Jeff Barry discovered Neil Diamond singing in a coffee house in Greenwich Village. BR1 They became two of the biggest talents for the hit-making machine known as the Brill Building. Diamond has become one of the most successful singer/songwriters, ranking #3 all-time on the adult contemporary charts and in the top 25 for the pop charts. However, his biggest success came via a made-for-television group.
That group, the Monkees, were modeled after the playful spirit of the Beatles’ movies. JA While they fought to play their own songs, producers limited the Monkees to singing and brought in session musicians for the instruments. SF The show, which aired from 1966 to 1968, propelled the Monkees to the top of the charts with debut single “Last Train to Clarksville.”
When publisher Don Kirshner was seeking a million-selling follow-up, he turned to Barry and Elle Greenwich, Diamond’s producers, after hearing Diamond’s top 10 hit “Cherry Cherry” on the radio. BR1 Kirshner picked out several songs Diamond was prepping for his next album, among them “I’m a Believer.” The head of Diamond’s record company couldn’t believe he’d give away potential number ones, but, as Diamond says, “I couldn’t have cared less because I had to pay the rent.” SF After all, Diamond intended to give the song to country artist Eddy Arnold. KL
In the Monkees’ hands, the song became the biggest hit of 1966 WHC and “one of the Hot 100’s finest specimens of pure pop genius.” BB100 Diamond still recorded the song, releasing it on his 1967 album Just for You and as a single in 1971, peaking at #51. The song resurfaced in 2001 when the alternative rock group Smash Mouth recorded it for the movie Shrek and took it to #25 on the pop charts.