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Neil Diamond - diamond of American music

Neil Leslie Diamond  was born January 24, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family of Rose and Akeeba Diamond. His maternal grandparents, Abraham and Molly Rappaport, came to America from from Russia not long before the Revolution of 1917. Their first sighting of the Statue of Liberty became a part of the family legend...  
 
Diamond's many talents started to blossom in high school, where he took interest in music and... fencing!  He became a member of his school's fencing team. Later he even attended New York University on a fencing scholarship and was a member of the 1960 NCAA men's championship team, specializing in saber. He has always maintained his swordsmanship skills and would warm up with fencing exercises before his concerts.
 
He is known for wearing colorful beaded shirts by Bill Whitten in concert, originally - so that everyone in the audience could easily see him on large stages.
 
During his senior year at New York University, a music publishing company offered him writing songs for $50 a week, which was the start of his long musical career. His songwriting and signing talents led to 10 (ten!) No.1 singles on the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts: "Cracklin' Rosie", "Song Sung Blue", "Longfellow Serenade", "I've Been This Way Before", "If You Know What I Mean", "Desiree", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", "America", "Yesterday's Songs", "Heartlight" and "I'm a Believer".
 
In 1979, Diamond had collapsed on stage in San Francisco and was taken to the hospital where he endured a twelve-hour operation to remove what turned out to be a tumor on his spine.
 
In 1984 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. And in 2011 his name appeared both in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the list of honorees at the Kennedy Center Awards ceremony!
 
Interestingly and coincidentally, it was on September 7, 2011, the day he received the invitation to the Kennedy Center Awards ceremony, that he announced his engagement to Katie McNeil. He had been married twice and has four children from them.
 
Sources:
Neil Diamond: Solitary Star - Rich Wiseman. Google Books.
"Neil Diamond: the hurt, the dirt, the shirts". London: Telegraph. May 3, 2008. 

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