Linda Cotta has a dream she’ll someday meet Neil Diamond, just to get his autograph.
It’s been something she’s been trying at, somewhat passively, since she was 19.
“Neil was my first live concert,” says Cotta, who saw Diamond at Selland Arena in 1972 on a tour with Linda Ronstadt (post Stone Ponies). Since then, she’s seen Diamond 25 times and has become the kind of fan who rattles off songs trivia. She has a small shrine to Diamond in her home and a bush of Neil Diamond roses (yes, the singer has a variety of rose named after him). Any time Diamond plays Fresno, Cotta enters every ticket contest she can. She won three sets of tickets when he played here in 2005.
Cotta was at Save Mart Center in 2008 when Diamond played a New Year’s Eve concert and she will be at the arena Friday night when the singer kicks off his 50th Anniversary World Tour.
It promises to be a night of sing-alongs. The tour coincides with the released of a three-CD retrospective that features an almost impossible amount of music from a guy who is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“Sweet Caroline” is the obvious sing along, as any anyone who’s every been to a night of karaoke can attest, but Diamond has close to 40 Top-40 singles that are sure to get stuck in your head. Cotta has her favorites of course, though she says it’s almost impossible to narrow down.
“There’s just so many. It’s been so long,” she says.
To that point, here are 10 Diamond sing alongs that aren’t “Sweet Caroline.”
▪ “I’m a Believer” – Diamond wrote and recorded the song before it became a hit for The Monkees in 1966. Younger folks may remember Smash Mouth’s 2001 version for the movie “Shrek.”
▪ “Red, Red Wine” – The reggae-influenced pop band UB40 made a hit of the song in the 1980s.
▪ “Solitary Man” – A perfect heartbreak song, done as a two-and-a-half minute pop anthem. It has been been famously covered by the likes of Johnny Cash and Chris Isaak.
▪ “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” – Originally recorded separately by both Diamond and Barbra Streisand, the song became a mega hit in 1978, only after it was rerecorded as a duet.
▪ “Heartlight” – No joke, this 1982 hit (co-written by Burt Bacharach) was inspired by the blockbuster, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
▪ “Cherry, Cherry” – Diamond’s first big hit was released in 1966. A live version of the song, released on “Hot August Nights,” was a hit in 1972.
▪ “Girl You’ll Be Woman, Soon” – Diamond’s version of the song was a Top 10 pop single in 1967. It got a bump in the ’90s when Urge Overkill’s version was featured heavily in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Pulp Fiction.”
▪ “Kentucky Woman” – Released in 1967, “Kentucky Woman” was another of Diamond’s early classics. The rock band Deep Purple had a small hit with an up-tempo version of the song in 1968.
▪ “America” – Also known as “Coming to America,” this song was released in 1980 as part of “The Jazz Singer” soundtrack. While the films was a critical disaster (it won him a Razzie award for worst actor,) the soundtrack became a success, in part thanks to Diamond’s ode to immigration.