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Darlene Love: A Background Singer Takes The Spotlight

Love sang background vocals on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, including "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Johnny Angel." On March 14, Love will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Fresh Air honors the vocalist with excerpts from a 1988 interview.

07:48

Other segments from the episode on March 11, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 11, 2011: Interview with Dr. John; Interview with Darlene Love; Interview with Neil Diamond; Review of the film "Certified Copy."

Transcript

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Dr. John: A New Orleans Legend In The Hall Of Fame

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli of tvworthwatching.com, sitting in for
Terry Gross.

Dr. JOHN (Musician): We're going to do this with the most love and respect that
we can for the tradition. Let's do this sucker.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: That's Dr. John, the New Orleans singer, musician, composer and
producer, one of the artists to be inducted Monday into the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame. On today's show, we'll feature interviews with three of them: singer
Darlene Love, singer-composer Neil Diamond and our first guest, Mac Rebennack,
otherwise known as Dr. John.

Mac Rebennack grew up in New Orleans but moved to Los Angeles in the mid-'60s
to create his Dr. John persona. His mentor was Professor Longhair, and as Dr.
John the Night Tripper, he led a wild stage production that combined voodoo,
psychedelia and old medicine shows. Dr. John now appears as an occasional guest
star on the HBO series "Treme," playing himself and contributing songs to the
soundtrack, like this one.

(Soundbite of music)

Dr. JOHN: (Singing) Me got a fire can't put it out. That fire (unintelligible)
make you shout. I'm going down to get my (unintelligible). We gonna buy a great
big (unintelligible). Me gonna do everything me could. (Unintelligible) we
gonna take'em for a ride. (Unintelligible). We gonna dance till morning come.
(Unintelligible) near Treme.

BIANCULLI: When Dr. John began performing as a teenager, he played the clubs
with older musicians who promised his parents they'd look out for him. Terry
spoke with him in 1986, and he told her what that club scene was like.

Dr. JOHN: Most of the clubs were fronts for something else. It was like the -
you know, there were the B drinkers and all, working prostitution out the backs
of the clubs. They all had these motels connected to them. There was gambling
going on. You can always hear it in the rooms around the clubs. And it was all
pretty, like - what was great about it was that the owners of the clubs hired
bands that played the music they that liked. And there was a lot of freedom. So
bands in those days did not have to play for the public. They played for club
owners that enjoyed music.

And what happened, there was a lot of clubs that had bebop music or different
forms of music. It was great for musicians. We weren't under pressure to pack
people in the club because these guys didn't even care if there was any people
necessarily in the club because that's not where their money was necessarily
coming.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Were there a lot of knife fights or gun fights at some of the rougher clubs
that you played?

Dr. JOHN: Oh, yeah, some of the joints were real, you know, typical bucket-of-
blood joints. And there was - some of the places that if my family knew I was
working, then some of them would have just pulled me out of the whole scene.

I mean, there was nights that guys would push me behind, like, these one-arm
bandits, you know, the little slot machines and would use them like shields and
shove me behind them when they'd see the guns come out and stuff. And like,
man, it was a night, you know, that somebody got shot, stabbed or whatever.

GROSS: If the guns or the knives were coming out, were you supposed to keep
playing?

Dr. JOHN: Yes, we always were instructed to play loud and fast when trouble
happened. That was kind of the rule of thumb. When trouble started, you played
loud and fast.

GROSS: What was that supposed to accomplish?

Dr. JOHN: Drown out the trouble.

GROSS: Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did it work?

Dr. JOHN: Yeah.

GROSS: The people wouldn't notice that much of what was happening?

Dr. JOHN: Yeah, so the bouncer could clear the people out of the place. And
usually, nobody was the wiser, that somebody was murdered or whatever happened.
It was usually not even noticed by the bulk of the paying people.

GROSS: I had read somewhere that you were shot in the fingers, I think, during
a club date. What happened? What's the story with that?

Dr. JOHN: Well, I was playing a gig in Jacksonville, Florida, and Ronnie
Barron, who was singing with our band at the time, he was like really underage.
He was like a couple years younger than me. And his mother had told me: Look,
you look out for Ronnie.

And I remembered how guys had looked out for me when I was first out there.
Well, I went to get Ronnie for a gig. I walked in the room, and this guy's
pistol-whipping him over, like, a jealous lover scene.

And I went to try to get the gun out of the guy's hand, and in doing it, I got
my finger over the barrel instead of the handle of the gun, and as I hit the
guy's hand on a rock to get the gun out of his hand, it went off and blew the
tip of my finger off.

And I was fortunate that it was sewed, the tip, back on. But it's, like,
affected me from being a guitar player. And it really took a toll. I really
feel that a lot of the contribution of me getting into drugs was out of -
connected with this incident, that I was very depressed about not being able to
follow my career as a guitarist.

And even though I was - went into playing keyboards and other things that
worked out later, there was a long space of time when I was very - like I just
gave my life to being a guitar player, and all of the sudden, that was, like,
gone. And it really messed my whole head up.

GROSS: How did you start doing studio work?

Dr. JOHN: Well, I hung at the studio, myself and James Booker and several other
musicians. As kids, we just literally hung at the studio, hoping somebody would
get sick or get hurt and that we'd get to sub for them.

And I mean literally, we made, you know, novenas to the saints that somebody
would get ill, that we'd get a chance to play. And we'd wait. And occasionally,
somebody would be late, and we'd get to play for a little bit. And usually,
they'd come, and we'd get shooed out again.

But slowly but surely, we kind of got accepted into the clique, and it was,
like, I think more to do with persistence than talent, you know.

GROSS: I want to play a recording from your "Gumbo" album, and it's "Those
Lonely, Lonely Nights." Why did you choose to do this song?

Dr. JOHN: Well, I was looking for some Earl King songs. Earl was one of the -
he and Huey Smith were two of the guys that encouraged me to keep on writing
songs. And they were, like, the up-and-coming guys. Like Huey Smith was the
young piano player coming up at that time, and Earl King was, like, called
Little Guitar Slim, who was, like, the hero of the guitars at the time.

GROSS: And why don't we hear it? You're featured on piano and vocals.

Dr. JOHN: Right.

GROSS: On this recording of "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights," from Dr. John, Mac
Rebennack's album "Gumbo.

(Soundbite of song, "Those Lonely, Lonely Nights")

Dr. JOHN: (Singing) There's been some lonely, lonely nights, oh baby, yeah,
since you've been gone. Laid my head on my pillow. Oh, how I cried all night
long.

The things you used to say to me, you said that we would never part. Well, you
know I love you darling. Tell me, why you leave after dawn.

BIANCULLI: We'll hear more of Dr. John's interview with Terry Gross after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 1986 interview with singer, composer,
musician and producer Dr. John. On Monday, he's being inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame.

GROSS: You went from this background of music rooted in jazz and blues and
early rock 'n' roll, and then you became one of the leading figures in
psychadelic music. And you'd created this persona for yourself, the Dr. John
persona. How was that created? Was it your idea to do that?

Dr. JOHN: Well, I had always came up with album concepts. And the Dr. John
thing was - the idea was that at the time, there was no real show shows that
were out, around. And the concept was to take all of the tricknology that I
knew of show business from over the years, like throwing glitter to make the
effect of magic, and using a lot of concepts that were easily and cheaply
adaptable to show business and to make a show that would be real mystical in
orientation for people.

And it was a real, like, easy-to-do show. And all I had had to do was to get a
group of dancers. And I got all these people from New Orleans who were real
familiar with that kind of music. And we did the album, and the show was geared
to snake dancers and all of the regular voodoo shows of New Orleans.

And for instance, when I first presented it, it was a little too authentic for
the labels. They weren't quite ready for a guy biting a chicken's head off and
stuff. So they - we modified the show down to a lot less authenticness, to more
showbiz-style and took it on the road.

GROSS: I want to play something from one of your early Dr. John the Night
Tripper records. And this is from the "Gris-Gris" album, and it's "Gris-Gris
Gumbo Ya Ya." Do you want to say anything about when you started doing this
song and how you'd get into it?

Dr. JOHN: Well, this was the introduction song. Like, on the show, I would step
on a button and have a big puff of smoke and say: They call me.

And as the smoke cleared, it would look like I had just popped up. You know,
it's an old magic trick. And that was like the introduction song to our show.
And this also was, like, introducing myself to the audience as who and what Dr.
John is.

(Soundbite of song, "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya")

Dr. JOHN: (Singing) They call me, Dr. John, known as the Night Tripper. Got my
sizzling gris-gris in my hand. Day trippin' up, I'm back down the bayou. I'm
the last of the best. They call me the Gris-Gris Man. Got many clients come
from miles around running down my prescription. I got my medicine to cure all
your ills. I got remedies of every description.

I got gris-gris gumbo ya ya. Hey now. Hey now. Gris-gris gumbo ya ya. Hey now.
Hey now.

If you got love trouble, you got a bad woman you can't control. I got just the
thing for you, something called control in the hearts of get-together drops. If
you work too hard, and you need a little rest, try my (unintelligible) rub or
put some of my (unintelligible) jam in your breakfast.

Try a little bit of gris-gris gumbo ya ya. Hey now. Hey now.

GROSS: What was your reaction to the psychedelic music scene? You'd come from a
very different background.

Dr. JOHN: I was very turned off by it. Like, even though this became most of
the venues that I'd work in later, the whole scene in general, it was like - it
was more to me like the vibe of everybody being into the oneness of the planet,
now that was great, and the vibe.

But it was like also, coming from Louisiana and being very paranoid and very
leery of surface things, I felt like hey, this is something that doesn't sit
quite right, and it doesn't feel like - there must be some real scurvy thing
happening behind the scenes that I was expecting to flounce out at any moment.

And then I was watching the aftereffects of this. I mean, I'd see these runaway
kids that would hook up with our band, and, like, here I was around like the
Diggers who were like feeding all these runaway kids in the parks. And it was a
real other side to this coin of all the love and the love beads and all this in
the marketplace.

But there were kids out there starving and freezing and not covered and didn't
know how to take care of thereself(ph), and it was very fortunate that there
were guys like the Diggers and the Panthers feeding these kids and taking care
of them.

GROSS: You were born Roman Catholic. What got you so interested in voodoo?

Dr. JOHN: Well, it's a real heavy part of the New Orleans scene. When I was
coming up, it was like everybody I knew, you automatically, whether it was my
grandmother or my grandfather, everybody did certain little gris-gris things.

It was like the herbal remedies we took as a kid were strictly gris-gris
things. And I don't think - they look at the spells and the stuff, but that's a
side of something, and it's very small part of what gris-gris is about in
Louisiana. And it's just part of the culture.

GROSS: You were studying to be a priest in the Church of Voodoo and Witchcraft?

Dr. JOHN: Well, what I actually did was legalize it. I charted it so that the
reverend mothers in New Orleans would not be busted for fortune-telling, for
doing spells and whatever they did.

Prior to me having got a charter with the state of Louisiana, all these
reverend mothers, who were some of the best people I ever knew, were getting
busted on a regular basis for just going to hospitals and helping people. And
it was ridiculous.

GROSS: Have you been seeing yourself as much of a pianist now as a singer or
guitarist or producer or any of the other things that you've done?

Dr. JOHN: Actually, I just have always looked at myself as just a musician that
plays in a rhythm section. I feel very awkward being called a piano player, a
something because what I do is, like, not necessarily - I'm not a great piano
player, so to speak.

I can play the piano, and I love to play the piano. I love to play music, but I
just as much love to play the guitar, the bass or the drums or anything else in
a rhythm section. And that's really my love.

I feel very awkward making piano solo records because there's no interplay. And
I always thought of doing something like that as, like, the end of the rope.
From there, I'm stuck with playing the Holiday Inn circuit for the rest of my
life. And I'll be in some little club, somebody drunkenly asking me to play
"Melancholy Baby" or something. And that was my vision.

Well, it didn't go that way, but that's a real underlying fear with this kind
of thing to guys like me, who've seen that happen to friends.

GROSS: Thank you so much for talking with us.

Dr. JOHN: Well, thank you for having me. I enjoyed this.

BIANCULLI: Musician, composer and performer Mac Rebennack, known to his fans as
Dr. John, speaking to Terry Gross in 1986. On Monday, he'll be inducted into
the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the second half of the show, we'll hear from two other new inductees,
Darlene Love and Neil Diamond.

I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.
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Darlene Love: A Background Singer Takes The Spotlight

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli in for Terry Gross.

We're continuing our salute to some of the artists scheduled to be inducted
Monday into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Next is Darlene Love, one of the
singers around whom producer Phil Spector built his popular girl group sound.
She sang lead on such songs as "He's A Rebel," "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," and "Today
I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry," and backup on "Johnny Angel."

She was a singer with a backup group called The Blossoms when she met Phil
Spector, but he recorded them under several names, including The Crystals. For
years after leaving Spector, Love worked as a backup singer, then moved on to a
solo career. Each holiday season you can see and hear her on David Letterman's
CBS show singing one of her signature songs, "Christmas, Baby Please Come
Home."

Terry Spoke with Darlene Love in 1988. Let's begin with one of Darlene Love's
biggest hits, "He's A Rebel."

(Soundbite of song, "He's A Rebel")

THE CRYSTALS (Music Group): (Singing): See the way he walks down the street.
Watch the way he shuffles his feet. My, he holds his head up high when he goes
walking by. He's my guy.

When he holds my hand, I'm so proud, 'cause he's not just one of the crowd. Why
is he always the one to try the things they've never done? And just because of
that, they say...

He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good. He's a rebel 'cause he never...

TERRY GROSS: I know the first song that you recorded for Spector was "He's A
Rebel."

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: You sang lead on it.

Ms. LOVE: Yes.

GROSS: But although you sang lead and The Blossoms backed you up, the song was
recorded under the name of The Crystals...

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: ...which had already had a few hits - one of the girl groups who had
already had a few hits. Why did he record you under the name of The Crystals?

Ms. LOVE: Well, he - him and The Crystals I think had fallen out at that time.
They didn't want to fly to California for whatever reasons. Well, he just told
them, okay, and he just left them in New York and came out to the coast and
decided to record this song because he was so - had had, he had in him that
this song was going to be such a monstrous hit; he didn't want to sit on it, so
he just found the best person he thought he could to do the lead and do the
backup and to put the record out, because the Vikki Carr had a song, "He's A
Rebel," out also and he was trying to beat her record out.

GROSS: Well, why couldn't he call you Darlene Love and The Blossoms? Why did he
call you The Crystals?

Ms. LOVE: Well, at that time he had the name The Crystals and he had already
had a little success with the name The Crystals already. They already had, I
think, like top 10 or top 20 records, so I guess he figured it would have been
easier to break them with another record rather than starting out fresh with a
new sound, new voice.

GROSS: Your recording of "He's A Rebel" under the name of The Crystals rose to
number one on the charts. How did you feel about it? Here it was your voice
without any credit to you?

Ms. LOVE: I didn't really feel one way about it or the other because I went in
to do it as a recording session, you know, like many of the other things that I
did that just weren't hits, because I did a lot of other things like that, like
"He's A Rebel." It's just that those things that I did under other names were
not hits.

GROSS: Now, you also recorded "He's Sure The Boy I Love" under the name of The
Crystals.

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: Then Phil Spector changed your name to the Bobby Sox and Blue Jeans.

Ms. LOVE: Right.

GROSS: And under that name you recorded "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and "Not Too Young
to Get Married." When Phil Spector asked you to record "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," did
you think it was a very good idea?

Ms. LOVE: No. I couldn't imagine what we were going to do with "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-
Dah." As a matter of fact, I asked Phil, I said, you mean that song about the
"Song of the South" with Uncle Remus?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LOVE: And he said yes, that song. I went, hmm, well, okay. You have to
realize that we were very professional singers at that time at doing
background. So when it came time to sing the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," we knew
the song and we just kind of fell into the rhythm of the song with the track.

(Soundbite of song, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah")

BOBBY SOX AND THE BLUE JEANS: (Singing) Zip a dee doo-dah, zip a dee-ay. Well,
Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder. And it's the truth, it's actual. Everything is
going to be satisfactual. Zip a dee doo-dah...

GROSS: Under the name of Darlene Love, you recorded "Today I Met The Boy I'm
Going to Marry" and "Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home." Did you sing any
differently knowing that it was going to be under your name? Did you know it
was going to be under your name?

Ms. LOVE: Well, "He's Sure The Boy I Love" was supposed to be a Darlene Love
record, because before we did "He's Sure The Boy I Love," we had already became
Bobby Sox and the Blue Jeans. We had "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" out before "He's Sure
The Boy I Love" and he had signed Darlene Love. He had changed my name already
and he told me that that was going to be my next release. And I didn't know it
wasn't my next release until we were in the car and I heard it on the radio and
the disc jockey said this is The Crystals' latest record and they played "He's
Sure The Boy I Love." That's when I found out it wasn't a Darlene Love record.

GROSS: Wow. You must've been pretty angry hearing that, huh?

Ms. LOVE: I was a little upset about that one.

(Soundbite of song, "He's Sure The Boy I Love")

THE CRYSTALS: (Spoken) Always dreamed the boy I loved would come along. And
he'd be tall and handsome, rich and strong. Now that boy I love has come to me.
But he sure ain't the way I thought he'd be.

(Singing) Sha la la, la la, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Sha la la, la
la, yeah, yeah yeah. Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Sha la la, la la, yeah, yeah yeah. Oh,
oh, oh, oh, oh. He's sure the boy I love.

He doesn't look like a movie star. He doesn't drive a Cadillac car. He sure
ain't the boy I've been dreaming of, but he's sure the boy I love. Let me tell
you now.

He never be a big business man. He always...

GROSS: You've said before that you felt that Spector had you hold back when you
were singing.

Ms. LOVE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: What did you mean?

Ms. LOVE: I have a very powerful voice. As a matter of fact, it was funny.
Sometimes when I had to do ad libs, I would have to stand like, you know, 10
feet away from the mic to do the kind of singing that I did. Or if I would
over-sing too much Phil would take a earlier tape that I – a take that I had
recorded and use that one rather than the more powerful voice that I was using.

GROSS: You were known as the best singer in the girl groups. Did you think of
yourself that way?

Ms. LOVE: No. I never did. Because during that time, everybody to me was almost
like sounding alike. My voice stood out in Phil Spector's ears, I think,
because I had the more mature voice than - and I think that came from the
Gospel singing, where the other people had not had any kind of professional
training or sung in public, where I had been doing that in church and also in
school.

GROSS: Your voice, I think, was not only more mature, it was also more
controlled.

Ms. LOVE: Right. Exactly. I would agree with that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: Darlene Love, another upcoming inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame, speaking to Terry Gross in 1988.

Coming up, yet another artist to be inducted Monday, Neil Diamond.

This is FRESH AIR.
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Neil Diamond: A 'Solitary Man' Enters The Hall Of Fame

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Our next and another of Monday's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
is Neil Diamond. He started out as a songwriter writing for other artists,
including an early number one hit for The Monkees, "I'm a Believer." But
shortly after that, it was Diamond himself who made most of his songs famous -
songs like "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon,"
and "Sweet Caroline."

Terry Gross spoke with Neil Diamond in 2005. Before we join their conversation,
here's a reminder of how infectious his music was. Here's "Solitary Man."

(Soundbite of song, "Solitary Man")

Mr. NEIL DIAMOND (Singer-songwriter): (Singing) Belinda was mine 'til the time
that I found her. Holding Jim and loving him. Then Sue came along, loved me
strong, that's what I thought. But me and Sue, that died too.

Don't know that I will but until I can find me a girl who'll stay and won't
play games behind me. And I'll be what I am. A solitary man. A solitary man...

GROSS: That's Neil Diamond. Now, did you write this song for yourself or for
somebody else?

Mr. DIAMOND: No, I wrote this for myself. I had a contract with Jeff and Ellie
and I started to focus in on just what I wanted to do. And so "Solitary Man"
was written for me and for the first sessions that I was to do with Jeff and
Ellie.

GROSS: So how did "Solitary Man" change your idea of what you wanted from your
musical life?

Mr. DIAMOND: Once I had a chart record of my own, I was no longer a kid
knocking around on the streets. I was now a, well, we didn't call them artists
at that time. We called them vocalists. But I was a vocalist, and it was a
whole different thing. I was writing for myself, so I had to really dig in and
write as well as I possibly could. And I have to say, before that time I don't
know if I was doing that. I was just writing and writing and writing, maybe
just to get an advance from a publisher, but there was not a lot of me in those
songs, and "Solitary Man" was the first of a long line of me songs, my
experience songs.

GROSS: Now, The Monkees did a couple of your songs, "I'm a Believer" and "A
Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You." Did you write those with them in mind or for
yourself? I'm trying to think of what chronology was. Like you started
recording in, what, like '67?

Mr. DIAMOND: Sixty-six.

GROSS: Sixty-six. Okay.

Mr. DIAMOND: Yeah.

GROSS: And what year are The Monkees? Like is that after that?

Mr. DIAMOND: I think '67, something like that. I recorded a couple of songs,
including "Solitary Man" and "Cherry, Cherry," which was a big hit. And because
of that hit the people who were producing The Monkees called and said we like
"Cherry, Cherry." Do you have any other songs? I said, well, I don't have
anything like "Cherry, Cherry" but I have an album coming out soon and I'll
send it over and take your pick.

GROSS: You know, it's funny. The common wisdom goes when telling the story of
like songwriters from the Brill Building and The Beatles is that The Beatles
changed everything. After The Beatles bands started writing their own songs. It
drove out the professional songwriters. But of course, The Monkees are a band
that's, you know, a kind of fabricated band copying The Beatles, and you have
this tremendous success writing for them and in that sense, like The Beatles'
success inadvertently really helped you as a songwriter..

Mr. DIAMOND: Oh, yeah. No question about it. But it was not only in the sense
of The Monkees doing a couple of songs. It was in the sense that the doors
began to open for songwriters who were able to sing, and I just happen to be
one of them who had been knocking around the streets for years and now suddenly
was getting a new and fresh listening to my work. So The Beatles made an
enormous change, as did Bob Dylan. They brought the songwriter up to the front
of the line and said, you know, you guys do it, and it had a devastating effect
on the music publishing business in Tin Pan Alley. But it opened up many doors
for people like me.

GROSS: My guest is Neil Diamond. Here's his version of "I'm A Believer."

(Soundbite of song, "I'm A Believer")

Mr. DIAMOND: (Singing) I thought love was only true in fairy tale. Meant for
someone else but not for me. Love was out to get to me. That's the way it
seems. Disappointment haunted all my dreams.

Then I saw her face. Now I'm a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. I'm
in love. And I'm a believer. I couldn't leave her if I tried. I thought love...

GROSS: I want to ask you about another of your songs, and this is also an
earlier song. It's "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon." And the Urge Overkill version
of this was used by Quentin Tarantino in "Pulp Fiction." Can you tell us the
story behind the song?

Mr. DIAMOND: Oh, behind the song was pretty basic. I was playing mostly to
teenagers, teenage girls when I first started, and "Girl You'll Be A Woman
Soon" was something I wrote for them and I recorded it myself.

GROSS: How did you find out that Quentin Tarantino was going to use a version
of this song for "Pulp Fiction"?

Mr. DIAMOND: Well, first they have to request the right to use it. But I got a
request and a part of a script to be used in this movie called "Pulp Fiction."
And I've always held to a very tenuous line as to what I wanted my songs to be
used as, and I wouldn’t let them be used in cigarette commercials or alcohol
commercials. And the script that I read was way out there. It was, you know,
beyond what I would turn down, normally, and I did turn it down. I heard almost
immediately from my publisher who said, you know, you shouldn't turn this down.
This guy is a tremendous director and you should just do it and let them do it,
which I did. And, of course, I've never regretted it because it was an entirely
different way of seeing that song. But that's basically how it happened.

GROSS: So what did you think of the movie?

Mr. DIAMOND: Oh, I loved the movie. I was amazed by the movie. I've seen it.

GROSS: How come you loved the movie but didn't love the script? What was
different actually seeing it?

Mr. DIAMOND: Well, I didn't get the whole script. I only got a few pages of the
script, in which the song would be used and I don't know if you remember the
scene, but she was – Uma Thurman was - very heavily into a coke binge and she
went unconscious and had to be taken for some quote/unquote "special
treatment." And, you know, it just seemed to too strong for my own taste and I
turned it down on that basis.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. But it was very effective in the film.

Mr. DIAMOND: It was very effective and it was a lesson that I learned, you
know, see who else is working on it. See how serious they are. Don't take it at
face value and don't take your prejudices into this kind of discussion.

GROSS: I want to ask you about another song that you wrote and recorded, a big
hit for you "Sweet Caroline," which is now played at Red Sox games at Fenway
Park, and maybe you know the story of why that is. But let's start with the
song itself. Is there a story behind the writing of the song?

Mr. DIAMOND: Yeah. I think so. I was heading down to Memphis for my first
recording session down there. There were some producers I wanted to work with
and I only had two songs written. And in those days a session was three hours
and you usually had three songs that you recorded. So the night before the
session at some motel in Memphis I knocked out the song, "Sweet Caroline." It
was one of the fastest songs I've ever written and we recorded it the next day
and it became one of my biggest songs, if not the biggest song.

GROSS: It’s also sung a lot in bars.

Mr. DIAMOND: Well, the fact is that it’s fun and easy to sing with, and I think
that that's the bottom line as far as that song is concerned. It's easy to
sing. It's fun. People like to sing it and that's why it's popular in bars,
because everybody can see it no matter how many drinks you’ve had.

GROSS: Well, Neil Diamond, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. DIAMOND: My pleasure, Terry.

(Soundbite of song, "Sweet Caroline")

Mr. DIAMOND: (Singing) Where it began, I can't begin to know and but then I
know it's growing strong. Oh, wasn't the spring and spring became the summer.
Who'd believe you'd come along?

Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you. Oh, sweet
Caroline good times never seem so good. I've been inclined to believe it never
would but now I look at night...

BIANCULLI: Neil Diamond, speaking to Terry Gross in 2005. Neil Diamond, Darlene
Love and Dr. John will all be inducted Monday into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame.

Coming up, film critic David Edelstein reviews the new Iranian film "Certified
Copy."

This is FRESH AIR.

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'Certified Copy': A Marvelous, Mind-Blowing Movie

DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

Seventy-year-old Abbas Kiarostami is one of the fathers of the new wave of
Iranian cinema, winning awards in international festivals for such films as
"Taste of Cherry" and "The Wind Will Carry Us." He went to Italy to make his
new film "Certified Copy." It opens this week in New York and LA and is also
available on-demand on many cable systems as part of the Sundance Selects
series.

Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: "Certified Copy" is Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's first
film set in Europe and his return to narrative after a decade of experimental
and documentary work. But it's anything but simple. It's a mind-bender, a piece
of philosophical gamesmanship that can baffle you and psych you out - but also
deliver the goods.

At first, Kiarostami appears to tell a linear story. Juliette Binoche plays a
Frenchwoman, an apparently single mother, identified in the credits only as
She, who lives in Italy and runs a gallery selling antique sculptures. She has
recently met - no, she has apparently recently met - a British author, James
Miller, played by opera singer William Shimell. She's clearly attracted to him,
even though she disputes the thesis of his art theory book, also called
"Certified Copy," which carries the subtitle, "Forget the original, just get a
good copy." His idea, which I'm way simplifying, is that originals are
overrated and widely-circulated fakes can lead you to an understanding of the
work. He doesn't say how but that's what the movie attempts to dramatize.

The bulk of "Certified Copy" happens in the course of a day in which She and
James drive to a Tuscan village where many couples come to get married. Car
rides are big in Kiarostami's films, and this one is tantalizing. There's
something electric between these two. She's nervous and fidgety, laughing to
herself at private jokes.

James seems rather pretentious - but, it should be said, Shimell in his non-
singing debut is extraordinarily charismatic: tall and lean and elegantly
tousled, with the most beautiful baritone speaking voice. They talk of art and
forgeries while reflections of the ancient Tuscan buildings slide up and down
the windshield. While she drives, she asks him to sign copies of his book,
which she says she first encountered with her sister, Marie.

(Soundbite of "Certified Copy")

Ms. JULLIETTE BINOCHE (Actress): (as She) So you see, Marie has a, she loves
costume jewelry. That explains that. She has very interesting views on things.

Mr. WILLIAM SHIMELL (Opera singer; Actor): (as James Miller) Mm-hmm. Like what.

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) Oh, there’s one, there’s only in the dedication, this
one. That’s fine.

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) This is too?

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) Yeah. Thanks. Like what? Like she says fake jewelry is
just as good as the real thing. You don’t have to worry about them. Less
hassle, you know, just.

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) She agrees with me?

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) What?

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) She agrees with me about that?

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) Well, on that particular point yes, but she’s – she’s a
simple person. She doesn’t try to convince anyone. You’re determined to try and
prove the improvable.

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) So what you’re saying is it’s acceptable from
her but un-provable for me. Is that it?

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) It’s acceptable from her because she doesn’t try to
convert anyone. She doesn’t make a point. She’s just living in her own little
world. There’s no difference between copy and original.

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) Well...

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) What’s that?

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) Well, she’s lucky. I wish I were more like her.

Ms. BINOCHE: (as She) Like her? What do you mean?

Mr. SHIMELL: (as James Miller) Well, actually to be honest, I wrote the book
partly to convince myself of my own idea. But she seems to believe in it simply
and naturally, and I think I envy that.

EDELSTEIN: As the couple's wanderings through the ancient village become oddly
tense, there's a complete, I mean absolute change of direction. In a cafe,
James tells She a story about the emotional distance he once observed between a
mother and small child that seems to be about her and her son, and she cries.
Then the old proprietress mistakes them for a long-married couple. Then,
slowly, they appear to be a long-married couple, married 15 years earlier in
this very village; that marriage now, in the painful throes of dissolution.

Most people's response to this jarring discontinuity can be easily summed up:
Huh? Wha—? Is this some "Sixth Sense" trickery? As the conflict drags on, She
speaks in French, James in English, as if only in their native tongues can they
reveal their primal selves. Are they really a couple? Or are they play-acting -
as if to prove the thesis of James's book?

If you're literal-minded, you'll leave "Certified Copy" in a foul mood, maybe
thinking it's a fraud – "The Emperor's New Clothes." But I think great artists
earn our leaps of faith. I loved Kiarostami's vision of the fluidity of
relationships, even of identities. And while this all sounds rather abstract,
what's onscreen is tactile and emotional, full of anger, unexpected tenderness,
devastating epiphanies.

Juliette Binoche is acting a role, which means she's a fake, in the sense that
all actors are fakes. But I could swear in those long takes she was dissolving
before our eyes and becoming this woman. Acknowledging its artifice, "Certified
Copy" becomes intensely, miraculously real.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

(Soundbite of music)

You can join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at NPR/FRESH AIR and you
can download podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org.

For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

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Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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