A few months ago, during a dreary long November evening, I turned to the solace of music, in particular the music of Neil Diamond.
After listening to some of my favourite numbers, I realised just how appropriate many of his songs were to mark the end of someone’s life. So I spent most of the night playing his songs, listing them, re-ordering them, adding to and amending my choices and when finalised, writing cameo descriptions of their unique appeal and qualities as farewell songs.
The next morning, hardly a word had to be changed when I added the article to My Last Song – called simply Farewell Songs From Neil Diamond.
Now, four months later, I have played every track in the list, and I want you to enjoy the beauty and power of some of these songs. Self indulgent, yes, but please share this indulgence with me by listening to the following by clicking the YouTube clips in the article.
A haunting, poetic song of recalled love and yearning made more beautiful by the sumptuous arrangement. Stones marked Diamond’s arrival as a writer of original, complex and exceptionally moving songs, using metaphor and imagery with a confidence that would make him one of the outstanding artists of his generation.
If You Go Away
Originally by Jacques Brel, this is one of the most endearing love songs ever written. Diamond clearly recognised its emotional power and delivers an unforgettably touching, sensitive version.
In the most lovely, sensitive couplets Diamond reveals to his lover the extent to which he depends on her for his very existence. ‘You are the sun, I am the moon, You are the words, I am the tune…Play me.’ And if ever a melody was written that matched a song’s sentiments, Diamond achieves it here.
Diamond wrote the score for the film Jonathan Livingstone Seagull including this heart rending tour de force. Symphonic in structure, much of it is instrumental and epic in its aural power and pastoral beauty. ‘Dear Father, we dream while we may,’ is the description of so many lives unfulfilled but no less special.
I’ve Been This Way Before
A particularly appropriate farewell song with Diamond extracting every last drop of emotion. In adding layer upon layer of sound, power and sentiment, Diamond proves he’s the master of poignant sadness. It articulates intense grief, yet also can be read as promising hope and release.
Dry Your Eyes
You get the feeling that Diamond is seeing the crowded church swaying to the swirling rhythms, tears swelling in every eye, the haunting French horns used to scintillating effect as the song comes to an end. ‘And if you can’t recall the reason, can you hear the people sing? Right through the lightening and the thunder to the dark side of the moon, To that distant falling angel that descended much too soon. And come dry your eyes.’ Dry Your Eyes is an almost shameless manipulation of our raw emotions.
Poetry of the highest order, ‘Be as a page that aches for a word, Which speaks on a theme that is timeless, While the one God will make for your day. Sing as a song in search of a voice that is silent, And the one God will make for your way.’ The magnificent arrangement builds into an intense climax, before a gentle closing. The closest Diamond has come to writing a hymn.
Diamond here expresses the grief of parting from a loved one…it hurts so much nothing can disguise it. Unbearable sadness, perfectly expressed.
I Am I Said
Poetic, enigmatic, intense, and emotional with a brilliant arrangement and memorable melody. I Am I Said excites and disturbs in equal measure. His dramatic delivery ensures we share his vulnerability.
Well, if you have got this far, and if you have played some of these tracks I thank you and hope you share my enthusiasm for and love of Neil Diamond’s songs.
As you can gather, they mean a huge amount to me. And, in the right setting, they might mean a lot to others as well.