Neil Diamond In-Print
A look at Neil Diamond books

 
Rock 'n Pop Stars- Neil Diamond by Suzanne K. O'Regan

When I'd first heard of a "Neil Diamond children's book", I didn't quite know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised upon its arrival for my perusal- it's not bad at all. I'd say that the vocabulary is suited for a well-read 10 year old. But I'm not absolutely certain that 10 year olds made up a sizable percentage of Neil's audience in the mid 70's- probably not. The text provides a nice overview of Neil's career, and is as accurate as one could expect using the information about Neil that was generally available at the time.

Admittedly, the cover artwork is not the best- it looks to be a not-so-well-done drawing based on the album, Moods, and it hardly resembles Neil at all. But don't be put off by that: the remainder of the illustrations are much better. Artist John Keely had done the watercolor paintings for the book, most of them based on well-known photographs. But Keely had taken the art of illustration one step further- he increased the pallette, created new layouts and did highlights and shading in bold, unconventional colors which were not on the original photos. He also painted some wonderfully surreal backdrops and superimposed Neil's image on them, lending the illustrations an imaginative, mod pop-art look. My favorite is the one with Neil's eyes reflecting in a shattered stained glass window. I wonder what the meaning of it could be??? And why this was hidden in a "children's book" when it could have provided fodder for endless discussion and interpretation of what was in the artist's mind, and what Neil would/could have been thinking? Seems to me that the book wasn't marketed correctly! Adults should have been buying that one, not so much for the light reading, but for the unique illustrations that would appear only in that volume!

This book is considered to be very collectable. The majority of the hardcover versions available for sale these days seem to be ex-library books. In fact, the hardcovers go for about $30.00 on Ebay, giving this the highest price-per-page ratio of all Neil Diamond-related books!
 

Author Title Date Publisher ISBN
O'Regan, Suzanne K.  ROCK 'N POP STARS- NEIL DIAMOND 1975 Creative Education 0-87191-464-6

 
A Pictorial Look at the Sensational International Star Neil Diamond by Joe Cal Cagno

Okay, so this is not technically a book, it's a 52 page all-Neil magazine. What makes this different from regular magazines is that it contains no advertisements, and it has a single text article that resembles a biography running through it, by a single author. Joe Cal Cagno's credentials include writing for King Features Syndicate, The New York Mirror and Herald-Tribune. He had also handled publicity for Neil Diamond. Stop. Now we know exactly what kind of biography this is. The content of A Pictorial Look... is truly where myths are made, starting with the second paragraph, which informs us that Neil was born in 1945 [sic]. The biographical information is straight from the publicity department- a complete whitewash that emphasizes Neil's success, but actually gives almost no detail about Neil Diamond the person. You would never figure out, from reading the article, that Neil Diamond was even married!

Many of the captions accompanying the "comic-book" style photo articles are best left unread. They read exactly like something out of a 60's teen magazine (example: Neil goes to an art gallery. Neil: "Ummm, not bad at all" or, Neil: "Might look good in the den- or in the breakfast nook"). Neil's trip to a pizza parlor is even sillier!

What makes this magazine desirable is the many Bang-era photographs contained in it. A few of them have been re-published in books, or in tour programs, but the majority of them have not been available to fans since 1977, when this magazine was published. Unfortunately, the reproduction of these treasures is on the grainy side, and the coarse, wood pulp paper has a tendency to yellow and self-destruct over the years. The portrait photos are gorgeous, and beg to be reproduced on glossy stock, but alas, as a cost-saving measure, quality paper was not used at all. The only color pictures are the centerfold (a concert shot) and the front and back covers. Being that the photos of this magazine cover the period from 1966-1977, all of the pictures are of Neil as a strikingly photogenic young man.

This magazine is extremely hard to find- magazines being an ephemeral media (these had once sold on newsstands for $1.25!). I've seen these sell on Ebay for $25.00 or more.
 

Author Title Date Publisher ISBN
Cal Cagno, Joe  A PICTORIAL LOOK AT...NEIL DIAMOND 1977 Sunway Periodicals Inc. -

 
The Jazz Singer by Richard Woodley
 
If you liked the movie, you'll probably like the book- it's just as soapy. The Jazz Singer follows the final version of the script pretty closely. Some of the things that it expounds upon is additional details about Papa's background (concentration camp survivor) and what happened to Rivka after she and Jess divorced (she got her degree and remarried). The book also goes into more detail on what Jess did during the "lost year" of his life (mended barbed-wire fences, cleaned horse stables, worked briefly in a greasy-spoon kitchen and was almost recruited to unwittingly smuggle drugs). In the book, there was a time when Jess gave up on music entirely, and drifted from town to town as a manual laborer. In contrast, the movie shows him as comfortably settling down as a bar band country singer (which at least provided him with some money and a roof over his head) until his friend Bubba found him and convinced him to come back. What makes the book so unintentionally hilarious is the lyrics to the songs. Woodley had gotten the song titles correct, for the most part, but it's anyone's guess as to where he got the lyrics from (a hat?). Everything except "Love On The Rocks" is completely different from the songs that Neil wrote for the movie. For example, here's "Summerlove":

"Summer Love" (described as country and western)

Don't bother me about where I'd been/ I'm all wore out by the shape I'm in/ Ain't got no stomach for none o' your chin/ Too much o' your lips gettin' under my skin/ Don't shake your fryin' pan in my face/ Cookin' won't get you anyplace/ Cause I been out with the human race/ And I didn't get full, but I got me a taste/ Don't give me none of that lonely stuff/ Cause just right now I ain't lonely enough/ You ain't dealin' with no powder puff/ If f you don't smooth it down, I'll make it rough/ And I don't feel like I done you dirt/ The pain ain't bad cause I don't hurt/ Let's have us a beer and go turn in/ Tomorrow morning we'll start again.
(Where's the hook? Now, who would've guessed that Jess was such a sexist pig? It's really a good thing that Neil's real songs are so much better than this!). The lyrics of the other songs (as they are printed in the book, not the way they appear in the movie and soundtrack record) will also leave you in stitches.

This book is out of print. It is possible to find copies of it if you frequent used book stores. Copies of this also come up from time to time on online auction sites like Ebay. Price averages from one dollar (in used bookstores) to $15.00 (on Ebay).
 

Author Title Date Publisher ISBN
Woodley, Richard THE JAZZ SINGER 1980 Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-13236

 
Solitary Star by Rich Wiseman

Solitary Star is a controversial book. Thereís a lot of Neil Diamond fans who consider the book to be negative, and another group that considers it to be highly informative. I had recently found one for a reasonable price, and I read it with a mixture of fascination and disbelief. I agree that there are some parts of the book that don't paint a very positive picture of Neil. Part of it is because Neil himself, and almost everyone who is currently affiliated with him, had declined to be interviewed. This had left Wiseman with the job of interviewing some 100 people that had worked with Neil in the past, but are no longer associated with him. Some had no qualms about talking about both the good times and the bad times while working with Neil. Given that Neil has been in the music business for 35 years, granted, some people were left by the wayside on Neil's climb to stardom, and they still harbor some bad feelings. I was fascinated with the "behind-the-scenes" stories of what happened in the studio, and the "making of" the albums, and the unreleased albums and songs mentioned in the book. The chapter about 1972's Hot August Night was particularly intriguing, and at least everyone involved acknowledged Neil's brilliance as a performer, which made the resulting album a masterpiece.

I also think that people like Lee Holdridge had overemphasized their contribution to Neil's success, at the same time, short shrifting Neil's talent and his ability to compose lasting music of merit. But in all fairness, after reading the chapter about Jonathan Livingston Seagull, one wonders how things could have been different had Neil been more magnanimous about granting Holdridge the (well-deserved) composer's co-credit for his work on the score of the album and movie.

I admire the work that Wiseman had put into the book. He had obviously gone out of his way to locate people to interview in-depth, and he had added a wealth of information to public knowledge. Most of it had previously been known only to the people who were there at the time. Solitary Star puts their memories into a lasting, tangible medium. As-is, the book is an invaluable reference. But I can't help but feel that it was to Neilís detriment that he, and those who are still working with him, had not participated in the project. Had they done so, Solitary Star may have had a more balanced picture of the man and his career. I believe that somewhere between the overly-rosy picture of Neil that is presented by Columbia press releases, and the sometimes-stingy, insecure, historical revisionist Neil presented by Solitary Star lies the real Neil DIamond.

Solitary Star is out of print. It is difficult to find in used bookstores, and usually sells for between $60.00-$100.00 via Ebay and out-of-print book search services. Sometimes a gem comes along for a reasonable price. My buying price in the year 2000: $39.00 for a fine-condition hardcover.

This title was also available as a paperback edition. I've seen them sell on Ebay for $20.00-$25.00.
 

Author Title Date Publisher ISBN
Wiseman, Rich SOLITARY STAR 1987 Dodd, Mead and Co ISBN 0-396-08619-5

 
Diamond- A Biography by Alan Grossman, Bill Truman  and Roy Yamanaka

One of the first things that you'll notice when you open Diamond- A Biography by Grossman, Truman and Yamanaka is the "Acknowledgements" page. It is short, and the majority of the sources are from mainstream press, like the The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, and Time/Life Publications. What you'll also notice is the dearth of first-hand, personal accounts by any people who have had any recognized association with Neil and his career.

So, once you start flipping through the pages, yet another thing becomes obvious: The book is deliberately designed to look more "substantial" than it really is. Due to the size of the typeface, and the margins, the book takes up 210 pages of straight biography, with the last 25 pages taken up by a list of Neil's compositions (recorded and unrecorded) and the finest Neil discography available at the time. It was published in the same year as Solitary Star by Rich Wiseman. Even though their subject is the same, the two books are as different as night and day- Wiseman's book is more thoroughly researched, and is sometimes disturbing with its portrayal of Neil, straight from the mouths of the people who knew him.

Grossman, et. al. sticks closer to "official" sources, which gives a generally better impression of Neil- avoiding any major controversy, but it lacks any passion or depth. Page after page is devoted to quotes by Diamond from various magazines (properly credited in the text when used) but this often intereferes with the narrative flow. The readibility of the book improves by Chapter 8 (the period circa 1977), when the authors stopped relying so heavily on quotes. To be honest, perhaps a book called "Neil Diamond In His Own Words" may have been preferable to disguising Diamond as a biography. The original sources (press releases, etc.) had, at times, been fabricated, and Neil's own recollections are (the authors admit this) hazy, inconsistent and self-contradictory. This makes for poor source material, and there are indications that Grossman et. al. had not checked the information thoroughly before putting it in the book. In particular, I believe the birthdates of Marjorie and Elyn Diamond listed as 1962 and 1966 in this book are incorrect, and the description of the "Shilo" (45 RPM single) war and the cover change of the Velvet Gloves and Spit album are placed in 1968 while all real evidence points at 1970.

Diamond is out of print. The normal going price for it on Ebay is about $50.00-$80.00. If you are considering buying this, keep in mind you would have to view it as a collection of Neil quotes, instead of a full-fledged biography. Since the source material is even harder to find than this book, Diamond could be useful as the "one-stop" spot to get practically all of Neil's published interviews and quotes in one place.
 

Author Title Date Publisher ISBN
Grossman, Alan 
Truman, Bill 
Yamanaka, Roy 
DIAMOND-A BIOGRAPHY 1987 Contemporary Books ISBN 0-8092-4825-5 

 
Neil Diamond by Diana Karanikas Harvey and Jackson Harvey
 
By virtue of being the most recently published title, this one is the easiest to obtain. Neil Diamond is a coffee table book, and like most books of this type, the emphasis is on appearance and presentation, and not so much written content. Look, if you leave a coffee-table book lying around, the intent is to have your guests thumb through it casually and skim through the text and admire the pictures. A coffee table book is not supposed to keep them engrossed in reading for hours. This book does succeed in wowing people with nice pictures (most are large sized and in full color, on quality paper), although several of the pictures are mis-captioned (page 94 is not from an Australian tour, its a still from the movie The Jazz Singer) and sometimes the negatives are reversed (page 14 and page 74). I fail to see the need to have a huge, cropped, blow-up of the cover picture of the album His 12 Greatest Hits on page 79 when another, less-widely circulated photo would have been more interesting. The text uses sources like the 1976 Neil Diamond Rolling Stone interview, Grossman's Diamond-A Biography and Rich Wisemanís Solitary Star rather extensively. The text is reasonably accurate, but only scratches the surface, since Karanikas Harvey and Harvey had only compiled and summarized previously-published accounts instead of coming up with something truly new and revelatory. I personally think that any biographical book about Neil Diamond should make mention of the incredibly talented and loyal band that's been with him (in one form or another) since 1976. The Karanikas Harvey and Harvey book omits any mention of them whatsoever, which I consider a serious oversight.

In general, Neil Diamond is useful as a "first book" for new Neil Diamond fans and does provide the basics, and even longtime fans can and will continue to enjoy the pictures.

This book is out of print. It is relatively easy to find it by looking at the "closeout" and "remainder" sections of your local bookstore, as well as ordering it online from stores such as Borders, Barnes and Noble or Amazon.Com. Copies of it also come up on Ebay pretty often. Don't bid over $20.00 for this.
 

Author Title Date Publisher ISBN
Harvey, Diana Karanikas 

Harvey, Jackson

NEIL DIAMOND 1996 Metro Books ISBN 1-56799-390-7


 
Neil Diamond- A Tribute To His Life And Music
 
Neil Diamond- A Tribute To His Life And Music is a glossy magazine that was published in the United Kingdom during his 1999 tour. The 3 major articles in the magazine are: Brooklyn Roads (Neil's biography), A Man and His Music (Neil as a struggling young songwriter, plus a brief overview of his milestone albums) and A Trip to the Movies (Neil's movies and Neil's music in other movies). The other 2 sections (discography and UK tour) are much shorter. Considering that the magazine touts itself as "The Ultimate Collector's Guide" and it claims to have a "complete" discography, one would think that it should include song lists from albums like Velvet Gloves and Spit and Stones or Beautiful Noise (these albums aren't important?). Several UK-only album releases were also overlooked, so I'd say that the discography is not truly a complete one.

The main article, the biography section, had taken much of its information from the book, Solitary Star, by Rich Wiseman. US fans would not glean anything new or different by reading the text articles of this magazine because none of it had been tailored to show a British, or even European perspective. Some very important events in the UK and Europe (Free Man in Paris filming, Royal Albert Hall gig, meeting with royalty, major tours and TV appearances) were not mentioned at all.

The photos would be the big selling point of the magazine. All of the pages are well-reproduced on quality glossy paper stock and most of the pictures are full page and in full color. So, it brings to mind "pin up" teen magazines, but Neil fans are too old for this, aren't we? Unlike other publishers, which have a tendency to show only pictures of a young Neil, this magazine has a large variety of photos that cover Neil's entire career. They seem to be arranged randomly and they are not dated or captioned, so sometimes we see Neil standing next to other people, and we'd have no idea who they are! Because of the non-chronological order of the photos, there are some strange juxtapositions, like placing full page pictures of Neil from 1976 right next to later-period photos when Neil's hairstyling and stage clothing were downright atrocious!

With the cover price being a low £3.50 ($5.00 in US currency), you do get a lot for your money. The articles, while not exactly being in-depth, are pretty accurate and well done, several cuts above "fan magazine" or "teen magazine" writing. They can be very informative for a newbie. 74 pages on full color glossy stock, with no advertisements and all Neil, is quite a bargain. It's an affordable souvenir from the 1999 tour. US fans don't have anything like this!



This article is Copyright 2000, K.F. Louie. May not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

Got a Neil Diamond book that I haven't mentioned and that you'd like to lend to me? Are you interested in putting your own 2 cents in? Feel free to write me at:
 
ZMOQ

The "Thank You" List:
Ralph Bukofzer, for his generous loan of the book, Diamond-A Biography and the magazine, A Pictorial Look at...Neil Diamond!
Iris Gerhardt, for her loan of  Rock 'n Pop Stars- Neil Diamond and the magazine, Neil Diamond- A Tribute To His Life And Music

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