Ethics Hero: Neil Diamond

Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond has the reputation of being a really nice, down-to-earth guy, and there have been many episodes in his career demonstrating that. He’s over 80 now, and years ago announced that his singing days were over because, like fellow retired singer Linda Ronstadt, he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, which makes controlling one’s vocal chords difficult. Nonetheless, when he has been feeling well and the occasion is right, Diamond has warbled, a bit wobbly, despite his malady, as when he sang briefly at the Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, where he was being honored, and last summer at Fenway Park, where “Sweet Caroline” is played during every Red Sox game as a crowd sing-along, when he made a surprise appearance and joined the crowd.

Over the weekend, the new Broadway jukebox musical “A Beautiful Noise” opened on Broadway. Diamond was guest of honor naturally, and, as you can see in the video, got up in his box and sang “Sweet Caroline” as the audience went nuts. Sure, Diamond was assured of a positive response no matter how he sounded. but he is in a distinct minority among famous performers, most of whom are sufficiently vain (or perfectionists) to refuse to perform, or in some cases, even appear in public, once their talents have decayed to a point they deem unacceptable. The rare ones like Diamond, however, are willing to be a shadow of their former selves to give an audience a thrill they will never forget.

And that’s what he did—a gift, to them, to Broadway, even to me.

Bravo.

7 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Neil Diamond

  1. I thought his voice was really strong for one afflicted with his malady. A memory to share, I attended an ND concert in Philadelphia circa 1990. I sat behind a row of IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary) nuns who were swinging and sway not only to “Sweet Caroline” but also to “Hot August Night.”

  2. “[F]amous performers, most of whom are sufficiently vain (or perfectionists) to refuse to perform or in some cases, even appear in public, once their talents have decayed to a point they deem unacceptable.”

    I didn’t know which way this post was going to go. Doesn’t this mean Albert Pujols should be playing baseball into his eighties?

  3. “The rare ones like Diamond, however, are willing to be a shadow of their former selves to give an audience a thrill they will never forget.”

    What’s the cut off criteria? Don’t you have another principle that says professionals should know when to hang their hat up and stop performing once it’s obvious they are out of their prime?

    • Sure…like Sinatra croaking horribly in his last decade or so. But Neil’s brief impromptu nostalgia trip isn’t that: he quit years ago. I analogize this to Ted Williams batting one more time in an Old Timers game.

    • What’s the cut off criteria? Don’t you have another principle that says professionals should know when to hang their hat up and stop performing once it’s obvious they are out of their prime?

      As Woody Allen put it, death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

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