David Wild has written for the GRAMMY Awards since 2001. He is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, a blogger for Huffington Post and an Emmy-nominated TV writer. Wild's most recent book, He Is…I Say: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Neil Diamond, is now in paperback. Follow him on Twitter.
There are moments when you're working on the GRAMMY Awards show when you suddenly get hit by the full realization of where you are and exactly who you're dealing with here. As a lifelong music lover, you can feel at such moments a little like a lucky ant playing gleefully amid those giant statues on Easter Island. Big rock stars will do that to you.
Just last year, I remember a moment in time when Neil Diamond came in to rehearse his performance of "Sweet Caroline," one of the most undeniable songs of all time in my semi-humble opinion. Neil — my childhood hero, my Jewish Elvis and a mensch I've been privileged to work with on a number of projects — had been named MusiCares Person of the Year. When Neil came into Staples Center with his band for his GRAMMY show rehearsal, I remember going over to say hello to him and his manager Katie McNeil. Neil also had rehearsals that same day for his MusiCares show, which I was also helping write. I asked Neil if he minded having such a busy few days. "Not at all," Neil told me, like the consummate pro that he is. "We're all lucky to be busy."
With that, Neil and his band got busy rehearsing "Sweet Caroline" — a song that they had played a couple of times before. As they started playing the song's fantastically familiar opening, I took a seat in a mostly empty section at Staples Center. Looking behind me, I noticed that Sir Paul McCartney — who'd come around for his own rehearsal — was sitting off in a corner with his lovely girlfriend Nancy Shevell. As part of his rehearsal, Neil walked off stage and into the non-existent crowd. As Neil did so, I started waving my hands like a nervous traffic guard on his first day of work. I wanted to make sure that Neil noticed that Sir Cute One himself was just to his right, bopping his head along to "Sweet Caroline" with the rest of us. Finally, Neil looked over, and for a moment these two titans of popular music acknowledged one another. When Neil finished his run-through, Paul and Nancy led a standing ovation in the almost empty hall and Paul whistled his Fab approval.
A few days later on the GRAMMY show, the same scene was basically repeated, except this time, every seat in Staples was filled, and the whole world was watching. Paul McCartney gave Neil Diamond a standing ovation, as did Jay-Z and countless other familiar faces. Good times never seemed so good.
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