Play Me (as made famous by Neil Diamond)

“Play Me” is a 1972 song by Neil Diamond from his album Moods. The song, the first single from Moods,[3] was recorded in February 1972 in Los Angeles.[4] It was released as a single in May 1972 and peaked at #11 in the United States[1] in September of that year.[5] It was listed by Billboard as #27 of his best 30 songs.[6]

The “catchy pop-rock”[7] song is a medium-tempo waltz performed in 3/4 time at a standard tempo of 102 bpm.[8]Play Me features broken chords played on the acoustic guitar, courtesy of Diamond’s long-time collaborator Richard Bennett.[8] While Bennett had played on a few songs on Diamond’s 1971 album Stones, Moods was his first full collaboration with him, establishing Bennett as one of Diamond’s essential players, playing on every Diamond album until 1987 and touring with him for 17 years.[9]

“Play Me” is an audience favorite, especially, it seems, among women, who carry signs that read “Neil, Play Me” to his performances[10] and scream “me, me, me” when he plays the tune, described as “an entreaty to romance”.[11] Along with “Love on the Rocks” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, it is one of the “baritone ballads” that have “60-year-old women erupting in girlish screams”;[12] it makes female audience members shriek[13] and swoon.[14] According to Melissa Ruggieri, writing for Media General about a 2008 concert, “Diamond [at age 67] also still possesses the ability to charm, even though he didn’t need to do much except wiggle his prominent eyebrows at women in the crowd to elicit schoolgirl-like squeals—’Play Me,’ in particular, had a bizarre aphrodisiac effect.”[15]

Singer/songwriter Mary Lee Kortes, while performing it in 2000 in New York, suggested that she had lost her virginity to the song.[16] Nancy Sinatra said, “‘Play Me’ is my favorite [Neil Diamond] song, because it is sexy.”[17]

It is widely praised by critics and musicians as well; it is among the top-ten favorite songs of American writer and critic David Wild. Wild was especially fond of the lines “You are the sun, I am the moon, / You are the words, I am the tune, / Play me,”[8] and other writers have cited the lines as well.[18] Diamond himself has referred to those lines, for instance in an apology to a 2008 Columbus, Ohio, audience, for performing with a raspy voice while suffering from acute laryngitis.[19]

The song also has its detractors, and “Play Me” is not the only Diamond song criticized by some for its lyrics. Janice Kennedy said the song was “an exercise in fingernail-on-blackboard painfulness: ‘Song she sang to me, song she brang to me.'”[20] American humorist Dave Barry also cited those lines, claiming that they made him like the song.[21] Martin Pearson also criticised that line, commenting “Ugh! It’s “brought”, you horrible little American!”

This song has also created significant debates in academic circles regarding the development of language and meaning within language, especially within the context of popular American songwriting. “If “moose” pluralizes to “moose”, but “goose” pluralizes to “geese”, then why can’t the word “brang” be used as the past participle of “bring” instead of “brought”?. Who says that “brought” is sacrosanct in that case?” argued singer-songwriter David Persons at a symposium on songwriting and creative writing held at Stephen F. Austin University. [22] “There really are no rules in the practical sense in creative uses of English, and I am always thankful that I am a native English speaker, as it has so many irregularities and non-rules that it must be near impossible to learn as a second language. New words develop from new meanings and linguistic demands, and Neil Diamond’s writing has made several significant contributions to that development throughout his career as he has added his own personal mark of genius to The Great American Songbook. In this case the rule has to be “Neil Diamond wrote it, I heard it and that settles it, “Brang” is in fact a word.”.[23]

Song Sung Blue (as made famous by Neil Diamond)

“Song Sung Blue” is a 1972 hit song written and recorded by Neil Diamond, inspired by the second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto #21. The song was released on Diamond’s album, Moods and later appeared on many of Diamond’s live and compilation albums.

It was his second No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, after 1970’s “Cracklin’ Rosie”, and to date his last solo #1 song (he had #1 duet with Barbra Streisand in 1978: You Don’t Bring Me Flowers).[1] The song spent twelve weeks in the Top 40. In addition, “Song Sung Blue” spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.[2] It also made the pop chart in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart.[3] The song has become one of Diamond’s standards, and he often performs it during concerts.

“Song Sung Blue” was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1973, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.[2] Both awards that year were won by Roberta Flack’s rendition of Ewan MacColl’s song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.

Diamond described “Song Sung Blue” in the liner notes to his 1996 compilation album, In My Lifetime, as a “very basic message, unadorned. I didn’t even write a bridge to it. I never expected anyone to react to “Song Sung Blue” the way they did. I just like it, the message and the way a few words said so many things.”[2]

Cherry, Cherry (as made famous by Neil Diamond)

“Cherry, Cherry” is a song written, composed, and recorded in late January 1966 by American musician Neil Diamond. The song (originally intended as a demo) was arranged by Artie Butler and produced by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. It was issued as a 45 single in 1966 and became Diamond’s first big hit,[1][4] reaching #6 on both the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[4] in October 1966,[1] and the Cash Box chart. Ellie Greenwich came up with the chorus and can be heard as the prominent background voice, accompanied by Jeff Barry. Neil Diamond has stated that the song was inspired by an early relationship with a significantly older woman.[5]

In 1973 a live recording of “Cherry, Cherry” was issued as a 45 single from the Neil Diamond live album Hot August Night (1972). The live version hit #24 on the Cash Box chart and #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[4]

Rolling Stone would later label “Cherry, Cherry” as “one of the greatest three-chord songs of all time.”[6]

Session guitarist Al Gorgoni (who later played on “The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel and “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison) contributed to the song.

Two versions of “Cherry, Cherry” have been released. The version familiar to most listeners was recorded in late January 1966 and released by Bang Records in mid-1966, and was recorded as a demo, with Butler on keyboards, and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich on backing vocals and hand-claps.[7] The other version, with different lyrics and originally intended to be released as the single, was finally released by Diamond and Sony Music Entertainment in 1996 on the compilation album In My Lifetime.

Forever in Blue Jeans (as made famous by Neil Diamond)

“Forever in Blue Jeans” is a song by Neil Diamond which was co-written with his guitarist Richard Bennett. This up-tempo track, released as a single by Columbia in February 1979, was taken from the previous year’s Neil Diamond album You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.

The song officially peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #2 on the Easy Listening chart in March, 1979.[1]

According to Cotton Incorporated “Neil Diamond might have been right when he named his 1979 #1 hit “Forever in Blue Jeans”: 81% of women are planning their next jeans purchase to be some shade of blue.” [2] The song has been used to promote the sale of blue jeans, most notably Will Ferrell, impersonating Neil Diamond singing, for The Gap. Coincidentally, Diamond himself did radio ads for H.I.S. brand jeans in the 1960s, more than a decade before he sang this song.

Later in 1979, Tommy Overstreet recorded a country version of the song, including it on his The Real Tommy Overstreet album. Jason Castro covered this song on season 7 of American Idol.

The song was referenced on an episode (“Parent Trapped”) of The King Of Queens, in which Doug Heffernan incorrectly refers to it as “Reverend Blue Jeans”, thinking it was a song about a hip reverend that wore jeans.

Cracklin’ Rosie (as made famous by Neil Diamond)

“Cracklin’ Rosie” is a 1970 song written and recorded by Neil Diamond in 1970, with instrumental backing by L.A. sessions musicians from the Wrecking Crew,[1] from his album Tap Root Manuscript. This was Neil Diamond’s first American #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1970,[2] and his third to sell a million copies.[2] It became Diamond’s breakthrough single on the UK Singles Chart in 1970, reaching #3 for four weeks in November and December 1970. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 17 song of 1970.[3] It also reached #2 on both the Australian Singles Chart[4] and the Irish Singles Chart. Its best performance was in New Zealand where it stayed at number one for 5 weeks at the end of 1970.[5]

The single version released by Uni Records in 1970 was in mono, while the album version from Tap Root Manuscript was in stereo.

Married to a catchy and dynamic melody and arrangement, the lyrics suggested to some a devotion to a woman of the night:[2]

Oh, I love my Rosie child —
You got the way to make me happy.
You and me, we go in style …
Cracklin’ Rose, you’re a store bought woman
You make me sing like a guitar hummin’ …
But in actuality, Cracklin’ Rosie is a type of wine. Diamond heard a story about a native Canadian tribe while doing an interview in Toronto, Canada – the tribe had more men than women, so the lonely men of the tribe would sit around the fire and drink their wine together – which inspired him to write the song.[2]

The title has also been interpreted to be a misspelling of a rosé wine which is “crackling” – a U.S. term equivalent to pétillant or lightly sparkling.[6] A Crackling Rosé is produced by, for example, Paul Masson Vineyards and Beckett’s Flat.[7]

Many Diamond fans have traditionally believed the crackling wine he was referring to was Sparkling Mateus Rose, a medium quality, low priced artificially carbonated wine favored by college students on the West Coast of the U.S. during the late 1960s and early 1970s, or Richards Wild Irish Rose, an alcoholic beverage produced by Centerra Wine Company, which is part of the Constellation Brands organization.