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Neil Leslie Diamond (born January 24, 1941) is an American singer and songwriter.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Diamond was one of the more successful pop music performers, scoring a number of hits in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. As critic William Ruhlmann writes, "as of 2001, he claimed worldwide record sales of 115 million copies, and as of 2002 he was ranked third, behind only Elton John and Barbra Streisand, on the list of the most successful adult contemporary artists in the history of the Billboard chart." As of May 2005 he has sold 120 million records worldwide, including 48 million records in the U.S.
Though his record sales declined somewhat after the 1980s, Diamond continues to tour successfully, and maintains a very loyal following. Diamond's songs have been recorded by a vast array of performers from many different musical genres.
Diamond was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, and then in 2000 was given its Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been eligible for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame since 1989, but has thus far been ignored.
Neil Leslie Diamond was born and reared in New York City, growing up in the borough of Brooklyn, New York in the United States, and he attended Erasmus Hall and Abraham Lincoln High Schools. At Erasmus Hall, he took part in SING! and sang in the school choir with Barbra Streisand, who was then spelling her personal name "Barbara." At Lincoln, the school from which he received his high school diploma, he was a member of the fencing team, and even to this time, he still warms up with fencing exercises before his concerts. He learned to play guitar after receiving one as a gift on his 16th birthday, and has cited Pete Seeger as an early inspiration.
Diamond was awarded a fencing scholarship to New York University, and was a pre-med student, interested in biology, but dropped out with less than a year left, both due to his dislike of organic chemistry and to pursue a career in music.
Diamond's first recording contract was in 1960 with the Duel Records label, as "Neil and Jack," an Everly Brothers type duo, with a high school friend, Jack Packer. They recorded the single "What Will I Do," but it was unsuccessful. In 1962, Diamond signed with the Columbia Records label as a solo performer. He released the single "At Night," backed with "Clown Town." Despite a tour of radio stations the single failed to make the music charts, and Columbia dropped Diamond. Soon after this, Diamond was back to writing songs on an upright piano above the Birdland Club.
At some point during this time, Neil considered changing his name to Noah Kaminsky, as reported in a New York Times article on October 1, 1972. Some sources, including pre-2000 editions of Joel Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" book, subsequently incorrectly reported that this was his real name. Neil also considered changing his name to Eice Cherry, as he told Barbara Walters in a 1985 televised interview.
He spent his early career as a writer in the Brill Building, and had an early success writing the songs "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," which were recorded by the Monkees. There is a popular misconception that Diamond wrote and composed these songs specifically for the "Pre-Fab Four." In reality, Diamond had written, composed, and recorded these songs for release himself, but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence of this was that Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. "Believer" was the Popular Music Song of the Year in 1966.
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