Neil Diamond is slated to have his name up in lights on Broadway in the November 2022 when “A Beautiful Noise, the Neil Diamond Musical” makes its New York debut. The show will open 50 years after LIFE featured Diamond during another stint on Broadway. In 1972 he was playing a series of 20 sold-out shows at the Winter Garden Theatre, best known as the home of such long-running productions as Cats and Mamma Mia.

“He is the first solo performer to headline the vast Winter Garden Theatre since Al Jolson in the 1930s,” wrote LIFE is its Oct. 20, 1972 issue, in a story headlined “Diamond in the Smooth.”

(The reference to Al Jolson was prescient, as in 1980 Diamond would star in a remake of The Jazz Singer, which was originally a Jolson vehicle).

The LIFE story captured the popularity and talent of Diamond, but as so often happens with this particular singer, the writer also felt obliged to cataloging the extent to which Neil Diamond is not cool:

The bedrock rock fans tend to snort disdainfully at his music as lightweight and—the cardinal sin—commercial. So it is—his audience is middle-of-the-road unbaggable—kids and little old ladies, young marrieds and balding mortgage-loan men, plus a lot of insecure medium-cool freaks who prudently hide their Neil DIamond records in old Rolling Stones jackets. He has performed in equal success in Carnegie Hall and before a hall full of Minnesota farmers.

However uncool he may have been, he is certainly distinctive. For some of his LIFE photos he posed in fencing gear—taken because Diamond had competed in fencing in college, at NYU. Other photos place a strong emphasis on family, including not just his wife, child, and parents, but an uncle who had flown in from Florida for the shows.

Diamond is also wildly successful. He has sold 130 million albums, and his music has shown great staying power. His song Sweet Caroline is a staple at sports stadiums, and especially at Fenway Park in Boston. Diamond, who was born on Jan. 21, 1941, officially retired from performing in 2018 due to Parkinson’s disease. But in June 2022 he made an appearance at a Red Sox game and led fans in a singalong to Sweet Caroline. Standing next Diamond was Will Swenson, who will be playing the lead in the Neil Diamond musical; the show is in previews in Boston before moving to New York in the fall.

Neil Diamond in New York City, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Marcia Diamond (right) watched as her husband Neil clipped their son Jessie’s nails in a dressing room at the Winter Garden Theatre, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond putting on makeup before a performance at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond and Ethel Kennedy backstage after the first in his series of shows at the Winter Garden Theatre, 1972; Diamond had made that opening show a benefit for the Robert Kennedy Foundation.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond was surrounded by family—including his parents at his right and his brother and sister-in-law behind him—as the first reviews of his New York performance were read aloud, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond with his uncle Jules Rapaport, who flew in from Florida for his nephew’s concert at the Winter Garden Theatre, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diiamond practiced fencing, 1972; the singer had attended NYU on a fencing scholarship.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond, who attended NYU on a fencing scholarship, practiced in 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond in concert at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond in concert at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Neil Diamond in concert at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A multiple=exposure photo of Neil Diamond performing at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York, 1972.

MICHAEL MAUNEY/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

More Like This

arts & entertainment

The Beach Boys: From Surf Stardom to Musical Revolution

arts & entertainment

A Surreal and Starry Tour of The Universal Studio Lot

arts & entertainment

Leigh Wiener’s Art and Craft

arts & entertainment

Ginger on an Earlier “Fateful Trip”: Tina Louise’s Debutante Ball

arts & entertainment

Showered with Attention: Janet Leigh in LIFE

arts & entertainment

The Paul McCartney of Get Back