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José de Segovia

Neil Diamond - Getting home

The Jewish singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, Neil Diamond, has waited until his 77th birthday to reveal that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

BETWEEN THE LINES AUTHOR José de Segovia 23 FEBRUARY 2018 17:00 h GMT+1
Neil Diamond will no longer be on the stage.

The Jewish singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, Neil Diamond, has waited until his 77th birthday to reveal that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease, announcing his definitive retirement from the stage. After a career spanning almost fifty years, he recently seemed to not only have reinvented himself musically, but also to have found a new faith.

In 2005 the New York artist followed the example of Johnny Cash by recording his “12 Songs” with Rick Rubin, trying to connect with a new generation that had not heard his hits from the 1960s and 70s. To everyone’s surprise, he presented himself as “A Man of God” who has found “Pretty amazing grace”, warning us not to go down the path that he took. Many have said that he has become a Christian, even Catholic, but his new language sounds so evangelical that one might even say that he seems to have been “born again”…

I'm a man of God

Though I never learned to pray

Walked the pathways of the heart

Found him there along the way

(Man of God, 2005)

Neil Diamond has been a pop star since the 1960s. He was born in New York in 1941 to a Russian-Polish family. This son of shopkeepers has had so much success that ha has sold some twenty million albums worldwide. His romantic balads are the soundtrack to various generations, which have made Sweet Caroline one of the best known songs in the United States. They can be heard in films, parties and all kind of sporting events. In 1979, after an operation for a tumour on his spine, he had to use a wheelchair for some time and his light began to wane as the 1980s thundered on.



In 2005 Diamond reappeared with a new sound, thanks to the production of the marvellous genius that is Rick Rubin – a strange man somewhat resembling an elf, sharing Buddhism with his love of deep roots and clear acoustic sounds. His extraordinary skill still leaves young people fascinated today when they hear the recordings of the series “Americana”, performed in Johnny Cash’s house, in the last years of his final illness. Cash’s Christian beliefs appear to resound in these songs, showing us a man of faith…

And I am, yes I am, I'm a man of faith

And faith is something you can't see

But if we want to make it through

Faith is how it's got to be

I'm thanking you Lord for giving me song

For making me strong

And for taking my hand

I'll go up to heaven when I reach the end

But up until then

Gonna do what I can.

(Man of God, 2005)



Despite his Jewish roots, the last thing that you could say about Neil Diamond in the 1960s and 70s was that he was a man of God. His odes to free love were accompanied by a clearly hedonistic lifestyle of sex and drugs. In 1969 he divorced from his first wife, with whom he had two children.

One of his albums from the 1970s album included The Pot Smoker´s Song, which began: “Pot, pot gimme some pot/ Forget what you are / You can be what you're not/ High, high I want to get high”. Shortly afterwards he started to also smoke heroine, he said “mainly out of boredom” during his long road tours in the 1970s.

One night in the early summer of 1976, Diamond was with his second wife Marcia and another son of five, when the police stormed his house on the outskirts of Beverly Hills looking for cocaine. Diamond was getting ready to go to Las Vegas to perform at a concert at the new Aladdin theatre. The police riffled through his ten rooms in Holmby Hills, while a helicopter hovered overhead, searchlights trained on his house. In the end, though, all they found was marihuana.

You're looking for love in the back of a limousine

You're looking for something that's missing inside within you

If you think you can run on the power of nicotine

They've got a new drug for your mood that will surely thrill you

Don't go there

This ain't the bible and it ain't no moral tale

If it's a lesson it's a the bible you can learn it

If it's not too late

But don't you wait

Here's a tune

And listen is clear

Cause don't go there

(Don´t Go There, 2008)



When Neil Diamond was doing the music for the story of “Juan Salvador Gaviota, he tells interviewers that a Hare Krishna appeared at the door of his apartment, with incense and literature. Diamond invited him in and showed him what he was doing. From then on he met with him every day for six weeks. He gave him a flat and a car, until one day the Hare Krishna suggested that they go live in a cave in India. He said that he would love to, but that he had to finish his work. So Diamond paid for the Hare Krishna’s trip so that he could go.


Some say Neil Diamond has converted to Christianity.

Oriental mysticism did not satisfy Diamond though.  He tried to find peace in his life through meditation; then the disgraced comedian Lenny Bruce introduced him to psychoanalysis. For four years he tried to find a way out of his depression by that means, but it resulted in a deep sense of loneliness. He then threw himself into charity work. He funded a rehabilitation home and a holiday centre for children. He became politically involved with the Kennedy family, who he supported for years. But nothing seems to have given him the joy that he now has, singing for God…

Singing for Him is like touching the sky

I don't need to know why

I just know that it is

Each time I sing out I want to rejoice

'Cause when I hear my voice

I believe that it's His

And I am, yes I am, I'm a man of hope.

I haven't stopped believin' yet

And while we're headin' down that road

Hope is what we can't forget

And I am yes I am, I'm a man of God

Know I am, yes I am, I'm a man, I'm a man of faith

I'm a man, yes I am, I'm a man, I'm a man of peace

(Man of God, 2005)



After his divorce from his second wife, Diamond began a relationship with an Australian woman in 1996. He then spent various years with a thirty year-old businesswoman.

They say that his main interest now is to “preach the Gospel”, but what is this faith?

Diamond says that he has always accepted some kind of divinity, although being Jewish he had only been to the synagogue on feast days. He knows the Bible, but it is unclear whether he has become a Christian. Some believe that he has converted to a more conservative Catholicism. The fact is that he now feels at home…

Home before dark

Before the day deserts me

I looked for my truth

Knowing the truth might hurt me

Been traveling light

Just the head of the night

And I'll be getting home right

Before dark

I've been searching

Can't explain

Looked for reasons

But what I found in me

Know for certain

Things are changing

I've been changing

Now I need you to be

Home where I can see

Home before dark

Before the light escapes me

To be at your side

That's where the journey takes me

And I've been afraid

If I lost my way

Then I wouldn't be save

Before dark

(Home before Dark, 2008)



When he sang his song Pretty Amazing Gracefor the first time on television, the American audience immediately thought of the most famous hymn in the evangelical tradition, written two hundred years ago by the former slave trader, turned Christian, John Newton. Since he composed it in the attic of an English vicarage, “Amazing Grace” has gone on to become the favourite song of rock singers like Bono’s U2, also sung by Bob Dylan, the Eagles and Deep Purple.


In his last songs, Neil Diamons sang about Grace.

Recordings of this hymn are not limited to gospel artists, having been covered by big names in folk and rock music. It was played at the funerals of Nixon and Kennedy, but also at the funerals of the writer Alex Haley, the astronaut Pete Conrad and the baseball player Joe Di Maggio. Its lyrics have been translated into almost all the languages imaginable and it is used in the soundtracks of many films, while countless songs make reference to it, including Neil Diamond’s last song

Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me

Pretty amazing grace is who You are

I was an empty vessel

You filled me up inside

And with amazing grace restored my pride

Pretty amazing grace is how You saved me

And with amazing grace reclaimed my heart

Love in the midst of chaos

Calm in the heat of war

Showed with amazing grace what love was for

You forgave my insensitivity

And my attempt to then mislead You

You stood beside a wretch like me

Your pretty amazing grace was all I needed..

(Pretty Amazing Grace, 2008)



When Christians speak of grace, they think of salvation. We are saved by grace from our spiritual bankruptcy, since “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12). Salvation is both a gift from God, though faith and not by our works, so that no one should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). The thing that produces amazement is perhaps the least obvious…

Stumbled inside the doorway of Your chapel

Humbled in God by everything I found

Beauty and love surround me

Freed me from what I fear

Ask for amazing grace and You appear

You overcame my loss of hope and faith

Gave me a truth I could belive in

You led me to a higher place

Showed Your amazing grace

When grace was what I needed

Look in a mirror I see Your reflection

Open a book You live on every page

I fall and You're there to lift me

Share every road I climb

And with amazing grace You ease my mind

(Pretty Amazing Grace, 2008)



The best kept secret among Christians today is not only that we are saved by grace but that we live by grace, every day of our existence.

Many believers base their relationship with God on their actions, rather than on grace. We want to do things right to receive God’s blessing. We live through our deeds rather than grace. We challenge ourselves again and again to do better, when we depend entirely on the merits of Christ. Jesus did it all on the cross for us. He is all we need!

Came to You with empty pockets first

When I returned I was rich man

Didn't believe love could quench my thirst

But with amazing grace You showed me that it can

In Your amazing grace I had a vision

From that amazing place I came to be

Into the night I wandered

Wandering aimlessly

Found Your amazing grace to comfort me.

(Pretty Amazing Grace, 2008)




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