At about 200 pages, He Is...I Say: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Neil Diamond is a fast, breezy, and humorous read.
Bill Murray once said in a famous quote used early on by Rolling Stone writer David Wild here, "there are two types of people in this world, those who love Neil Diamond, and those who don't."
As he makes quite clear in He Is...I Say: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Neil Diamond, David Wild falls into the former category. This is a great book. It is extremely well-written, and often very, very funny.
But it is also one a lot of music writers might find themselves a little embarrassed to read. Because as much as He Is...I Say is Wild's unabashed and unapologetic love letter to Neil Diamond, it is also in many ways a book about music criticism itself.
For the most part, he nails it. Especially the part about how many rock critics often seek the same sort of approval for their own work as that of many of the artists they write about — especially when the public at large beats the scribes at their own game as self-appointed tastemakers.
This is where that whole embarrassment thing really starts to kick in if you happen to be one of those music writers. Guilty as charged, okay, Wild?
Wild cuts to the chase here early. Describing himself as a "recovering rock critic," Wild cites one of the biggest reasons that many "hipper than thou" music critics have been known to dump on Diamond — pointing to the songwriting icon's cardinal sin of emphasizing showmanship and a desire to please his audience, over things like navel gazing and tendencies towards self-indulgent angst.
No sugarcoating there.
Taking his case a step further, Wild vows never to step foot in Cleveland again until Neil Diamond is given his rightful due by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Now that's some chutzpah.
Speaking of which, growing up in New Jersey, Wild also traces the multi-generational "Red White & Jew" lineage of his own Jewish family and their ongoing love affair following Diamond's career from the Brill Building to his recent comeback albums with producer Rick Rubin.