Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash.
One of Brooklyn’s finest, Neil Diamond, was 29 when he joined one of his heroes, 38-year old Johnny Cash on Cash’s short-lived variety program The Johnny Cash Show, which aired on February 7th, 1970.
After leaving Brooklyn for a short stint (Diamond’s father Kieve was in the military), the family ended up in Cheyenne, Wyoming where Neil would discover “singing cowboy” movies, exposing the young Diamond to the genre of country music. Later when the family returned to Brooklyn, Neil’s folks gave him an inexpensive acoustic guitar for his birthday. Diamond was already performing with his high school chorus along with another Brooklyn native, Barbra Streisand. A talented fencer, Diamond’s swordplay (not with Babs) got him a college scholarship where he would enroll as a pre-med student. Though “Dr. Neil Diamond” has a nice ring to it, Diamond, already a rabid songwriter, succumbed to his passion for music and dropped out to make it as a musician.
When Diamond appeared on The Johnny Cash Show, he was basking in the glow of his success as a songwriter and a solo artist. In 1966 he penned the monster hit “I’m a Believer” for The Monkees and also had a smash of his own the same year with “Solitary Man.” Interesting Cash/Diamond side note; 34 years later, Johnny Cash would cover “Solitary Man” on his deeply moving album, American III: Solitary Man. For Cash’s show, Diamond chose to perform a gospel-inspired number called “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” from his 1969 album of the same name. The invigorating single irritated evangelical southerners, due to Diamond’s twist of recording and performing it in the style of a proselytizing evangelical preacher. At one point during the three-minute jam, Diamond does, in fact, deliver the song’s lyrics with some preacher-on-the-pulpit fire and brimstone. I’m sure at this point you may be wondering how this went over with Johnny, a religious man to say the least. Well, he loved Diamond and considered him, as we all should, one of the era’s greatest songwriters and performers.
I can’t imagine anyone not being a fan of Neil Diamond, and even if you think you aren’t, just try to NOT sing along to “Sweet Caroline” the next time you hear it. Diamond was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in January of this year, he announced he would be retiring from touring. This did not stop the 77-year-old Diamond from putting on a special show (which you can see here), this past Saturday for firefighters battling the horrific Lake Christine blaze in Colorado which has been burning for almost four weeks.
I’ve posted footage of Diamond’s appearance on The Johnny Cash Show below which includes a short interview segment between the pair of musical gods. Now, go turn on your heartlight, then turn this one up.
Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash chatting on the set of ‘The Johnny Cash Show’ in 1970.
Neil Diamond joins Johnny Cash on ‘The Johnny Cash Show.’ The show originally aired on February 7th, 1970.