Legends say goodbye: Neil Diamond, Sir Elton John to retire from touring

Legends: Neil Diamond and Elton John

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" was a huge hit for Sir Elton John. He's just announced that his touring days are coming to an end, as has his fellow legend Neil Diamond. They have something else in common: They've both spent quality time with our Anthony Mason:

Between them they've sold more than half a billion records, and been on tour for almost a century.

But this past week, two of music's greatest superstars said they were coming to the end of the road.

Sir Elton John said the decision to announce his final tour was about his family. "My life has changed. The priorities of my life have changed," he said. "I've had a good run. I think you'll admit that, I've had a pretty good run."

For Neil Diamond -- who will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Grammy this year -- it was a matter of health: a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease abruptly ended his 50th anniversary tour. 

"It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring," he said in a statement.

In 2014, he talked to Mason and "CBS This Morning" about how much he looked forward to getting back on the road.

Neil Diamond returns to roots on new album

"Obviously, you don't have to do this -- it's just interesting that you want to," Mason told him.

"I have to," Diamond insisted. " I don't want to."

"Where does the 'have to' come from, then?"

"I have to, because if I want to maintain any self … I don't know why I have to. It's a joyful experience for me. When you get on stage and you're up there alone with your audience, it's a perfect couple."

"That relationship is a romance that never fades?"

"It has not faded for me," Diamond said. "It's fearsome and it's scary and joyful and delicious all at the same time."

Go back to the beginning with Diamond, as "Sunday Morning" did in 2005, and you'll end up at The Bitter End, the New York nightclub where he first performed.

Mason asked, "The last time you were here was when?"

"Sometime B.C.," Diamond laughed. "Thirty-five, thirty years ago. Paul! This guy was the manager of the Bitter End  … That guy hired me more times than I deserved to be hired. How are ya', baby? Come here. Let me give him a hug!"

When the late Paul Colby (who died in 2014) ran the Greenwich Village club in the '60s, it was a Mecca for songwriters.

Colby and Diamond poured over old photographs. "I look like a baby," Diamond said.

"We were both babies," Colby replied.

Diamond then asked to step back up on stage, to "just see what it feels like to be 25 again?"

There was enormous prestige in playing The Bitter End's small stage: "My beginning was right here. So, you know, and this guy hired me, so what can I say? God bless you, Paul Colby! Thanks, pal. That was the first time I became a professional performer."

Diamond broke through in 1966 with "Cherry Cherry."  After that, the hits came like rain. Many of them we can't stop singing, such as "Sweet Caroline":

Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline by neildiamondVEVO on YouTube

He wrote "Sweet Caroline" in one hour, using a chord he had never played before, an A 6th.

"There's just something about that chord that sweeps you along," he said.


Sir Elton John's career got swept along when, as young Reginald Dwight, he answered an ad seeking songwriters ("When I look back on my little shy self, I can't believe I actually had the balls to do it, but I did"), the record label paired him with lyricist Bernie Taupin. They clicked immediately, and became one of the most successful songwriting teams in history. 

In 2016 Mason asked Sir Elton, "When Bernie brings you a lyric, do you ask him to explain it?"

"No, never," said John.

"So, you don't know what 'Levon' is about?"

"No, but, I mean, I've got my own idea. And every time I sing it, I have this vision going on in my mind. But that's the magic of those lyrics, because every time you sing it, you think about something different.

"And even in 'Your Song,' I mean I never get fed up with that. It's the most beautiful love song. Now I sing it and I'm thinking about David or I'm thinking about my boys."

Elton John - Your Song by EltonJohnVEVO on YouTube

Performing was important for John, even when he battled drugs and depression in the '80s.

Mason asked, "When you were dealing with your drug problem, how did you keep going?"

"I did, and that's what kept me alive. Music has been my friend since I was 2 or 3 years old. When my parents were getting divorced, it was my sanctuary in my bedroom, listening to the radio, playing records. The fact is, music kept me alive. It saved my life."

"Feels like you traded it, in a way, for an addiction to performing."

"Well, the addiction to performing is bigger than the addiction to drugs," he said. "Thank God."

elton-john-interview-promo.jpg
Sir Elton John. CBS News

His addiction now: his children, sons Zachary (now 7) and Elijah (who is 5). "Ten years ago, if you'd have said I'd be sitting in this house with two children and married to my husband, no, I'd have said you'd have put acid in my drink. And boy, has it been the best decision I ever made in my life."

And fatherhood has changed the way Elton John sees his future:

He said, "They just put everything in perspective. So, I mean, it's lead to me looking at what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. And in the end I will stop."

"You will stop?"

"Yeah, I want to see them grow up. I've had such a great life."

But first, he plans to go out with a bang -- a three-year farewell tour.

Both he and Neil Diamond say they will continue to write, and record. But one of the greatest touring acts of all time has already taken his final bow.  

     
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