Neil Diamond's career is full of surprising numbers

Singer-songwriter to perform in Gwinnett on Wednesday

Taking a look at Neil Diamond's career by the numbers is an exercise in "Wow!" "Come on!" and "Surely this can't be true!"

There's 2 — the number of times, at least, he's been known to play "Sweet Caroline" back to back in concert.

There's zilch — the number of Grammys he's won for albums with his name on it. (He does have one — and only one — for best original score written for a motion picture or a television special, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull").

On and on it goes.

Luckily, pop music's legendary singer-songwriter was willing to play along by phone for, well, the 10 minutes the publicist allotted:

No. 1 debut. "Home Before Dark," released May 6, gave Diamond his first ever bow at that position on the Billboard 200 chart. (It also debuted at No. 1 on the UK albums chart for the second time in his career).

"I was a little surprised by the No. 1," Diamond said. "Because I've done that before in other countries. But to do it here was a real thrill... I like this album a lot. So that was a nice cherry on top."

Second collaboration. With producer Rick Rubin, that is. They first collaborated on "12 Songs." Rubin may be best known for co-founding Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons, as well as his work on the boards with the Beastie Boys, U2, the Dixie Chicks, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Johnny Cash.

"I guess that makes me cool, working with him, huh?" Diamond said with a laugh. "I like Rick. I think he did great work and [the album] worked out beautifully. You never really know what the commercial potential will be. I just make sure the songs are as I want them to be. That's all I think about."

Feb. 6, 2009. That's when he'll receive MusiCares Person of the Year honor, handed out annually just before the Grammy Awards. (The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Grammys, launched the MusiCares Foundation, which assists musicians in need). Other recipients have included Elton John, Aretha Franklin and Quincy Jones.

67 years old. Neil Lewis Diamond was born Jan. 24, 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y. And with "Home Before Dark," he reportedly elbowed Bob Dylan out of the No. 1 spot as the oldest act to achieve a No. 1 debut in Billboard's history. His six decades on earth doesn't seem to have affected Diamond on stage.

"You know, with touring, it's not easier and it's not harder," he said. "It's always good. The performing part of it is always good, always exciting. It brings me up to a higher level... and we're going to make sure the show in Atlanta is the best ever. I've always had a great time there. So be there or be square, because it's going to be a few years before I'll be back."

125 million. Albums Diamond has sold worldwide. He's also had 17 Top 10 albums, 37 Top 10 singles, 12 Grammy nominations and a Golden Globe.

IN CONCERT

Neil Diamond. 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth. Tickets are $52 to $120 at Ticketmaster, 404-249-6400 or www.ticketmaster.com.

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