Five years ago, singer/songwriter Neil Diamond gave a sold-out concert at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise in honor of his 50th anniversary as a recording artist in 2017. Less than a year later, the then 77-year-old Diamond announced, to the dismay of his fans, that he will no longer tour after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Diamond Heads (a popular phrase in reference to Neil Diamond fans) can now rejoice that they can still enjoy a live Neil Diamond concert even without the real superstar on stage.
Jay White, a long-time Neil Diamond impersonator for 40 years, will be in concert February 23 at Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale channeling Diamond in “The Neil Diamond Legacy Concert” along with The Sweet Caroline Tour Band, featuring many of Neil Diamond’s original band members.
White will be performing more than 38 Diamond songs that have charted on “Billboard Magazine’s” top 40 hit songs over five decades, such as “America,” “Crackling Rosie,” “Forever In Blue Jeans,” “September Morn,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and Diamond’s most revered song “Sweet Caroline”, among others.
Jay White with Neil Diamond
“It has been an honor to perform Neil’s music for so many years, but It also was a complete shock for me to learn in 2018 that Neil can’t tour anymore,” said the 68-year-old White.
“I feel, more than ever, a great responsibility to all the Neil Diamond fans to continue his legacy. His legendary music will live on for many more years and I want to continue playing those songs.”
White’s feelings about Diamond are more than just about promoting the Neil Diamond Legacy concerts. White met Diamond in 1996 (see photo of their meeting). Diamond was moved by the stunning resemblance as well as White’s performance of Diamond’s music.
Diamond wrote on the photograph of the meeting with White the following inscription: “Jay keep singing, so I can stay home and relax, your friend in music.”
Although White is referenced as a Diamond impersonator, White does not call himself “Neil Diamond” on stage despite the strong physical and vocal resemblance.
“I want to create a strong feeling, especially among loyal Neil Diamond fans, that I am being authentic and true to his music. But I don’t want to pretend to be Neil. Instead, I convey on stage the beauty of Neil’s songs and how his songs have impacted our lives.”
White not only inspired Neil Diamond, but Diamond’s mother Rose, who died at 101 in 2017 and resided locally in Sunrise.
“I met Rose (Diamond) a few times and she was elated and always encouraged me to continue performing Neil’s songs.”
Born in Kitchener, Canada, White was interested in a career in professional hockey and worked as an insurance agent before concentrating more on singing music.
In the early 1980s, White was booked in suburban Detroit in 1983 in a salute to musical superstars performing the songs of Neil Diamond.
Jay White performs in the duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with The Sweet Caroline Band in “The Neil Diamond Legacy Concert.”
“Even when I was not sure of whether hockey or music would be my career, a countless number of people, including agents and promoters, told me how much I looked and sounded like Neil Diamond. As I continued to perform Neil’s music, I became more confident and determined to create a show that Neil’s fans would want to come to.”
After performing in suburban Detroit for seven years, White moved to Las Vegas in 1989, performing in “Legends In Concert” as Diamond for the next nine years.
“I was always learning, always determined to get better, even as I was having success with ‘Legends In Concert.’ What always made the performance work was that the audience never was bored. I was performing with other “Legends” in a two hour show, so there were always a wide variety of superstar performers that the audience could engage with.”
White studied Neil Diamond, both from photos and videos from Diamond’s television appearances, as well as Diamond’s performance in the 1980 film “The Jazz Singer” to create a one man show entirely devoted to Neil Diamond music.
White also learned how much Diamond gave to his audience on stage, often not taking an intermission break, performing in concert for two hours.
“Above all else, I respect and admire Neil’s raw energy on stage. I am responsible for the production, including creating all the costumes, including Neil’s famous beaded shirt that defines the image of how fans imagine Neil on stage. I am also so lucky enough to have so many of Neil’s band members play with me to continue to perform his songs with his energy and enthusiasm.”
Working intimately with Diamond’s band members who knew which chords and instruments worked best with individual songs also helped White create an authentic Neil Diamond experience on stage.
White went on earning his living as the sole performer in a Neil Diamond tribute show at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for eight years from 1992 through 2000.
Since 2000, White has appeared in The Neil Diamond Legacy Concerts on tour, cruises and corporate functions across the United States and expanded his reach, acting (not as Neil Diamond) in an independent film “Starlight” and, on occasion, playing goal in Las Vegas for a semi- professional hockey team.
Jay White sings “Kentucky Woman” in “the Neil Diamond Legacy Concert”