Neil Diamond facts: Childhood, songs, wives, songs and retirement of the 'Sweet Caroline' singer-songwriter

21 March 2022, 12:47 | Updated: 22 September 2023, 11:06

Neil Diamond On Stage
Neil Diamond On Stage. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Neil Diamond is one of the world's most popular singer-songwriters, and has entertained millions around the world since he burst onto the scene in the late 1960s.

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With hits including 'Sweet Caroline', 'I Am I Said' and 'Forever in Blue Jeans', Neil Diamond is a true one-off, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

He recently found success with a new album of orchestral updates of his classic hits - Classic Diamonds - and it's always a joy to hear him belt out our favourite tunes.

But where is Neil from and who is his wife? Here's all the important facts you need to know.

  1. How old is Neil Diamond and where is he from?

    Neil Diamond in 2020
    Neil Diamond in 2020. Picture: Getty

    Neil Diamond was born on January 24, 1941. He celebrated his 81st birthday in 2022.

    He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family that descended from Russian and Polish immigrants.

    Neil's parents were Rose and Akeeba 'Kieve' Diamond, a dry-goods merchant.

    He grew up in Brooklyn, but also spent four years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where his father was stationed in the army.

  2. What are Neil Diamond's most famous songs?

    Neil Diamond--I Am I Said--B B C Live Concert 1971

    Over his illustrious career, Neil Diamond has recorded many classic hit singles.

    Among his most famous songs include:

    - Solitary Man

    - Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon

    - Red Red Wine (made famous by UB40)

    - Sweet Caroline

    - I'm a Believer (made famous by The Monkees)

    - Cracklin' Rosie

    - I Am I Said

    - Play Me

    - You Don't Bring Me Flowers (with Barbra Streisand)

    - Forever in Blue Jeans

    - Love on the Rocks

    - Hello Again

    - America

  3. How did he get his start in music?

    In Brooklyn, he attended Erasmus Hall High School and was a member of the Freshman Chorus and Choral Club, alongside classmate Barbra Streisand.

    However, they were not close friends at the time: "We were two poor kids in Brooklyn. We hung out in the front of Erasmus High and smoked cigarettes."

    For his 16th birthday, Neil received his first guitar. After seeing folk singer Pete Seeger perform at a summer camp, he immediately realised he wanted to be a singer.

    Neil Diamond - Cracklin' Rosie 1971

    "And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs," he said.

    At this time, he also began writing poems for girls he was attracted to in school. His male classmates began asking him to write poems for them, which they would sing to their crushes.

    Neil soon began skipping school classes, taking the train Tin Pan Alley, where he tried to get some of his songs heard by local music publishers. Later, Sunbeam Music Publishing offered him a 16-week job writing songs for $50 a week (around $423 per week in 2019), and he dropped out of college.

  4. Who is Neil Diamond's wife and does he have children?

    Neil Diamond and second wife Marcia in 1986
    Neil Diamond and second wife Marcia in 1986. Picture: Getty

    Neil Diamond has been married three times in total.

    In 1963, he married his high-school girlfriend, Jaye Posner, who was a schoolteacher. They had two daughters: Marjorie and Elyn. However, they separated in 1967.

    In 1969, Neil married production assistant Marcia Murphey. They had two sons: Jesse and Micah. Their marriage lasted 25 years, ending in the mid-1990s.

    Neil Diamond and wife Katie McNeil in 2017
    Neil Diamond and wife Katie McNeil in 2017. Picture: Getty

    In 1996, Neil Diamond started a live-in relationship with Australian Rae Farley, after they met in Brisbane, Australia.

    In 2011, a 70-year-old Neil Diamond tweeted of his engagement to 41-year-old Katie McNeil. The couple married in Los Angeles in 2012.

  5. When and why did Neil Diamond retire?

    Neil Diamond gives coronavirus advice while playing 'Sweet Caroline'

    In January 2018, Neil Diamond announced that he would immediately retire from live touring, due to having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

    However, he later confirmed that he was not retiring from music altogether, and would "continue his writing, recording and development of new projects."