Point out The Jazz Singer to Neil Diamond and it’s more likely to set off some blended reactions. His performing in Richard Fleischer’s 1980 film earned him a Razzie from the Golden Raspberry Awards (a light-hearted ceremony that “rewards” Hollywood’s extra questionable moments), however his soundtrack was an unqualified triumph. Thus far, it has offered greater than six million copies and is hailed as a traditional.
It’s no surprise that Diamond later mentioned, “I made a decision whereas I used to be doing The Jazz Singer that I’d moderately be a very good singer than a mediocre actor; that I’d focus on my music, my information, and my exhibits.”
Within the movie, a remake of the Al Jolson traditional from 1927, New York-born Diamond stars reverse Laurence Olivier as Yussel Rabinovitch, a younger Jewish cantor performing on the synagogue of his overbearing father. Diamond, who was about to show 40 when the movie was made, confirmed appreciable braveness in taking over the problem of performing, particularly when you think about that it got here after a protracted spell in a wheelchair when he had been recuperating after having had a tumor faraway from his backbone. However regardless of the poor reception for the movie, the album, launched on November 10, 1980, was an on the spot hit, with chart placings for songs as emotionally potent as “Love On The Rocks,” “Howdy Once more” and the overtly patriotic “America.”
Diamond had robust credentials as a songwriter earlier than he grew to become a solo artist. As a younger school dropout, he made a dwelling as a author on New York’s Tin Pan Alley, throughout which era he discovered to play guitar by listening to people group The Weavers.
One of many first albums he purchased as a teenager was by The Everly Brothers, and he notably cherished a “lovely, very melodic tune” referred to as “Let It Be Me,” initially written in French by Gilbert Bécaud, a person whose compositions had been lined by Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. Earlier than The Jazz Singer, Diamond sought out Bécaud and so they wrote songs collectively, together with 5 for the soundtrack: “Love On The Rocks,” “Summerlove,” “On The Robert E Lee,” “Hey Louise” and “Songs Of Life.”
Essentially the most profitable was “Love On The Rocks,” a weepie love tune that grew to become one among Diamond’s requirements, and which was later a success for Gladys Knight. Elsewhere, “America,” concerning the hopes and fears of immigrants, performed the patriotic card deftly with lyrics about “the flag unfurled” and a catchy refrain. It, too, grew to become a permanent anthem for Diamond.
The album additionally accommodates a Jewish conventional hymn (“Adon Olom”), used as a 30-second interlude among the many 13 snappy songs. Most tracks are below three minutes lengthy – and all pack an emotional punch, channeled via his sugary bass voice. Amongst them, “You Child” is bouncy and witty, and the jazzy “On The Robert E Lee” is quirky, whereas “Summerlove” is a merely a well-constructed pop tune. All of it mixed to assist the album go platinum 5 instances over.
As well as, the guitar work on The Jazz Singer is exemplary, that includes Richard Bennett, who had labored with Mark Knopfler for the previous 23 years. Again within the 70s, Bennett was an everyday in Diamond’s band. His marvelous enjoying can also be a key a part of The Bellamy Brothers’ 1975 hit “Let Your Love Movement.”
Diamond appreciated to collect musicians of the very best caliber. His long-term bandmate Alan Lindgren – the arranger on the album who additionally performed synthesizer and piano – had beforehand labored with Frank Sinatra. One other candy tune, referred to as “Acapulco,” was written with guitarist Doug Rhone.
On the time, Diamond grew to become one of many highest-paid debut actors ever for his efficiency in The Jazz Singer (scooping $3.5 million), however later instructed Larry King Reside on CNN that it was not a contented expertise. “I didn’t actually perceive the method. It was a little bit scary to me. I had by no means performed it earlier than. And I by no means did get an actual style for the flicks.”
Cinema’s loss was music’s achieve… and The Jazz Singer stays a landmark album.