Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday Thunderbird Jam: Neil Diamond - Hell Yeah (2005)

A wise man once said, "There are two kinds of people in this world, those that love Neil Diamond and those that do not."

Anyone who knows me also knows that I fall unabashedly into the first of those categories. The Diamond isn't a joke, he ain't a novelty act, he's the real deal. It's the world around Mr. Diamond that has changed, not him or his abilities.

Look no further for proof than this past year... Neil was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (AGAINST the wishes of the rather fickle and short sighted nominating committee) by an overwhelming write in campaign from his steadfast fan base. His acceptance speech went a little something like this... "I know some of you don't want me here, but I don't give a shit."

That night he was inducted alongside Alice Cooper and Tom Waits, just another bad ass songwriter.

Not 6 months later he was a Kennedy Center Honoree, with Raphael Saddiq, Lionel Richie, and Smokey Robinson paying tribute to his one of a kind songwriting. He sat between Yo Yo Ma and Michelle Obama, just another national treasure.

Despite all this, when I tell my friends how die hard a fan I am of this amazing artist they inevitably scoff. They only seem to remember his somewhat out of place appearance in The Last Waltz or Will Ferrell's classic Storytellers skit on SNL (which I admit is one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen). But today's Thunderbird Jam should change all that.

In 2005, after about three years of trying, legendary producer Rick Rubin convinced Neil Diamond to make a new record of exclusively original songs. He asked him to harken back to his Tin Pan Alley days, writing simple and lighthearted pop songs that showcased his wit and guitar stylings.

The result was 12 Songs, arguably his greatest record since 1969's Touching Me Touching You. 12 Songs had playful melodic love songs like "We" and "Delirious Love" but also included one of Diamonds most profound and career defining statements entitled, "Hell Yeah".

Sometimes a songwriter will draft his own sort of epitaph. They are somber and sober, but also uplifting and definitive. Sinatra had "My Way". Dylan has "Not Dark Yet". "Hell Yeah" is Diamonds.

So if they ask you when I'm gone
Was it everything he wanted?
When he had to travel on
Did he know he'd be missed?
You can tell them this Hell yeah he did!

Neil sings this song with a simultaneous sense of accomplishment and modesty. An aging poet comfortable in his skin and confident in his art, in spite of the fact that most people consider him a punchline.

Its a truly touching song and on the inevitable day that Mr. Diamond leaves this Earth, I'll be blasting it up to the heavens. Hell yeah, Neil. Hell yeah!

1 comment:

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