Perhaps the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee would have come around to him eventually anyway. But it certainly appears that Rubin’s interest in Diamond set in motion a critical reevaluation of his oeuvre that resulted in this year’s series of honors, and a certain (dare we say it?) hipness that had always eluded him. He might still be your mother’s favorite singer, but these days he might also be your daughter’s favorite musical icon. (He did appear as a mentor on “American Idol” in 2008, after all.)
Diamond was once asked to dance by Princess Diana. His songs have been covered by Elvis and Sinatra. He has sung duets with Streisand. He has known love and loss. He has sold 120 million records. But until these past few years, he had not known what it felt like to be embraced both by the folks who buy the CDs and tickets and the “powers that be,” as he calls them.
Such acceptance, Diamond says, “wasn’t important to me until I got it — I finally got it, and I enjoyed it.”
Outside the hotel, a rainy New York afternoon is expiring, and the evening spreads itself open for the septuagenarian singer and his soon-to-be bride. Diamond announced their engagement in September on Twitter. (“I’d like you to meet Katie,” he tweeted, along with a picture. “I’m lovestruck.”) Diamond is quick to point out that his 93-year-old mother, Rose, who lives near him in Los Angeles, “loves my fiancée.”
He puts back on the black leather jacket and the black cap. He is ready to show Katie around New York, the place where it all started, his home town. L.A.’s fine, you know, but it ain’t home.
Here, at the coda, the strings ought to be kicking in, building to a fortissimo, but there is no accompaniment as Diamond, in that robust baritone, bids farewell and reaches for the door. In love again, and in ascendance, he doesn’t need any embellishment anymore.
See the rest of this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees:
• Meryl Streep | photos
• Yo-Yo Ma | photos
• Sonny Rollins | photos
• Barbara Cook | photos