Friday, January 26, 2018

Music Friday: Neil Diamond Retires Due to Parkinson's Diagnosis; Ride Has Been 'So Good, So Good, So Good’

Welcome to Music Friday when we normally bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we bend the rules just a bit to pay tribute to the incomparable Neil Diamond, who was forced to cancel the third leg of his year-long, worldwide golden anniversary tour due to a Parkinson's diagnosis.

Diamond made the announcement on Monday, just two days short of his 77th birthday.

“It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring,” said the Brooklyn native. “I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years. My thanks go out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you.”

Diamond's "so good" comment is a nod to his timeless 1969 hit, "Sweet Caroline," a song that has been woven into the fabric of American culture. Played at sporting events from coast to coast, when Diamond sings the line, "Good times never seemed so good," the crowd chants back, "So good, so good, so good."

Originally believed to be an ode to Caroline Kennedy, the then-11-year-old daughter of late President John F. Kennedy, "Sweet Caroline" was actually written for Diamond's second wife, Marcia.

Diamond revealed the truth during a 2014 appearance on the Today show.

"I was writing a song in Memphis, Tenn., for a session. I needed a three-syllable name," Diamond said. "The song was about my wife at the time — her name was Marcia — and I couldn't get a 'Marcia' rhyme."

The song was released in the summer of 1969 and zoomed to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Over the course of his 56-year career as a singer-songwriter-musician, Diamond has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide and placed 38 singles in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. None has been more enduring than "Sweet Caroline." The song has been covered by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Julio Iglesias and many more.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Diamond was a member of Erasmus Hall High School’s Chorus and Choral Club along with close friend Barbara Streisand. Diamond got his first inspiration to write his own songs when folk singer Pete Seeger visited a summer camp he was attending as a teenager.

“And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs,” he told Rolling Stone.

Just 10 credits short of an undergraduate degree from New York University, Diamond dropped out of college to take a 16-week assignment writing songs for Sunbeam Music Publishing. The job paid $50 per week. Later in his career, he would joke, “If this darn songwriting thing hadn’t come up, I would have been a doctor now.”

Please check out the rare video of a 33-year-old Diamond singing "Sweet Caroline" on the Shirley Bassey Show in 1974. The lyrics are below, but you probably already know the words...

"Sweet Caroline"
Written and performed by Neil Diamond.

Where it began, I can't begin to knowing
But then I know it's growing strong
Was in the spring
Then spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I'd be inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don't seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I'm holding you

One, touching one
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I'd be inclined
To believe they never would
Oh no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believe they never could

Sweet Caroline

Credit: Screen capture via

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Princess Eugenie's Engagement Announcement Sparks the Question, 'What's a Padparadscha?'

Princess Eugenie's official engagement announcement on Monday has the world asking, "What's a padparadscha?"

You see, the 27-year-old granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II received an oval padparadscha engagement ring from her long-time boyfriend Jack Brooksbank. In the official photos released by Buckingham Palace and during a subsequent interview with the BBC, Eugenie proudly showed off her beautiful — but unusual — orange/pink stone. In an instant, the padparadscha had spawned its own storyline.

In the BBC interview, Brooksbank, 31, waxed poetic about the gem.

"What's amazing about it and why I love it so much is that it changes color from every different angle that you look at it," he said. "And that's what I think of Eugenie. That she changes color."

Eugenie's oval padparadscha is surrounded by a halo of white diamonds and is set in yellow gold. The engagement ring design is strikingly similar to that of her mother, Sarah, Duchess of York, whose ruby center stone complemented her red hair.

Called “a true Rembrandt among gemstones,” natural padparadscha is one of the rarest and most valuable varieties of sapphire.

Unlike its blue brethren, padparadscha boasts a salmon color reminiscent of the most delicate orange/pink sunset. The gem's name is derived from “padma raga,” which literally means “the color of the lotus flower” in Sanskrit.

Padparadscha belongs to the corundum family of gemstones, which includes rubies and sapphires. The presence of trace elements determines the color of each gemstone. While blue sapphires are naturally colored with iron and rubies with chromium, padparadschas are colored by the presence of both. The delicate interplay of pink and orange hues make this gem one of nature’s greatest marvels.

An excellent example of this strikingly beautiful gemstone hit the auction block at Christie's Hong Kong in May of 2013. The oval padparadscha weighed 73.98 carats and was framed with brilliant-cut diamonds mounted in 18-karat rose gold. The ring carried a pre-sale high estimate of $1.55 million.

Princess Eugenie and Brooksbank are expected to get married later this year and the Queen is reportedly delighted.

Credits: Interview screen captures via Royal Family Channel; Auction ring photo courtesy of Christie's.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Farmer’s Lost Wedding Ring Recovered on Dirt Road 45 Years Later

A Saskatchewan man was reunited with his long-lost wedding ring after it flew off his finger while driving down a dirt road in a small farming community in the early 1970s.

Bill Wilson blamed the loss on a spunky grasshopper that had leaped into the farmer’s work truck and landed on his chest. Wilson quickly reacted by capturing the small creature and flipping it out the window, along with his gold wedding band. He realized it was gone shortly after, but he was hauling a full load and could not turn back.

"We looked off and on for years, even bringing in a metal detector on several occasions. Every time I drove by there, I drove with my head out the window," Wilson said. He noted that if the ring landed on cultivated soil, it would be like “finding a needle in a haystack.”

More than four decades later, neighbor Carlee Goodwin was taking a walk along the very same dirt road. It had rained the day before and the bright afternoon sun reflected on something shiny that caught her eye.

“I was thinking it was a piece of metal off a tractor, but soon realized it was a ring and dug it out,” Goodwin told CTV Regina. She tried it on and noticed it was styled for a man. She wondered how and when it got there. She also wondered about the owner.

“A ring isn’t something you just throw out the window,” Goodwin told CTV Regina.

Intrigued, Goodwin called her grandmother, who suggested that the owner might be impossible to find. After all, the only building on the desolate road was a school that had been closed for nearly five decades.

Ironically, Wilson ran into Goodwin’s grandmother at a local auction. She mentioned the ring while making small talk and asked him if he knew anyone who had lost a ring in the area. Stunned, Wilson immediately said yes, noting the design and what was engraved on the inside.

The woman's mouth dropped open and her eyes widened, Wilson said. "I wish I had a picture of her face.”

Goodwin told CBC/Radio-Canada that it was surreal to find a long-lost ring, and then locate the owner.

"I didn't think I would find the owner. I was blown away," she said. "It's almost like the ring wanted to be found."

After getting the ring back, the couple stared at it in awe. The ring was missing for 45 of their 51-year marriage. In fact, most of his children have never even seen the ring.

“I was very surprised and very grateful,” Wilson said.

Interestingly, Wilson had never purchased a replacement ring. "It's a little worse for wear, but back on my finger,” he said.

Right where it belongs.

Credits: Screen captures via