Q&A: Neil Diamond on His New 'Freedom Song' and His Ultimate Baseball Dream
Neil Diamond, Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Neil Diamond has been focused on writing new material that he hopes to have out next year, he tells Rolling Stone – and it comes at an urgent time for him. Like so many, Diamond was angered and saddened by the Boston Marathon bombings in April; he became a figure in the city's recovery by performing his signature song "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway Park. That inspired him to write a tough-spirited new tune, "Freedom Song (They'll Never Take Us Down)," which he first revealed to Rolling Stone weeks later. The Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer will perform the song live for the first time on the Fourth of July at a Washington Nationals ballgame.
Diamond talked to Rolling Stone about his own experiences in Boston, the direction of his new album and his ultimate baseball dream.
Congratulations on the song.
It was a tough one to write, but it got written.
Why was it tough to write? It feels like it has this very fluid ease to it.
It really was sparked by that performance in Boston and the people that I had a chance to speak to, the first responders. It was a very eye-opening situation and I became very moved by it. I knew I would be, but it was even more moving than I had expected. But a song like this needs to be inspired by something important; it needs to be felt deeply and it was a big thing to chew off.
As I got into it – as with all of my other songs, but this one maybe even more deeply – I wanted to tell the story of a sense of freedom and the obligation I have to freedom in America, which goes back to my grandparents and the home that was offered here for them, and really just to say thanks to all of these people that are defending this freedom. That was the whole point of the song. I wanted it to be spirited and reflect the spirit that I experienced in Boston.
When we talked at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, one of the things you talked about was wanting to make this song universal and not just for Boston, but for all of the victims of recent tragedies we've had.
This song is written for everybody in this country and it essentially says take heart: our spirit and our country are whole and that they will carry us through difficult times. Difficult times being threats to our own freedom, which has to be protected, defended at all times. It's all about maintaining our spirit and our love for the country and doing what we have to do to protect it.
You will be performing the song for the first time at the Washington Nationals-Milwaukee Brewers game in D.C. on the Fourth of July. Knowing what a huge baseball fan you are, I am sure that will be a really fun moment for you.
There's no question that it's going to be very moving; it's the right place to introduce this idea in a song. Baseball is our national game and it unites us and anything that unites us is something that I want to be part of, so I expect to be moved, but I hope the performance and the presentation will move those people that are there.
That's the whole point of it; it's not written just to vent my own feelings or express my own feelings of love toward this country. It's written to involve everybody who hears it and help them understand that freedom is what unites us and our spirit is what will keep us going through tough times and such. It's worked that way for over 200 years and it's gonna continue to work that way.