Neil Diamond may have retired from touring due to Parkinson’s disease, but the singer didn’t let that stop him from giving a cheery and memorable performance at the 2018 Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony.
Diamond, who was officially inducted into the Hall in 1984, earned the Johnny Mercer Award on Thursday and closed the multi-hour event in New York City with a rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”
He was happy and excited onstage, performing an extended version of the iconic song, backed by a band and the audience of songwriters and music industry players who sang along.
The 77-year-old, who announced he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in January and canceled planned concerts, barely spoke at the event, where John Mellencamp, Alan Jackson, Kool and the Gang and Jermaine Dupri were inducted as the Hall’s 2018 class.
Allee Willis — who co-wrote the Broadway musical “The Color Purple” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” — was the first inductee of the night. She won over the audience with stories about her father who told her to “stay away from black culture” and her friend whose frisky behavior helped her connect her songs to singers.
“Her sex life was unbelievable for my career,” she said to laughs.
Willis, the only female to be inducted this year, used her speech to honor women who have not received their credit as songwriters and producers.
“I really started thinking about how, at the time, mentally painful it was that the girls were not getting the chances the boys were. So I just want to say, ‘We’re here. We’ve always been here. And we’re no longer the little wilting flowers that we were when it comes to equality.’ So wipe off the seats because here we come.”
Others speeches throughout the night struck with similar emotion.
Inductee and Grammy-nominated country songwriter Steve Dorff wiped the tears from his eyes when he was onstage; his son, actor Stephen Dorff, was also teary-eyed when he spoke about his father during the induction.
Usher was passionate when he inducted Dupri, who has co-written a number of the R&B star’s hits, including “Nice & Slow,” ″U Got It Bad,” ″Burn” and “Confessions Part II.”
“I love you J.D. You’re like the big brother I never had and also the motivator who pushed me when I was at my lowest,” he said.