In the wake of Neil Diamond finally making it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of a great and worthy set of inductees for 2011, felt something worthy had to be put together for the occasion. But what was I going to spotlight here? I mean the man had so many friggin’ hits in his career. Many of them marshaling me into my teen years and through the caldron that was high school, how could I pick just one and be representative?
Who cares that many dismissed his work for so long because they thought it only epitomized the “soft” side of rock and regulated it to the “pop” for the era.
They miss the point entirely by not acknowledging how superb his discography, as well as his talent, was in point of fact. Or how far-reaching its influence. Besides that, many of my relatives simply worshipped the singer-songwriter-performer. My aunt Olivia attended one of those sold-out Hot August Night concerts back in ’72. For good reason, too. So I’d pressure to make this count. In the end, it came down to what I’ve played the most of recent.
A song I only re-discovered after the turn of the century.
Cherry, Cherry was written and recorded by the artist, and released back in 1966 for the Bang Records indie label. It became Neil Diamond’s first big hit, following his debut single, Solitary Man. The number reached as high as #6 on Billboard’s chart for the year. The pop hymn is a relatively simple song, but it sure gets the job done with an infectious energy — a distinctive trait for many tracks that came out of the 60s.
In truth (as Dan Epstein reported in 2005), Rolling Stone would return to rate the tune as, “one of the greatest three-chord songs of all time.” No argument there. Even the release of the live version some seven years later would score the number more applause — it’d reach #31 in 1973. While I liked it then (hey, I was only 11 when it came out), I find I enjoy Cherry, Cherry a hell of a lot more now.
Back in 2009 while I lounged somewhere at home (hiding from my children’s homework), listening to the oldies radio station in these parts, this track once more popped up on their playlist. Though it was so ridiculously familiar, for some reason that time I zeroed in to what was happening entirely in its background. Surprised myself by marveling at it, to the tell the truth. So much so, I began to do some research on the song.
The legendary pair of songwriter-promoters, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, produced the piece. Supplying elements extensively. No slouches there, no siree. Plus, the duo contributed a great deal to what made the track as good as it was. The first thing you should notice, there is no drum beat in it — something unheard of for the time. The rhythm was kept solely by the handclaps.
As it happens, the song that became the hit was the demo — a later studio version with horns and drums didn’t cut it and has since found its way on to Diamond’s 1996 anthology, In My Lifetime.
Next, that was in fact Barry and Greenwich — someone admired and missed most dearly by my friend Moondancer — performing the background vocals. It was Ellie herself that invented the background arrangement for Cherry, Cherry, and it’s her voice in the chorus that initially drew me in. Why I recognize how great and enjoyable the backing is in the production. She’d also performed the support vocals for Kentucky Woman, again with Neil and Jeff.
It was a revelation to me how catchy Neil, Jeff, and Ellie’s voices remain. How much they added to the overall verve of the tune. Even after all of these years. Top it off with Diamond’s now recognizable and steady guitar licks that really drove the melody — a career quality the Hall of Fame paid tribute to in their bio for the singer. Lastly, let’s not overlook Artie Butler’s work on piano and Hammond organ, which gave the piece a unique and playful character.
Put it all together and you’ll realize exactly why I think this tune shouldn’t be anywhere in the vicinity of forgotten, or ignored. With belated congratulations to Mr. Neil Diamond, and in heartfelt remembrance of my late aunt Olivia, and my wife’s mother Arlene. Both of whom didn’t live long enough to see their favorite singer reach the Hall. The reason I think of them both whenever I hear this song, wherever it is played.
Baby loves me, yes, yes she does Ah, the girl's outta sight, yeah Says she loves me, yes, yes she does Mmm, gonna show me tonight, yeah Hey, she got the way to move me, Cherry (She got the way to groove me) Cherry, baby She got the way to move me (She got the way to groove me) All right Tell your mama, girl, I can't stay long We got things we gotta catch up on Mmm, you know You know what I'm sayin' Can't stand still while the music is playin' All right Y'ain't got no right, no, no you don't Ah, to be so exciting Won't need bright lights, no, no we won't Gonna make our own lightning Hey, she got the way to move me Cherry (She got the way to groove me) Cherry, baby She got the way to move me (She got the way to groove me) No, we won't tell a soul where we gone to Girl, we do whatever we want to Ah, I love the way that you do me Cherry, babe, you really get to me Hey, she got the way to move me, Cherry (She got the way to groove me) Cherry, baby She got the way to move me (She got the way to groove me) Cherry…