MusiCares Salutes Neil Diamond

Early Show - neil diamond - Jan. 6, 2009
CBS
The Grammys wouldn't be the Grammys without its annual tribute to an artist who has found a way to give back. This year's MusiCares salute goes to Neil Diamond.

Diamond is one of pop music's most enduring stars. He can do what few others can -- turn a stadium-sized concert into an intimate sing along.

"What is it like to be on stage and have 40,000 people singing your words?" Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman asked.

"It's a thrill. There are no words to describe it because it means to me that my music has become a part of their lives," Diamond said.

It will be a far different crowd when Diamond is honored as MusiCares Person of the Year by some of music's biggest stars.

"How does it feel to be back at the Grammys?" Kauffman asked.

"It's always exciting because you see all the great musical artists of the day. I become a fan again ... 'Oh my God, look who's here and I love their record!'" he said.

Country star Tim McGraw is just one of the artists singing a Diamond classic at the annual Grammy Week gala dinner and concert - now in its 19th year - held in Los Angeles on Feb. 6.

"He is such an icon, it's hard to imagine there being anyone like him," McGraw said.

"I was a little stunned ... I didn't think anybody would want to come up and sing my songs," Diamond said.

"It sounds like you're modest after all this time," Kauffman said.

"This doesn't happen to me all the time, so I'm a little bit awed by it," he said.

The award is not only for his legendary run, but for his charitable work for victims of Hurricane Ike. After touring the devastation, he raised money for new homes.

"Their homes were wiped away. They were living out of cars and tents. I felt I really had to step in and do whatever I could," he said.

Diamond's first track was back in 1966.

"I think I read you were 15 when you wrote your first song?" Kaufmann asked.

"I had a girlfriend and I wanted to give her something, and I didn't have any money to buy her anything, so I decided I'd make up a song. I'd never done that before," Diamond said. "So it's part of me. I write, therefore I am."

"Are some things easier for you to say in song, rather than in person?" Kauffman asked.

"Absolutely there are things I say in song I could never ever say directly to a person. They just expose you and make you vulnerable, but for some reason I'm able to do it in a song and that's what I do," he admitted.

Diamond's last three concerts grossed a staggering $168 million. He has released 46 albums in a career now in its fifth decade.

"What keeps you going?" Kauffman asked.

"I love what I'm doing. I can't think of a better thing to do with my time. I've loved it from the beginning. I got hooked at 16 and I'm still hooked," he said.

The 51st Annual Grammy Awards airs Sunday, Feb. 8 (8:00-11:30 p.m. ET/delayed PT), on CBS.