Head to Head: The Living Legends–Barry Manilow vs. Neil Diamond

There is nothing we look forward to at the end of a long week more than the chance to catch up and relax. Little did we know that *this* conversation was going to lead to a new Head to Head post and an epic battle not seen since the time Krystle Carrington toppled Alexis Carrington-Colby into the pond on Dynasty.

It all started innocently enough as we were headed to Starbucks. Ashley was driving (of course) and as passenger, Lisa was in charge of selecting the tunes. It went something like this:

Lisa: Oh, man. This is my jam. I love me some Barry Manilow. Would you rather hear some Looks Like We Made It or I Write the Songs next? 

Ashley: Gee, no Copacabana today? [She totally said this with a tone. -Lisa] Let’s try to at least attempt to be cool and go for some Love on the Rocks.

Lisa: Barry Manilow didn’t sing Love on the Rocks. What’s wrong with you?

Ashley: I’ve seen Neil Diamond 8 times in concert. I know exactly who sings Love on the Rocks and every other classic from The Jazz Singer.

Lisa: I’ve seen Neil Diamond in concert, too. He’s great. But you can’t seriously be implying that he is cooler than one Mr. Barry Manilow. I haven’t even played Mandy yet.

Ashley: I’ve seen Barry Manilow in concert, too. But let’s be real. You cannot honestly tell me Barry is cooler than Neil. They play Neil Diamond at Fenway Park for God’s sake.

Lisa: Yes. I am honestly saying exactly that. It says so right here on my Fanilow International Fan Club membership card. Take it back.

Ashley: No. I won’t take it back.

Lisa: Listen, Barry played the piano and sang in bath houses with Bette Midler.  It doesn’t get any cooler than that. He is a LEGEND.

Ashley: Two words—Barbra Streisand. I win.

Photo Credit: hotflick.net and mainstagegallery.com

Lisa: I’ll take your Barbra Streisand and raise you a Donna Summer and Dionne Warwick. Oh, and he wrote The Bandstand Boogie for Dick Clark.

Ashley: But did he write America? Make our beds and we say our grace. Freedom’s light burning warm…FREEDOM’S LIGHT BURNING WARMMMMMM!!!!

Lisa: If I stipulate that America is a good song will you please stop singing? It soars, okay. It’s better than the Lee Greenwood song they foist upon us every 4th of July. But did it make 8 year-old Lisa beg for piano lessons like the Barry classic Could it Be Magic did? No. It did not.

Ashley: Is that the one that starts out with a symphony and melds into Barry playing the song? Yeah, that’s a good one. But 7 year-old Ashley was far more inspired to turn on my Heartlight like Neil advised.

Lisa: Look, I have plenty of Neil Diamond on my iPod. You know I like him. It’s just Barry…he really gets it…you know? He speaks to me. Did you know that you can even get a Barry Manilow Visa card if you are a fan club member? 

Ashley: I wonder what the rewards are that come with that! Do they fly you to Vegas?

Lisa: OMG…now I *have* to get one.

Ashley: Seem like a *real* Fanilow would have one already. But okay.

Lisa: You know…I think he’s actually touring the US right now. In fact I think he’s going to be near Charlotte right around my birthday. Maybe we should go.

Ashley: Of COURSE we should. We saw Neil Diamond in concert together, we’ve GOT to see Barry together, too.

Lisa: Yes! You know… there’s room enough in this car for more than one dreamy singer/songwriter who appeals to all generations.

Ashley: Agreed. Now hit me with some September Morn.

Lisa: Gladly!

Okay, so it ended a bit more friendly than Krystle and Alexis going head over heels into the water, but it was tense for a minute there.

Photo credits: noiset.com and acharts.us

So tell us…are you a Fanilow or a Super Diamond? Do you crank up the radio when you hear “Forever in Blue Jeans” or is it “Can’t Smile Without You” that puts pep in your step?  [I’ve totally got this one in the bag. -Lisa] [Dream on. -Ashley]



Head to Head: The Living Legends–Barry Manilow vs. Neil Diamond — 84 Comments

  1. I’m so sad that I don’t know any of the singers you guys “discussed”, but hey, I’m so very glad to say I’m way before the Justin Bieber generation 🙂 I am now making it my mission to youtube all these singers so that I can get back to you on this one.

  2. While I enjoy both, I am a Fanilow. “Mandy” (I pretend that he wrote this for a girl named Mandy and not his dog) is one of my favorites and I think one of my elementary school boyfriends and I broke up and “Can’t Smile Without You” was the anthem at the time.

  3. I have never understood the hot mess that is Barry Manilow, but then again, I hear that Neil Diamond is a first class perv. If pressed, I’m siding with Diamond just because I’d rather sing Sweet Caroline drunk than Copacabana.

  4. Okay, I wanna go to starbucks with YOU GIRLS!!! Man, I just love “listenning in” on your conversations!!! I would seriously chime right in!! 😉 It’s a tough one here though…as I tend to side with BOTH OF YOU on this! But in the end…”could it be magic” wins. Barry is KING!!! Oh wait, that’s Elvis…

    • Chris, consider yourself formally invited to join us at Starbucks any time!! “Could it be Magic” is the greatest! Barry is definitely king–well put! –Lisa

      Et tu, Chris….et tu? –Ashley

    • Exactly!! Hands down, Reb. Hands down! I knew about the Barry/Barbra duet, but I had to give her something. I didn’t want to crush her spirit in a battle she was destined to lose. 🙂 –Lisa

      But does Barry share a name with a precious gem stone? –Ashley

  5. Geez, they are both cheesier than a deep dish pizza. Neil technically wins because he had a couple of almost listenable songs when he started, Kentucky Woman, Cherry Cherry, and he wrote I’m a Believer.

    Invoking Barbra Streisand, perhaps the most annoying singer, no — make that person, ever, doesn’t help either argument.

    • Neil wins, of course, no matter how you get there! –Ashley

      I could point out here that you are RELATED to Ashley making this vote very suspect. Thank goodness I’m too classy for that. –Lisa

    • I could tell from your screen name that you were a person of discerning taste and wisdom! –Lisa

      I don’t think I stood a fair chance with someone named “Fanilow” –Ashley

  6. Hmmm…that’s a tough one… I am not a huge fan of either, but I think I would say Manilow…my real favorite is Michael Buble….would love to see him in person some day.

    • Whoo Hoo! Another vote for Mr. Manilow! When Barry was on Larry King Live, he said he was a fan of Michael’s! (They’ve even both recorded covers of “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”) I think it’s safe to say that Michael would be proud of your choice! –Lisa

      Wait! There’s still time to change your mind, Raquel! Both Michael and Neil sang at the lighting of the tree ceremony at Rockefeller Center a few years ago. I think Michael would be disappointed if you didn’t re-think it! –Ashley

      Leave her alone! She already made her decision! –Lisa

      A girl can always change her mind! –Ashley

    • So true! In fact, I’m listening to “Daybreak” as I’m typing this. It’s pure happiness in MP3 form! –Lisa

      *sigh* This is heartbreaking! (Just like Neil’s classic version of “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” !)–Ashley

    • Yes! I could not agree more, Kathy! –Ashley

      I’m sure if it were possible to throw a piano around, Barry would do it, too! –Lisa

    • We know where your heart lies, Alison! –Lisa

      I’m pretty sure this should be considered a draw. –Ashley

  7. Oh my… I am very torn here.

    You see, I was all ready to declare that I wasn’t really a fan of either of them. (hides head) But, after reading your post and the comments and being reminded of the AWESOME songs that they have given the world…. (I mean: Sweet Caroline, Forever in Blue Jeans, Can’t Smile Without You, I Write the Songs…?)

    I will say… Neil Diamond – simply because Sweet Caroline is so much fun to sing.

    • Sweet Carolina is so much fun to sing! Excellent reasoning! –Ashley

      Are you sure you don’t want to rethink it, Kim? It’s hard to get more fun than Copacabana!–Lisa

  8. Are you serious? It would be easier to tell you which one of my kids is my favorite. This is like making me pick between a million dollars all in $1 (so I can make a bed and roll in it) or a mil in annuity so I can live off the interest. Okay, the annuity. That means Neil Diamond because he wears sparkly jumpsuits and does that intense stare thing on his album covers which is like interst in th entertainment world, And no mention of Kentucky Woman?

    Happy Saturday Sharefest!

    • Neil just has too many classics to have listed them all–I love Kentucky Woman! It *is* hard to choose between two great options, Carli. In the end, you made the only choice you could! –Ashley

      It’s really difficult to compete with a sparkly jumpsuit. –Lisa

  9. I would not use the word “cool” to describe either of these middle-of-road crooners. When I hear or use word “cool”, I think of a sophisticated, edgy
    urbane type person/artist who appeals to an avant-garde type audiance. Barry Manilow can be urbane such as “CopaCabana” but he is about sugar & fluff. Nothing wrong with that. I have a vision of their fan bases as average folks, the kinds of people who collect Hummels & Kincaids. These fans are the people that Rockwell painted. The term, straight-laced comes to mind. I do enjoy Barry on occasion, I have noticed he has never sang a song by Cole Porter, whom I consider the ultimate sophisticate in in music. Cool musicians: Nikki Minaj Rufus Wainright, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson Janell Monet, Michael Feinstein, Bette Midler was cool, but she now embraces the same audiance Barry & Neil have. I can’t comment on Neil Diamond, he is very beloved by his fans but I am not one of them. Do keep enjoying music no matter who you are. Lots of new talent out there.

    • Consider us schooled on our coolness level…but we collect Precious Moments not Hummels!! 😉

      I’m still counting this one for the pro-Manilow corner!–Lisa

      I knew you would!–Ashley

  10. Both have written and perform some of the world’s most singable songs, but my heart belongs to Neil. One reason is that Neil’s music is so varied. I have two ‘homemade’ cd’s of his music. One is upbeat, happy, ‘can’t sit still while the music is playing’ (Cherry Cherry), the other quiet and reflective. There is something for every mood. He can make me dance and he can cause me to have a good cry too.

    Saw him for the first time on The Johnny Cash Show in 1970, when I was 12 and he was 28:


    I saw him live when I was 18, in 1976:


    I saw him live again this past June; I am 54 and he is 71. If you haven’t seen him lately, this grandfather to seven, you are missing a treat.


    This recent special on British TV has him singing some classic hits as well as some new songs. My ‘new’ favorites, Pretty Amazing Grace and Home Before Dark. There are also some fun Q & A with the audience:


    • You are obviously a true fan, Joy! Love, love, love all of your links!! –Ashley

      Aw! Even though my heart lies with Barry, I really loved your walk down memory with Neil, too! 🙂 –Lisa

  11. Hands down, no contest; Barry Manilow is the 200% the coolest!

    Not just for his amazing voice, not just for the fantastic songs, not because he’s written, arranged and composed songs that the non fan doesn’t even know about – go beyond Copa and listen to his catalog. Not for the shows which are phenomenal and not because he’s an incredible humanitarian who assists charities and donates millions in instruments and funds to public school music programs all over the world. But because he makes everyone who really listens FEEL!

    He’s the real deal; humble, kind, genuine – yes I’ve met him many times so I speak from experience!

    I guess I’m biased. His music was the catalyst leading to my personal “ah-ha” moment five years ago, which in turn changed my life. So much so I’ve written a soon to be released book about the journey; “It Could Be Magic: How the music of Barry Manilow changed my life and the journey since”.

    I like Neil Diamond, he’s a great performer, but the “coolest”, vote will always go to Barry:)

    Keep the music playing

    • So very well said, Helen! His catalog is truly amazing!! I love that you’ve met him, and he was wonderful. It’s always so fantastic when someone you admire turns out to be as great as you’d hoped they would be! Thanks so much for commenting! –Lisa

      Aw! Love, love, loved your input here even though I’m a Neil girl! Can’t wait to check out your book! Awesome!! –Ashley

  12. Ladies,

    You are probably ready to move on from this fun topic, but I wanted to share one more video clip. It is an interview with Neil filmed and broadcast in Ireland. His personal persona is so different from his performance persona – he is humble and almost shy and in this interview tells an emotional story of how the song I Am I Said came about. Makes me realize just how much he has to stretch himself to give to his concert audience like he does.


    • We’re NEVER ready to move on from Barry and Neil, Joy!!

      Thanks for the video! It’s so interesting to hear him talking about his beginnings in the music industry and his songwriting!

  13. Put me down in the Manilow column! No contest as far as I’m concerned, although I also enjoy a few of Neil’s songs.

    (What’s the final score so far?)

    • Another Fanilow! Suzan, I am VERY pleased to announce that as of this moment, your input has put Mr. Manilow in the lead!!!! Whoo Hoo!! –Lisa

      It’s not to late for Neil to come blazing back! –Ashley

  14. I loove both pretty equal I guess. I’ve loved Neil since I was a kid and later
    Barry when I was a preteen with my sister she’s just loves Barry. Maybe I love Neil moore whatever LOL 😀 I dont know anymore these days. I loove to listen to oldies not much into todays music thats for sure .

    • We’re counting this as a draw, Judy, since you seem to have equal love for them both! (and who could blame you?!!) Thanks for weighing in!!

  15. Let me start by saying I LOVE them both – no doubt about it and have also seen them both BEDAZZLED in concert.
    But NEIL DIAMOND gets my vote here – I JUST LOVE HIM!!!
    Forever in Blue Jeans- I mean does the man see my poor self walking around everyday in them – article of choice…my soul mate.
    How about I am I said – well I am also NY city born and raised and I say I hear you!! Who cares if he is only talking to a chair – I forgive him – maybe he was drunk.
    You don’t Bring me Flowers – I love hubby but instead of flowers this week I got A NEW TOILET BRUSH??!!
    Either way you go they both bring back some great memories.
    That makes me think if Barry’s re-make Memories – ohh this is a tricky one indeed …

  16. You are VERY diplomatic, Dana!!! I knew which camp would get your vote when we wrote it, though! Fair enough. –Lisa

    I would like to point out that with Dana’s very wise vote, Mr. Diamond is now in the lead! Not that I’m keeping track or anything. –Ashley

  17. Okay, so I am a little behind on my Doses of Reality these days – with a wedding to plan, work, life, moving, etc…. – but…so glad I came across this one! I am very torn between two lovers here! I love me some Neil Diamond – seen him about 4 times in concert – but I also love me some Manilow. For me, this is almost like Sophie’s Choice….not sure I could pick my favorite child because I was raised with both and at such impressionable times in my life. They are both amazing in concert, and I have to say, I expected it from Neil, but I was still blown away by how much fun Barry made his concert – one of my favorite memories ever! So….for me, it is a draw – I can’t pick….and I would happily go to either concert at any time – it will always be a fun, fun time, whether at the Copa or in Vegas! Lisa, your comment about the driving (Ashley driving, of course!) was so much a Dana statement – she would have said the exact same thing! Great article, you two!

    • You’ve had a bit going on lately!!! 🙂

      You know…you would be the deciding vote!!! It’s so much better than you love them both and consider it a draw. That just feels right!!

  18. Neil Diamond all the way! I listened to “Play Me” in the car just today, and I melt every time I hear it. I pretend it’s my husband, and then I don’t get so upset when I see dirty clothes all over the floor. 🙂 So many classics. And, really, is there a song with more sing-a-long-ability than “Sweet Caroline?”

    • I do believe with this vote, Neil Diamond pulls ahead by 1. Well done!! –Ashley

      You’re breaking my heart, Erin! –Lisa

    • I knew you had good taste, Tracie! We are back to an even tie!! Barry will be taking the lead before you know it! –Lisa

      It’s only back to a tie. The next vote could put Neil firmly ahead! –Ashley

  19. This is hilarious. How flattered these two must be to know that there’s a battle going on. I’m going to have to pick Neil Diamond, only because I spent hours upon hours upon hours rehearsing a national (first place award winning) high kick routine to “We’re Coming to America”…”TODAY!” I can hear it now…Bahahahahaha!!!

    OH wait! BUT, I was also in a Band Stand Tribute for Dick Clark and Barry Manilow was THERE! SO, now I just don’t know. I’m just having fun reliving my high school dance team days…

  20. Oh man, I just came back on your blog to leave a comment–so glad you liked the bands I posted and you should check out if they are coming to your town (that concert was fantastic!!) and I saw this post. You take me back to my childhood. I loved Neil Diamond, too, while my sister was a Barry Manilow fan! Those were the days!! (And I still love Barbra…now you know I’m a true geek!)

  21. I like Neil but I love Barry more. There will be plenty for fans of both to see Barry and Neil performing at the same July 4 concert to be televised by PBS. Neil will perform his new “The Freedom Song” and Barry will sing his “Let Freedom Ring” at the same concert. I hope both of them will be on stage together and also hope they record a duet together.

  22. I’m a huge fan of Barry’s and I’ve already voted, but I wanted to share this photo of both gentlemen together from the Capitol Fourth celebration on July 4th!


  23. HA HA! Can we argue over hot guys next time? 😉 Seriously, I had to do a cheer dance to Manilow in junior high. I was mortified and embarrassed when all the other teams were getting down to Guns-n-Roses and Bon Jovi. But we did have the oldest cheering coach known to man. I’m going with Diamond on this one ladies.

    • And with that we are back to a tie. Well done, Crystal! –Ashley

      I think your cheer coach just had good taste, Crystal. It’s hard for teens to appreciate that. –Lisa

  24. I do love me some Neil Diamond, but I have to cop to being totally a Fanilow, and have been since high school. I always thought Barry had a much more diverse catalog and he has certainly done more to encourage young people in music.

  25. I liked them both. Interestingly enough, both of them still get played at our “old people” parties. We all sing along. The kids grimace if they are around. Love Sweet Caroline!

    • Their music is just classic, Michelle! It stands the test of time! –Ashley

      I agree! (and I also point out that Barry still leads by one vote. As he should) –Lisa

  26. To keep the competition going strong, I’m putting another tally in the Diamond column to even things back up! Love Diamond’s Christmas albums. He can belt out ‘O Holy Night’ like nobody’s business. Not too shabby for a Jewish boy from Brooklyn! I also applaud Neil for aging gracefully. Barry’s plastic, stuck-in-place expression scares me more and more every time he comes out for a Capitol Fourth!

    • YES!! Thank you for evening things up Nicole!-Ashley

      That my hurts my heart Nicole. Barry has Christmas albums, too.-Lisa

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  28. Um. How is this a debate? It’s Neil all the way! I mean the guy can get away with a rhinestone jumpsuit like no one else. Fat Elvis wished he looked that cool. If Sweet Caroline comes on and you don’t holler out the “bum bum bum,” we can’t be friends.

    • Of course it is McCall. And I just shouted out the “bum bum bum” part reading this comment!-Ashley

      Sweet Caroline is a great song, but may I offer you some Mandy?-Lisa

  29. Being a total Fanilow it’s Barry Manilow all the way!! Absolutely no comparison between the two. Neil is great but Barry is one-of-a-kind and still going strong at 71!!! Can’t wait for his new album, My Dream Duets, to come out in October. His second new album this year. The man rocks!!!

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  31. Let’s settle this battle once and for all. The bottom line is that Neil had his first hit in 1966 whereas Barry had his in 1974/75. Neil has sold over 130 Million albums worldwide whereas Barry has sold 80-90 Million. Neil is a rock and roll hall of famer I do not know about Barry. With that I rest my case

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