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Neil Diamond is celebrating 50 years in the music business, and he has a lot of fans to celebrate with him. In the past half-century, he has sold more than 125 million records, released more than 40 albums, and put songs into the minds of millions. Now, Diamond is back with another album: Acoustic Christmas.
Diamond is hardly the first Jewish songwriter to dabble in Christmas music: Irving Berlin composed "White Christmas" in the early 1940s, and even Bob Dylan released his own Christmas album in 2009. Diamond says that as far as he's concerned, he and his fellow Jewish musicians are just getting caught up.
"I think it's because we're denied Christmas in our youth: It's not part of our liturgy, it's not part of our holiday list, but we want it. I think when most Jewish people grow up, they just bathe in Christmas music, and I'm no different," he says. "I didn't observe Christmas, I didn't have a Christmas tree, I didn't get Christmas gifts growing up. So here I am, an adult, with the chance to do a Christmas album. And it was a joyful experience for me."
Diamond shared these and other stories with NPR's Scott Simon; along they way, they touched on his experience singing in the same high-school glee club as Barbra Streisand. Hear more of they conversation at the audio link.