Did you hear the news? Neil Diamond has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! My recent tweet captured my feelings best:
“Heartfelt congrats to Neil Diamond R&R Hall of Fame Inductee! Amazing man, gifted musician, light in the world.”
Friendships come and go. Trends change. People grow older. And life continues. But one special ‘constant’ in my life has been the influence of Neil Diamond – singer and songwriter extraordinaire – which has etched a mark in my soul for 30 years.
I started life as a happy, positive, sunshiny kid. And my favorite thing to do was to bring joy to others. Along with the happiness, though, there was also a thread of sadness throughout my childhood. I felt very alone, trying to find my place in the world as I was shuffled back and forth between divorced and soul-searching parents.
Neil’s music was a rock in my unstable world; through his songs and gentle presence, I felt comfort, experienced a deep sense of joy, and felt “heard” – which I so yearned for.
For me, it was the beginning of a spiritual journey.
When I was in sixth grade, my best friend, Cassie, became a Neil fan, too! We formed our own elite “Diamond Girl” fan club and created super-strict eligibility requirements which made it literally impossible for anyone else to join (not that any other kid was beating down our door, but we wanted to be sure).
The membership guidelines included the following: Must be 12 years-old, a sixth grader in room 104, an Aquarius, Jewish, and have braces.
Naturally, no one else fit the bill but us!
At the annual school dance festival, we petitioned to have our classroom’s performance accompanied by a Neil song (it didn’t work out).
When Halloween rolled around and our friends dressed as witches and ghosts, Cassie and I dressed as Neil Diamond fans with face paint and handed out flyers promoting his music. Neil: bet you didn’t know you had a small PR firm working on your behalf in West L.A.!
Cassie and I partnered together on a writing project in school, and I’ll never forget what Mrs. Bourman wrote at the top of the paper next to our ‘A’ grade: “Too much Neil Diamond, otherwise very well written.” Ha! Crazy girls.
Then I moved from L.A. to Minneapolis to live with my dad. And I carried all of my Neil albums on the plane with me because I didn’t want anything to happen to them. It turns out that shortly afterward, most of my belongings were destroyed in storage during torrential rains in L.A.
Thankfully, I still had my records.
My first concert
One day I got an enthusiastic call from my grandpa who said: “Michelle, guess what – your hero is coming to town!” How sweet – he was, of course, referring to Neil’s upcoming visit to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
I remember skipping part of the school day in junior high to get tickets. I stood outside in the freezing cold Minnesota winter for several hours, along with a myriad of bundled-up, aggressive ladies who almost knocked me over when the box office doors opened! Always shy and quiet, I kept to myself.
My concert ticket (courtesy of allowance money and my babysitting stash) bought me a seat where my early 80’s hairdo nearly scraped the arena ceiling. I needed a chaperone so my dad kindly went with me.
While I stood up and clapped and cheered during the show, my dad – a tough bouncer at a popular nightclub – seemed to be elsewhere. Let’s just say he was more of a Led Zeppelin/Jimi Hendrix sort of guy.
Through the years
And so Neil’s music came with me – junior high, high school, college, and moving from place to place; through life’s joys and life’s sorrows. I knew I could always count on Neil’s songs.
In my mid 20’s, I married my best friend and soulmate, Bill.
He attended his first Neil concert with me – reluctantly, yet graciously. Bill was a rocker with a flair for heavy metal, but…he fell in love with Neil after the very first show (whew!).
So the past several years together as partners-in-crime, we have thoroughly enjoyed catching Neil’s shows both here at home and on the road. One of our favorite things to do is share the experience together and visit different cities, meet the locals, and spread sunshine wherever we go on our travels. What a thrill it has been!
And amazingly, moments of synchronicity have abounded on the tours. One example is how front row tickets keep popping up for Bill and me – ten times out of the last twelve concerts! (The other two concerts weren’t so bad, either – second row). :)
Even when Neil played Madison Square Garden in New York City, we just happened to be traveling there that week for my cousin’s wedding. How’s that for odds? We ended up seeing two back-to-back shows – grateful for not only getting last minute tickets at this world-famous arena, but also scoring front row seats both nights…and getting to be a part of Neil’s first concert DVD in 20 years! There’s even a little interview clip of just the two of us in the “extras.”
We have so much fun at Neil’s shows. After one of the concerts on the last tour, a local radio station DJ came up to us outside and said, “I saw you guys up in front. You two were the happiest mother f’ers in the entire building!”
Before every show, Bill and I set our intention to fill the arena with positive energy and light, and infect the crowd with enthusiasm. We want Neil and his loyal and talented band to know and feel all the joy they bring to us.
It seems that whenever we’re involved in a Neil concert, amazing things happen. I see it as a ‘wink and a nod’ from the universe, encouraging me to continue engaging in what brings me joy.
My full circle moment
Have you seen this incredible story about my special “full-circle” moment with Neil, almost 30 years in the making? If not, you’ve got to check it out. To this day, it still blows my mind.
Read about it here: How Synchronicity Led To A Front-Row Kiss
Transference of joy
My coaching business is based on this quote by Harold Whitman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Neil excels at embracing what makes him come alive. And the gift is that I get to experience that aliveness each time I’m in his presence when he performs onstage, or when I’m at home listening to his tunes. I, in turn, exude that joyful feeling back out into the world. It’s similar to the “transference of joy” Kenny Lee Lewis of the Steve Miller Band talked about in our recent interview.
I think Neil sounds like a great candidate for a Joy-Follower interview, don’t you? Stay tuned.
My message to Neil
Neil, you’ve been a model to me since childhood of following what brings you joy. You radiate grace, gentleness, compassion, and zest for life. And as I said on Twitter recently, you are a true light in this world.
Thank you for your presence and friendship – via your music – all these years. You impact the world and make it a better place simply by being all of who you are. Congratulations on your induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
How funny that just as I finished this post…I came across an article on the Induction, where you said that your first choice of someone to induct you would be a fan.
>>>My calendar just happens to be open in mid-March. :)