where he had to do two shows to satisfy 30,000 fanatics who had been waiting four years for him.
This is Ben Fong-Torres for Rolling Stone.
In 1972 Neil Diamond got tired of the pressures of super stardom and took a sabbatical from the stage. He went into therapy, spent time with his family, he wrote the soundtrack for the movie of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
He did two other albums, the last one “Beautiful Noise”, produced by Robbie Robertson of “The Band”.
Neil Diamond’s music has always transcended categorization and on stage he’s also kind of hard to define. There’s more and more Las Vegas in him these days, but he says he is not and doesn’t want to be in the sex idol mode of Tom Jones or Elvis Presley.
In fact, during our talk in Union Square he said that ten years ago, when he started performing, he was really just a songwriter kind of hiding behind the songs.
It was kind of protection. Ya know. Black is a very protective color. I had my black guitar and black boots and black pants and black shirts and black cowboy hat, so uh, black was very, very protective and little by little, uh, uh, I began to shed those protective uh, walls and, uh, you know, feel more and more at ease in just being and doing what I felt like doing on stage and really, this year, for the first time, I’ve been able to put my guitar down and move around and dance and play around and really feel loose and at ease with the whole thing.
Neil says to the crew during a concert:
Could you face it around and show these people back here. (Audience cheering). That’s it. See finally we get the ushers to do SOMETHING during the show. Hold it up…put a light…there we go.
Definitely difficult. I think the thing is not to take it so seriously that it engulfs you which is something that I, I resist, um, the whole celebrity thing is, I mean, it’s fantastic, but, uh, uh, it’s not real substantial enough to base your life on. There’s got to be other things there, uh, family and friends and roots and your own personal life and your private, uh, your private life. All of these things are just as important. They’re the things that balance it out, they give you a reason for doing the other things, uh, and, uh, so I think that balance between the two is something that I’m looking for, you know, I just, feel the Greek philosophy of everything in moderation. You know, I like that attitude.
Plays Neil talking to an audience during a concert:
Hello my sweet. How old are you?
Voice from the audience:
Neil responds to the girl:
Faint response from the girl:
Neil says to the girl:
Do you get letters from people who say I’m lonely too or I’m shy too or I’m optimistic too about the world.
Oh yes. You do that sure. You’d be, you’d really be amazed how many people, uh, all over the world experience that sense of, uh, being alone despite the fact that we’re, uh, part of a society of hundreds of billions of people and, uh, I suppose that, uh, I’ve never really rid myself of that thing. I go to do a show and surrounded by, uh, thousands and thousands of people, an entire venue of people who helped me, uh, fans, so on and so forth, of course, it’s very exciting, but when it’s over you go back to your hotel and you’re alone. And that sense of aloneness is, uh, I guess it’s part of what I am. I want it, I need it, uh, and yet uh, it does not make me happy. It’s uh, but it’s part of what I am, and uh, but it’s, I, I tend to think that I’m growing out of that thing, I’m coming out of it, which has permitted me to be able to do a uh, Rolling Stone uh, interview and in the kind of length and depth we went into it. It’s permitted me to uh, consider seriously television. Permitted me to come out again to start performing again. I’m, I’m, I’m, I think I’m breaking some of those old, um, um, childhood, uh, uh, uh, things that you carry with you for most of your life. Uh, I, I’m, becoming a different person. I’m growing up.
Interviewer:One song that seems to unify people at your concerts is Song Sung Blue.
(Background playing Song Sung Blue from a live concert).
Yes because it’s, uh, it’s easy to sing, it’s fun for me, it’s great to get it on with the audience, so it’s no longer me doing something to them. You know. Uh, it’s the two of us doing something together.
Song Sung Blue, when I realized after I finished writing it, was really based on a uh, Mozart piano concerto – Piano Concerto 21, very, very popular piece, and I didn’t realize it until it was finished, but it’s pretty close to that thing. So uh, every once in a while, I, I give Mozart credit on stage for helping me write it…
What do you aspire to now? Ballet, Operas, Symphonic works?
Well they’re all forms, they’re all musical forms and I’d like to use them all um, because it would be exciting, yes, ballet, an opera, um, a symphony. Without any question, I have to write a symphony, string quartets, yes, they’re all musical forms, but they’re no different than uh, uh, country music uh, and rhythm and blues, those things in their own kind of forms. Really what I aspire to is to write the perfect song, to write the perfect piece of music and I suppose when I finally do that I’ll uh, I’ll hang it up and uh, you know, retire to the backwoods and go fishing for the rest of my life. I come to think though that that’s not gonna happen that quickly.
Hear the loud clang of a trolley car’s bell.
Interviewer: Beautiful Noise is an album…
There goes a beautiful noise right now… A-flat by the way (laughter).
Thank you Neil. In San Francisco, weeping on my willow, I’m Ben Fong-Torres of the Rolling Stone.
It’s an interesting ambition…wanting to write the perfect song but there are a lot of people who would say that Neil Diamond has already done it.