The Real Meaning Behind Neil Diamond’s “America” Revealed
via GREEN DIAMANTE / Youtube
Neil Diamond, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, during the 1940s and ’50s, was exposed to a diverse mix of cultures as a result of the earlier waves of immigration to America. His own grandparents were immigrants, with his mother’s side originating from Russia and his father’s family coming from Poland.
During the production of his album The Jazz Singer in 1980, which served as the soundtrack for the film of the same name, Diamond composed a song that captured the core of the immigrant journey in the United States.
In the 1980 film adaptation, Diamond not only worked on the music but also took on the role of Yussel Rabinovitch, a young Jewish man grappling with the conflict between his religious upbringing and his desire to pursue a career as a performer.
The album begins with Diamond paying homage to the immigration experience in the United States, a nation that has historically embraced individuals from various parts of the world seeking improved prospects.
The track “America” captures the challenging voyage immigrants undertake, leaving behind their homeland, devoid of a place to call their own, and pursuing greater liberties.
As the album progresses, Diamond’s lyrics acknowledge the everyday challenges faced by immigrants, the unpredictable nature of residing in a foreign land, and the exhilaration that comes with embarking on a fresh start. Diamond said:
“To me, it is the story of my grandparents.
“It’s my gift to them, and it’s very real for me. Maybe that’s why it became so popular. It wasn’t thought out or intellectualized, just sheer emotion. In a way, it speaks to the immigrant in all of us. That’s what makes it so easy to empathize with the song.”
Diamond’s song “America” achieved significant success, reaching its peak position at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became his sixth track to reach No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Towards the conclusion of the song, Diamond includes a recitation of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” which serves as an early national anthem of the United States, originally written by Samuel Francis Smith.