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Song Sung Blue but, Neil, I've still no idea just what inspired you

By Eddie McIlwaine

Neil Diamond, who is coming back to Belfast in the autumn, owes me an explanation for a line in the lyrics of his hit Song Sung Blue. Puzzling over what it means has kept me awake at night.

Here's the way a verse in the ballad, which Diamond wrote way back in 1972, opens:

'Song sung blue, everybody knows one

'Song sung blue, every garden grows one'

It's that reference to every garden growing one that gets to me. What does every garden grow musically, for goodness' sake?

Twice, Neil has been prevented from giving me an explanation. The first time, when we were chatting on a faint line - he in LA and me in Belfast - the phone went dead just as he was about to divulge all.

And next time, at a concert in Belfast, we were chatting face to face and he was about to reveal the details when we were interrupted by a horde of jolly autograph-seekers.

So, when the great man is at the SSE Arena on Sunday, October 8, on his 50th anniversary tour, I hope to pin him down for a serious chat about Song Sung Blue.

Perhaps you think I'm nit-picking, but it's having this kind of debate on my mind that ages me, especially as Song Sung Blue is my favourite Diamond track.

It was inspired by a Mozart piano concerto and spent 12 weeks in the Top 40. Diamond always sings it without fail at his concerts.

He has been married three times. In 1963, he married his high school sweetheart, school teacher Jaye Posner; they had two daughters, Marjorie and Elyn, before they divorced in 1969. He then married production assistant Marcia Murphey, with whom he had sons Jesse and Micah. This marriage ended in 1995.

And after a relationship with Australian Rae Farley, Neil married Katie McNeill in 2011. He claimed that his 2014 album Melody Road was fuelled by his relationship with her.

Tara's date with Destiny in City of Angels

Musician Tara O'Neill will be in Los Angeles next Sunday, February 12, in search of her Destiny.

Or, to put it another way, the 27-year-old, from Antrim, will be in LA at a ceremony in which she and the rest of the young ladies in Celtic Woman are among the nominees for a Grammy for their classical CD Destiny.

Tara, who joined the group last August, plays the harp on the album and is now Celtic Woman's violinist, too, alongside singers Eabha McMahon and Susan McMahon, from Dublin, and Maura Carlin, from Londonderry. Celtic Woman's latest album, The Voices of Angels, is now No1 on the American Billboard and the World classical charts.

Tara says: "I always admired the style of Celtic Woman and I used to tell my mum and dad, Martin and Kathleen, that I dreamt of playing with them. Now it has come true."

She and Celtic Woman are off in March on a four-month North American tour, which begins in Florida. But Tara has another important date coming up in 2018 - she will walk up the aisle with American classical pianist Alexander Bernstein. The couple met when they were both studying at the Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.

It'll be reel honour to meet Ennio

I don't normally go out of my way to seek out composers of film scores, but Italian Ennio Morricone is different.

It was Morricone (88) that wrote the music for the western epic Once Upon a Time in the West. And that soaring melody - if I can call it that - has been imprinted on my mind ever since.

I have seen the movie - reckoned to be the greatest western ever produced - eight times so far, seated in the stalls, and devoted a few hours of television time to let it sweep over me.

But, on every occasion, with apologies to the stars Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda, it has always been the Morricone score that has made the greatest impact on me since the film first came out in 1968.

So, when the great man, winner of an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement - he has written more than 500 scores for cinema and television, plays one final concert at the 3Arena in Dublin on September 23, I want to be there to shake his hand.

Can you believe that a climatic gunfight in one dramatic scene is introduced by three minutes of music, with me biting my lip during every second?

Verses to put a spring in your step

Spring is on the way, so here's a poem I've gleaned from the pages of a paperback called Idle Hours, published back in 1993 by Island Pamphlets:

When you're filled with admiration as the seasons come and go,

And your senses thrill with keenness as you face the frost and snow;

When you realise the beauty of a winter on the wane,

And can vision all that follows in the wake of falling rain.

When your eyes ope' wide in wonder at the signs of early spring,

And your heart abounds with rapture as the feathered songsters sing;

When you breathe the scented flowers and the summer breezes laud,

You've been very close to nature, but much closer still to God.

It was written by the 'working man's poet', Robert Atkinson (1884-1949). He had a deep love of his native Belfast and, as a flautist as well as a writer, often played at concerts and festivals in the city with his quartet.

The night that May landed me in an embarrassing wee spot

I love the way John Linehan says he is May McFettridge's driver.

The pair of them, if I can refer to them that way, have signed up already for next December's panto Peter Pan at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

But before that this famous drag act is touring in a show called You Must Be Joking, which Linehan is hosting.

On the bill too is Gene Fitzpatrick who once embarrassed me at a concert when he informed the audience that if they wanted to find the toilet just to follow Eddie McIlwaine.

And touring the show as well are Adrian Walsh, Neil Dougan and pianist Ivan Black.

Upcoming dates for You Must Be Joking are: Riverside Theatre, Coleraine, Thursday, February 16; Strule Arts Centre, Omagh, Friday, February 17, and Market Place Theatre, Armagh on Saturday, February 18.

I have never stopped loving the songs of country legend Roly

It has been too long since I enjoyed country singer Roly Daniels on stage performing his big hit He Stopped Loving Her Today.

So I'm looking forward to catching up with him at the Theatre at the Mill in Mossley on Wednesday, March 8, when I hope he'll also be singing Hello Darlin' and I Will Love You All My Life, songs that are also associated with him.

India-born guitarist Roly became a mighty success in this his adopted home, but restricted his performances in the 1990s.

However, he was tempted to return in style with a touring revue and got the bug for showbiz again and is now appearing at theatres all over Ireland, north and south.

Born in Jubbulpore, India, Daniels grew up in Dublin and appeared with the Memphis and Nevada showbands.

Why I would love an ode to my feathered friend, the wren

A garden wren has become my new friend.

He or she keeps popping into the yard every time I go out of the back door.

I thought at first it was all in my imagination, but every morning there is this little bird waiting to greet me.

Makes me feel good, just as I was convinced I was too old for a fresh relationship.

So far this wren of mine isn't eating seed out of my hand and he or she doesn't pose for pictures.

However, we could be getting there. What concerns me is why my wren is always alone.

Has the little bird lost his feathered mate or is he or she feeding a family in a nest up in the hedge?

Anyway I appreciate the friendship and I'm wondering if there are any nice poems about wrens out there.

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