Another year over and upon us, and like I’ve done before (alright, it’s a habit), highlighting a song that just felt right for this point in time. Given the year that just finished, one a number of us wanted to see gone as soon as possible, selected a tune from the early ’80s1 to christen 2021 with. Heartlight, the last hit2 by the American singer-songwriter and actor, Neil Diamond.
The same guy who sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the most popular musicians of all time… and had fans on both sides of my and wife’s family3.
“…one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century as well as a dynamic, internationally known touring act and skilled songwriter whose compositions produced numerous hits for himself and others. In a career that began in the early 1960s as a staff songwriter at New York’s legendary songwriting institution the Brill Building, he soon transitioned into performing and recording his own songs, finding success among the emerging pop singer/songwriter market with early highlights like “Solitary Man” and “Kentucky Woman.” A move to Los Angeles at the end of the ’60s coincided with a shift toward more adult-oriented pop and subsequently ushered in Diamond‘s heyday as a major star.”
No surprise he’d make the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, and that I’d give him a highlight on ‘ye olde blog.
As much as I enjoy all of his hits and album over the years, and still play occasionally on the turntable — when my bride is not around — this one from 1982 would have to grow on me. Written by Neil, Carole Bayer Sager and her then-husband Burt Bacharach, it was inspired by the blockbuster movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, of all things, when the three had attended a screening4.
Never made that film connection till much later, but whether one reacts to the lyrics and E.T., the song is notably heartfelt. In that way this artist’s was known for in the Seventies when his material began to mellow out. I think Heartlight started to register with me once I gave this stanza a real listen:
He’s lookin’ for home
‘Cause everyone needs a place
And home’s the most excellent place of all
And I’ll be right here if you should call me
Paired with Diamond’s notably smooth delivery and craggy bass-baritone voice, Heartlight is a stirring mix that continues its hold over fans. We all have family, of some sort, in common, and getting home to them is comfort in one way or another. It is what sustains many of us, especially in troubled times. Like what we have now. So I’ll offer it as a port in this storm, and in the hope we’ll get through this for something better.
Perhaps, this marked the end of a remarkable run of songs that spanned three decades for Neil Diamond, but it was a marvelously elegant capper. And it continues to brings smile to my face.
And as always, Happy New Year.
Come back again I want you to stay next time 'Cause sometimes the world ain't kind When people get lost like you and me I just made a friend A friend is someone you need But now that he had to go away I still feel the words that he might say Turn on your heartlight Let it shine wherever you go Let it make a happy glow For all the world to see Turn on your heartlight In the middle of a young boy's dream Don't wake me up too soon Gonna take a ride across the moon You and me He's lookin' for home 'Cause everyone needs a place And home's the most excellent place of all And I'll be right here if you should call me Turn on your heartlight Let it shine wherever you go Let it make a happy glow For all the world to see Turn on your heartlight In the middle of a young boy's dream Don't wake me up too soon Gonna take a ride across the moon You and me And home's the most excellent place of all And I'll be right here if you should call me Turn on your heartlight Let it shine wherever you go Let it make a happy glow For all the world to see Turn on your heartlight In the middle of a young boy's dream Don't wake me up too soon Gonna take a ride across the moon You and me Turn on your heartlight now Turn on your heartlight now
- And since I did a retrospective on that decade’s music videos a short while back. ↩
- “This was the last of eight #1 hits for Diamond on the Adult Contemporary chart, and also his last song to reach the Top 30 of the Hot 100. A consistent hitmaker since the mid-’60s, “Heartlight” marked the end of his chart dominance, but he remained a very popular concert draw and managed a #1 album in 2008 with Home Before Dark.” ~ Songfacts ↩
- To my wife’s everlasting surprise, the early rocky relationship with my mother-in-law was smoothed out some by her and my shared a fondness for this artist. Though, it took years to do so. ↩
- When E.T. leaves Earth, his heart glows a luminous red, hence the song title. “We wanted to express how all of us felt about the little alien who suddenly appears in a strange world.”, said Diamond. The sods over at MCA threatened a lawsuit, “…which is a bit specious since there is no mention of the film or any of the characters in the lyric.” Diamond paid them $25,000 in order to avoid litigation. ↩