With spirited, audience singalong versions of "Sweet Caroline" and a choir-assisted "America," Neil Diamond closed the 2011 Billboard Music Awards Sunday night (May 22) by accepting his 2011 Billboard Icon Award.
Seeming just as moved by but more coherent than his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in March, a leather-jacketed Diamond hushed the standing ovation from crowd at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Arena by saying, "I'm gonna get spoiled. Don't do that." Diamond also joked, "I would've settled for a Top 10 record; you didn't have to do the whole award thing. I love it. I don't know exactly what it means to be an icon, but I always wanted to be one. Now I guess I am…I'm gonna Google it right after the show and find out exactly how an icon is supposed to handle himself. But this is absolutely wonderful…What can I say? It's too much."
The Billboard Icon Award honors the cultural impact of an artist whose extraordinary talent as a creator, writer, and entertainer has stood the test of time. Diamond has sold more than 128 million records worldwide, achieving 39 top 10 singles and 18 platinum albums. He has been a force on Billboard charts for more than 40 years, scoring a combined 12 No. 1 hits on the Billboard 200, Hot 100, and AC Charts.
Reinforcing his staying power, Diamond scored his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 -- after 45 prior chart visits -- just three years ago, when "Home Before Dark" opened atop the chart in 2008. Diamond is the only artist to score a top 20 hit in each decade since Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart launched in 1961, with his first hit, "Sweet Caroline," in 1969. With 17 top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, he ranks among the top four male singers with the most such hit collections, and is one of just four men to scale the Billboard 200's top 10 in each decade since the 1960's. Among men in the chart's five-decade history, Diamond has the 10th most Billboard Hot 100 hits, with 53.
Diamond's Icon Award was one of two special honors presented at the Billboard Music Awards. Beyonce was honored with a rousing, star-studded tribute and the Billboard Millennium Award for her career achievements and influence in the music industry, from her role as the frontwoman of Destiny's Child to her three-chart-topping solo albums.