Stupid questions with Neil Diamond -- The pop star talks about high school, changing his name, and writing songs

By Cindy Pearlman
Updated December 17, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

Critics and rock fans may accuse Neil Diamond of sappiness in the extreme (he did, after all, write ”You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”), but the 52-year-old hitmeister will have the last laugh. After 32 years in the business, Diamond has recorded 13 top 10 songs, sold 110 million records, and still sells out every concert — including his current two-month tour to promote his new album, Up On the Roof: Songs From the Brill Building. ”I listen to critics, and I don’t,” says the singer. ”When the dust settles, people will have their say about my work, but I know exactly what my job is: Make beautiful noise.”

1. Do you have a favorite place to write songs? It used to be the New York subway at night — a couple of drunks, a couple of dead people, and me and my guitar. 2. What were you like in high school? I went to a school in Brooklyn where you fought your way in and out. I was bad at fighting, but very good at running.

3. Do you feel like you fit in? I do not fit in. Put me in a country show and I don’t fit. Put me in a rock show and it’s worse. I once performed my song ”Dry Your Eyes” with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Van Morrison. Someone in the audience yelled, ”Hey, what the hell is Neil Diamond doing up there?”

4. What was the worst thing about the ’70s? Those glass-beaded shirts I used to wear on stage. They were so heavy they gave me a backache.

5. Did you ever consider changing your name? Early on, I wanted to call myself Eice Chary. Later I thought about Noah Kaminsky. Pretty hip, huh?

6. Who does the best Neil Diamond cover? I really like Sinatra’s version of ”Sweet Caroline.” And UB40’s ”Red Red Wine.”

7. What do you think would surprise people about you? That I once had a fencing scholarship to New York University. That I own four Harley-Davidson motorcycles. That I like walking around in leather.

8. What do you do for fun on tour? I shop for my 15-year-old son, Micah (the youngest of four — Jesse, 23; Elyn, 25; and Marjorie, 28). He’s really into computers. He called me today because he needs something called Prodigy.

9. Who was Cracklin’ Rosie anyway? I hate to disappoint people, but it’s not a woman, it’s an alcoholic beverage. The song is based on a story I heard about an Indian reservation with all men and no women. The guys would spend their Saturday nights at the bar with Cracklin’ Rose wine.

10. Do you bring your wife flowers anymore? I do, which is why Marcia and I have been married 24 years. She likes roses.