It took Neil Diamond an hour to write “Sweet Caroline” but four months to finish “I Am . . . I Said.”
“Every song is different,” the singer told us Wednesday. “When it’s finished, it’s finished and you know it’s finished.”
Well, Diamond’s new song, the one inspired by the actions of the first responders to the Boston Marathon bombings, is now finished and will be released July 2 on iTunes and Amazon MP3. Titled “Freedom Song (They’ll Never Take Us Down),” the song, which Diamond (inset) said took six weeks to write and record, will be performed live for the first time on “A Capitol Fourth,” airing July Fourth on PBS. All proceeds from the song will be shared by The One Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.
The 72-year-old crooner was at Fenway Park five days after the bombings, performing “Sweet Caroline” to a capacity crowd that enthusiastically sang right along (before erupting into a chant of “U-S-A”). Diamond told us he met with a group of first responders that day and was stirred to write a song.
“I was so moved by their courage and their humility. They had just taken on this week of terrible, terrible — what’s the word? — I guess it was a battle, and they’d come out the other end,” he said Wednesday. “I sensed something that I hadn’t sensed in a long time — the American spirit — and it inspired me enough to go home and begin to write.”
As the first verse makes clear, the song isn’t about the tragic events of April 15, but about the city’s response: “Two hundred years and more/ And here we are today/ With freedom still our guiding light/ Defending it with all our might/ We’re never gonna change/ Or ever look away/ We stand for freedom everyday/ They’ll never take us down.”
Because he’s been performing in and around Boston for over 40 years — and “Sweet Caroline” has been played during the eighth inning of every Sox home game since 2002 — Diamond enjoys a special relationship with the city.
“My audience is all over the world, but Boston has been part of my life and I do feel like I know the people,” he said. “And then there’s baseball, something I’ve always been passionate about. I’m a Brooklyn kid and as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, I always hated the Yankees. I understand Boston’s passion. The Red Sox are my adopted team.”
Asked about the prospects for the Sox this season, Diamond said he has modest expectations.
“As long as they beat the Yankees, I’m a happy guy.”