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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.



 



MAN OF GOD



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)



 



DON’T GO THERE



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)



 



A NEW SONG



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)



 



HOME AT LAST



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)



 



AMAZING GRACE



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)



 



WHY IS GRACE SO AMAZING?



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)



 



LIVING BY GRACE



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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