Blast from the Past: Neil Diamond
Day #5 of my "30 Hubs in 30 Days" Challenge.
Sometimes life takes us on unexpected journeys. In this case, it was a trip down memory lane. It all began when I received my tax refund last week. On my day off I headed out to run some errands with my never-ending "to do" list in my hand. There were two items on the top of my list: a new dehumidifier and a wall heater-- both to replace the ones that broke during the past few months (for the record, have you ever noticed how things always seem to break around the same time?).
One of the first stores on my list was Fred Meyer's. A little birdie told me that they carried dehumidifiers (and I really didn't want to shop at Wal-Mart). Plus, they have a really great gardening section. I'm sorry to report that the birdie was misinformed; however, while walking through the store I encountered a bin full of marked down music CD's. I've been living on a shoestring for so long that I couldn't tell you the last time I treated myself to some new albums. So, after a brief internal struggle, I convinced myself that I could justify using my tax refund to buy one or two new CD's.
Blast from the Past
While rummaging through the bin of discounted CD's, I came across a copy of "The Very Best of Neil Diamond." I couldn't help but stop and grin. You see, my mother used to be a pretty big Neil Diamond fan. I have fond memories of laying on the couch in our living room in the evenings listening to my mother's records. When I close my eyes, I can practically feel the itchy fabric of my pajamas (I think they were made out of wool). I remember having my hair, damp from my evening bath, wrapped up in a towel on the top of my head. The way it made me feel so grown-up and sophisticated.
My mother had a record player that would no doubt be considered an antique today. As kids we thought it was pretty neat because at a glance it didn't look like a record player. You see, it was built into a wooden end table. There was a set actually-- one for each end of the couch-- and when you lifted the lid, one held the record player itself and the other one had storage space just the right size for my mother's old records.
Somewhere along the line the record player broke, and we didn't have the money to repair it so the tradition of listening to my mother's music in the evenings ended.
Back to the present, I had to buy the CD-- and I couldn't wait until I got home to listen to it either! On my drive home, I was amazed to realize that I still remembered a lot of the lyrics to the songs-- even though it's been many years since I've listened to any of them!
Dusting Off Old Memories
As I read over the names of the songs on the album, many of them brought back old memories. There were certain songs that my two brothers and I used to love. You know, the ones that we would beg our mother to play over and over again.
Two of the songs that were high on the list were "Cracklin' Rosie" and "America." I think that my brothers liked them because they're among Neil Diamond's "rock and roll" tunes-- which made them the "cool" songs. After all, what little boy is going to admit that he likes the slower, prettier songs?
I can't help but laugh out loud when I remember my brothers singing along to these songs. First, my older brother is completely tone deaf. Then there's the fact that he tends to forget to breath when he's singing. Finally-- and funniest of all-- we were kids, so we were notorious for getting the lyrics wrong. Or, worse yet, mumbling our ways through the fuzzy parts and actually believing that if we were loud and enthusiastic enough no one would notice.
Let's see if I can paint a clearer picture for you. Picture an awkward little boy singing the lyrics to "Cracklin' Rosie" in a steady monotone, his voice occasionally cracking, requiring deep gasps of air whenever he forgot to breath. It went something like this:
"Oh-I-Love-My-Rosie-Child-You-(gasp)-Got-the-Way-to-Make-Me-Happy... You and me (mumble mumble)... Cracklin' Rosie! You're a (mumble mumble)... but-you-make-me-sing-like-a-guitar-humming-(gasp)-so-hang-on-to-me-girl (mumble mumble) our-song-keeps-playing-o-on..."
He he... you get the idea! Let's face it, none of us were rock star material.
The second song that my brothers loved was "America." We were raised in a family that taught us patriotism at a young age. My grandfather was a history buff and the owner of an antiques store. He taught us to appreciate older objects and to respect history. I remember him taking us to different cemeteries in New England, pointing out the graves of our ancestors, and telling us about their life accomplishments.
One of the things that my grandfather was most proud of was our deep ties to the history of the United States. You see, we're direct descendants of one of the families that traveled to this country on the Mayflower. We were taught from a very young age to appreciate this country and all of the freedoms that we are fortunate enough to have.
As kids, Neil Diamond's "America" pretty much summed all of this up in a song for us. I remember singing along with my brothers-- at the top of our lungs-- to this song and feeling so proud to be an American. I remember the sense of pride that I felt for my family's contribution to history.
It wasn't until many years later that I realized that history isn't as clear cut or black and white as my grandfather would've had me believe.
One thing that hasn't changed: the song "America" still gives me chills. I can still picture all of the immigrants standing on the deck of ships approaching this land with their dreams packed into a few suitcases. America was the land full of possibilities.
Coming of Age
After buying the CD, I had to skip ahead to track #10. "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" which was by far my favorite song as a little girl. I remember how this song used to make me look naively toward my future and dream about my future husband, falling in love, and living happily ever after. After all, I was raised with fairy tales and stories of fair damsels being rescued my handsome princes.
For me, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," was sort-of a coming of age song.
In addition to dreaming of my own future, this song used to make me think of my mother. I'd try to picture her as a teenager and then a young adult, listening to the same song and dreaming of the day that my father would come along, take her hand, and whisk her away to marital bliss.
I didn't know then that most men are just frogs. Or, in the case of my ex-husband, wart-covered toads! (chuckle) Oh well, the song gave a little girl sweet dreams!
A few short years later, my rose colored glasses were shattered. My parents divorced and my mother never did find her "prince" (but not for lack of trying!).
Listening to Neil Diamond's songs all these years later has been a different experience for me. Initially, it really was all about the memories, but it didn't take long for different songs to stand out for me. Ones that I didn't appreciate as much as a child. For instance, track #1 "Forever in Blue Jeans."
I love the guitar work in this song, the steady rhythm, and the simple message. As a child, I may have dreamed of princes and living in fancy houses. But now, as an adult, this song pretty much sums up the ideal relationship to me. Love doesn't have to be fancy or rich so long as it's steady, strong, and true. All that really matters is the two of you. Simple and sweet; does love get any better than this?
Another song that I've gained a new appreciation for is "Song Sung Blue." I'm pretty sure that as a kid I found this song "boring," but as an adult I think it's pretty and catchy. Besides, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one that suffers from the occasional bout of the blues!
Once I arrived home with my new CD, I took the time to read over the album booklet while listening to the album. It included brief paragraphs about each of the songs in the album. As I said before, as kids my brothers and I loved the song "Cracklin' Rosie," but the truth is that we never really got it. The title always confused me. Well, it turns out that there was a little story behind the song.
Neil Diamond got the idea for the song from a Canadian fan that told him about an Indian tribe on a reservation with a "deficit in the number of women." The "single men would buy an inexpensive bottle of wine called Crackling Rosé to keep them company on Saturday nights." The wine was their "date" for the night.
Knowing the background story made some of the song lyrics that eluded me as a child make much more sense. For instance, "Cracklin' Rosie you're a store bought women" or the comment about being a "poor man's lady." A-ha! It all makes sense now!
There was one more thing that bugged me when I played the CD. I didn't realize that Neil Diamond had recorded a version of "Solitary Man." I was only familiar with the Johnny Cash version which is one of my favorite songs. So, out of curiosity, I Googled the song. You can image how silly I felt when I realized that "Solitary Man" was written and recorded by Neil Diamond back in 1966. The Johnny Cash version wasn't recorded until 2000.
I also discovered a lot of other interesting information about Neil Diamond and his very long career, but I think I'll save that information for another hub. For now, I'm going to turn the volume up on my stereo and continue to enjoy my journey down memory lane.
- Solitary Man (song) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Neil Diamond - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikipeia article about Neil Diamond's life and career.