I have a lot of July 4th memories from my 40 years of touring with Neil Diamond. There was 1976, when I was still a new guy on the band, when we played for the grand opening of the Aladdin Theater of the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. It was the country’s bicentennial, and on the 4th we gathered on the roof of the Jockey Club, where we were staying, to observe fireworks emanating from Caesar’s Palace up the street. And we gathered in Mr. Diamond’s suite for the wedding of Richard and Tina Bennett.
A decade later, we performed at what was called Liberty Weekend, celebrating the grand re-opening of the Statue of Liberty, which had been closed for remodeling.
The Statue of Liberty and the Bennetts’ marriage, by the way, have outlasted the Aladdin Theater, which was imploded in 1998.
But right now I’m thinking about the 4th of July, 2009. The country was in a better place then. We had a properly-elected president, one we could believe and believe in, and we didn’t have to be ashamed of a country which holds children in concentration camps.
In 2009, I was in Boston with our band, to play with the Boston Pops for a concert that was televised live with the wonderful Craig Ferguson as presenter.
I got to chat with Mr. Ferguson, and we talked about our then-recent concert in Glasgow, Scotland, his home town.
I told him it had rained heavily as we played at the Hampden Park stadium but the audience, attired in umbrellas and trash-bag raincoats, seemed not to care, perhaps because they were drinking so heartily that night.
“That’s what they do there,” he told me. “It wasn’t until I left Glasgow that I realized I was an alcoholic.”
Ten years later, becoming an alcoholic seems like a rational decision in a country that has become a caricature of itself, and is ruled by a tyrant who spends tax dollars to turn a once-inspiring celebration into a partisan rally for himself.
So today, I think I’ll find a video of that 2009 4th of July, and pretend for a little while that everything since 2016 has been wiped clean.