A prolific singer and songwriter, Neil Diamond is one of the best-selling musicians of all time. With 10 number one singles to his name and 38 Top 10 songs on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, it was no surprise when the “Sweet Caroline” singer received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his life’s work in 2018. Unfortunately, this career high point was preceded by a personal low. In January of that year, Diamond shared with the world that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD), a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. Read on to learn how Diamond is coping with his condition, and what he says he can never do again due to his diagnosis.
RELATED: This Was the First Sign of Parkinson’s That Michael J. Fox Noticed.
After nearly five decades of performing on stage, Diamond announced in 2018 that he would no longer be able to tour due to Parkinson’s disease. “The onset of the disease has made it difficult to travel and perform on a large scale basis,” he shared with fans, via a statement on his website. “It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years,” he wrote.
This came as a blow to the “Cracklin’ Rosie” singer, who admitted he still hopes for the chance to perform again someday. “I love performing,” he told Parade in 2021. “But I’ll have to deal with it. In my heart, I secretly think, well, maybe I can do a few more shows,” he said at the time. So far, he’s given several one-off performances since announcing his retirement from touring.
Just before officially canceling the last remaining stops on his 50th Anniversary tour, Diamond spoke with the Associated Press about his love of performing. “It’s the high point of an entertainer’s career when you get up on stage and go in front of your audience, particularly people who have been loyal and loving to you for years,” he told the AP in 2018. “They can expect me to give everything that I possibly can. I will leave no stone unturned and no song unsung.”
RELATED: This Was the First Sign of Parkinson’s Alan Alda Noticed.
When Parade caught up with the musician last year, Diamond made it clear that music is still a central focus in his life. “I’m working on new songs right now,” he said in a Zoom interview recorded during the pandemic. “I always have a scrap of paper or a pad around to jot down ideas. Then, when I have more time, I develop them. It’s part of my life,” he said.
As part of his ongoing career, the singer has reworked and re-recorded 14 of his hits for a new album, Classic Diamonds. “I’m older and wiser,” Diamond explained of his interest in re-examining his old works. “I’m different,” he added.
Diamond says there’s one way his Parkinson’s has unexpectedly enhanced his musical abilities: Having given his vocal cords a rest from touring, he says his voice is the best it’s ever been. “In a strange way, I think I’m singing better than ever,” he told Parade. “It’s probably because I’m not on the road singing full-out and tearing up my voice. So it’s in very good shape, which I didn’t expect.”
As singer Linda Ronstadt has experienced, people with neurodegenerative disorders often find their voices increasingly damaged as their condition progresses. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between 75 and 90 percent of PD patients experience vocal problems, including slowed or quieted speech, a monotone pitch, poor articulation, and slurring or tremor in the voice, along with other changes.
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Diamond says he doesn’t ruminate on his Parkinson’s diagnosis, instead directing his energy toward the things he can control. “I don’t deal with it. I think I’m in denial or something,” he told Parade, adding, “I feel fine.”
This also gives him ample time to focus on the future. From his home in the mountains of Colorado, he shared that he’s currently collaborating on a Broadway-bound musical based on his life and musical catalog. The show, A Beautiful Noise, will premiere in June 2022 at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre.
In the meantime, Diamond plans to continue writing new music, recording, and spending time with his family. “I know I’m lucky to reach this point,” he added in conversation with Parade. “Maybe I’ll write some new songs about it. I’m just happy to be around,” he said.
RELATED: If You’ve Done This, Your Parkinson’s Risk Goes Up 90 Percent, Study Says.