The year was 1971, a year of great music and change. Neil Diamond’s ‘I am I Said’ was topping the charts in countries worldwide, including New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. It reached #2 on the US Adult Contemporary chart, #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #4 on the US Cash Box Top 100.
The song is sad, depicting the feeling of loneliness and realizing that you are alone, both physically and emotionally. Diamond battled with this song for six months following a near-breakdown after his divorce and moved from New York to LA. He was depressed, and his failure to land the part of Lenny Bruce in the movie ‘Lenny’ left him close to breaking point. Eventually, Diamond took a four-year sabbatical from performing after his landmark appearance at the Greek Theater in LA in 1972.
Many think ‘I am I Said’ is a simple song but has a far deeper meaning than most casual listeners can imagine. Diamond spent months in psychotherapy by his admission, and this song wonderfully explains his thoughts and feelings. In Gestalt therapy, a patient projects his ideas into an empty chair while a counsellor looks at making notes. This may well explain the word ‘chair’ meaning in the song. Diamond was meticulous in his lyric writing and underwent countless rewrites until it said exactly what he wanted.
The audience’s reaction to the song was one of awe and amazement. They knew that they were witnessing a masterpiece by a great songwriter, and the emotion that Diamond put into his performance was palpable. However, the song’s meaning was not lost on them, and they felt the loneliness that Diamond was trying to convey. As he sang the line “I am I said to no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair,” you could feel the sadness and despair in his voice.
Looking back on 1971, we see a world that was changing rapidly. A gallon of milk costs $1.18, and a gallon of gas costs 40 cents. Richard Nixon was president of the United States, and the Vietnam War was still raging. But amidst this change and turmoil, Neil Diamond’s ‘I am I Said’ was a constant. It touched the hearts of millions of people worldwide and helped them feel less alone.
If you haven’t watched the performance of ‘I am, I Said’ from 1971, we highly recommend it. It’s a beautiful song performed with great emotion and skill by one of the greatest songwriters of our time. Share it with your friends and loved ones because it’s a song that everyone should hear.