Neil Diamond, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Says He Feels 'Very Lucky'

Rock music has 'really matured and become something valuable and important,' he says

December 14, 2010 8:00 AM ET
 Neil Diamond, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Says He Feels 'Very Lucky'
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Neil Diamond got his start as a Brill Building songwriter, writing "I'm A Believer" for the Monkees, among many other hits. His own career launched in 1966 with instant classics "Solitary Man" and "Cherry Cherry." By the early 1970s he was one of the most popular live acts on the road, a role he's maintained for the last four decades.

Congratulations. What's your first reaction to the news?
I think it's great. I'm happy that that they recognized me and my work. Any club that has Chuck Berry and Little Richard and The Everly Brothers is a club that I want to be a part of.

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You're going to be in Australia on March 14th, the night of the induction ceremony. Are you going to fly into New York for the ceremony?
Yeah. They are working on the details and moving the dates. I'll get in somehow. I'm very hopeful because I don't want to miss this.

Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits Inducted Into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

It's a great class this year, with Tom Waits, Darlene Love, Alice Cooper and Dr. John. I'd love to see you guys all jam at the end on "Cherry Cherry."
I'll have to practice up my chords then.

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People always grumble that rappers or groups like ABBA don't belong in the Hall of Fame. Don't you think that "rock and roll" is a very loose term?
I think any music that's made by the youngsters of the generations from the 1950s until the present is some form of rock music, unless specifically stated otherwise.

Dr. John, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Was 'Surprised' By the News

That said, do you see yourself as a rock star?
Yeah. I guess. I do all the things that fit under that heading, so I guess that's what you'd call me.

Tell me about your upcoming tour.
It starts in the middle of February. Right now it's New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. We'll see where we go after that.

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Might you come to America after that?
Yeah. If the tour continues, definitely.

Do you think standing at the podium is going to be emotional for you?
You never know until you get there, but I think it will be. My grandson sent me an e-mail yesterday congratulating me. He's looking forward to coming. Having some kids and some grandkids there makes it even more fun and meaningful. It's like the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae.

I've always looked at it like rock & roll was a circus. We're just clowns in that circus. We're doing our bid to entertain and make people smile. In the scheme of things, I don't know how important any of us are. I think we're much more important than was assumed when rock first started. It was kind of like a joke and it was looked down on. I think rock has stood the test of time and really matured and become something valuable and important.

I'm sure at the start of your career you couldn't have imagined that rock & roll would be honored at something like the Hall of Fame. It's gotta feel great to be in the same club as The Beatles and Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.
Absolutely. I feel a sense of camaraderie with all those people anyway. We've shared the same life and been through the same bumpy roads and beautiful clear skies. I feel very lucky to have been able to do this for a lifetime.

You continue to sell more concert tickets than virtually anybody else in the business.
I secretly believe that there's some sort of lucky star that I travel under. I've always been grateful for it and I've always felt a sense of responsibility to my audience and I always will.

I want to end by clearing up a persistent rock and roll urban legend about you. The story goes that you stepped offstage at the Last Waltz, saw Bob Dylan and said, "Top that!" Is that a complete fable?
Well, something like that happened. Actually, it was before we both went on. He was tuning his guitar and I came over to him and I said, "You know Bob, those are really my people out there." He kind of looked at me quizzically. I said it as a joke, but I think it spurred him a little bit and he gave a hell of a performance... It was a good night and an exciting night. I was glad to be a part of it.

But you never said, "Top that" to him or anything like that?

Next: Hear "Sweet Caroline," "I'm a Believer" and more key tracks from Diamond's career

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