Neil Diamond on Macy's parade: 'One of the most fun things I've ever done'

neil-diamond-parade.jpg Neil Diamond spent Thanksgiving in a way relatively few people do: aboard a float in the Macy's Parade.

"That was so much fun," the Grammy-winning music icon tells Zap2it of the event. "I was dreading it, because I'd never been in a parade before. I didn't know what it would be like, but it was easily one of the most fun things I've ever done.

"You're riding through New York, and the streets are packed on both sides and up the cross-streets with thousands upon thousands of people for the entire trip. And as I approached each group along the route, they would start singing and waving and calling out my name. It was great. You smile ear-to-ear for three hours."

And when the three hours are up? "You're looking around, and the streets are empty and there are four cops on the corner, and you still have this smile on your face. It was a real kick, really surprising for me. I enjoyed every minute of it."

Diamond has had many such minutes this year, thanks in large part to the awards he has received. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in March, the singer-songwriter was named a Billboard Icon in May.

And one of the biggest accolades for any entertainer now awaits him: Along with two-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and others, Diamond will receive the Kennedy Center Honors in a special that CBS will broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 27.

He doesn't know who will perform during his presentation, but you can bank that someone will render "Sweet Caroline" -- which is one of 23 Diamond classics included in "The Very Best of Neil Diamond -- The Original Studio Recordings," to be released Dec. 6. The CD spans for the first time his work over all the labels he's recorded for, from Bang ("Cherry, Cherry") and Uni/MCA ("Cracklin' Rosie") to Capitol ("America") and Columbia ("Forever in Blue Jeans").

Diamond will offer an "all the hits" show in his next concert tour, set for next June through September, but he admits one song remains a special signature for him.

"Dozens of times" during the Macy's Parade, he says, "people instantaneously burst into versions of 'Sweet Caroline,' and I loved it. I think that song was a gift from God, and I think people perceive it subconsciously as that. It's more than a song that I've written. It was something bestowed upon me, and delivered through me to an audience, and I think that's why it's received so warmly."
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