Finding The Essential Neil Diamond

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: [AVAILABLE FOR LICENSE IN AUSTRALIA ONLY] Neil Diamond performs live in concert at Subiaco Oval on March 19, 2005 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Let's face it, it's never been "fashionable" to be a Neil Diamond fan. He may have written more than 40 top 40 hits. He may have sold 120 million records. He was the top drawing solo performer for the entire decade of the 1990s.

But Neil Diamond has never been "hip."

His new album could change all that, CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason believes.

With "12 Songs" Diamond has delivered some of his most disarmingly direct lyrics.

From the song "Evermore": "Have we come this far, to have gone astray. I've been lost before, but not lost this way."

At 64, and grandfather of four, his baritone can still burrow under your skin. The sound has the soulfulness of some of Diamond's earliest music.

It's winning exceptional reviews. Four stars in People, an "A" from Entertainment Weekly, front to back, maybe the best he's ever recorded, Mason says.

"It does bring me back to my roots and basic records that I made when I first started out," Diamond explains.

The Brooklyn-born Diamond started out by dropping out of New York University to become a $50 a week songwriter.

"Well I got a job offer. And, you know, when you get a serious job offer that would make me a professional songwriter, I took it," Diamond says of his decision.

Go back to the beginning with Diamond and you'll end up at The Bitter End, the New York nightclub where he first performed.

As Mason and Diamond stand near the club, Diamond is asked when he was last there. "Sometime B.C.," laugh Diamond. "30-35 years ago."

Noticing a familiar face inside, Diamond calls out, "Paul." The man is Paul Colby, owner of The Bitter End since 1974. Colby was the club's manager starting in 1968.

"That guy hired me more times than I deserved to be hired," Diamond says of Colby.

In the 1960s, the Greenwich Village club was a mecca for songwriters.

Looking at photos from their early days in the music business, Diamond says, "I look like a baby."

"We were both babies," Colby replies.

Feeling nostalgic, Diamond asks, "Can I step up on the stage and just see what it feels like to be a twenty-five again?"

There was enormous prestige in playing The Bitter End's small stage.

"It was, my beginning was right here. So, you know, and this guy hired me, so what can I say? God bless you Paul Colby," Diamond says. "Thanks pal."

Letting his sentimentality take control, Diamond wanders into a back hallway. Referring to The Bitter End's original owner, Fred Weintraub, Diamond recalls, "Believe or not, Freddy paid me here. One day after a show he paid me cash in back here and, let me see, yeah, this looks about like the right place.

"It's right here and he said, 'Neil, here's the $50 bucks in cash and you did great.' And, you know, I thought it was, you know, I was flying. That was the first time I became a professional performer," Diamond says.