He could have lived Forever in Blue Jeans instead of sparkly shirts.
But the destiny of this African-American Neil Diamond impersonator couldn't be denied.
As the only black kid in an all-white church, Theron Denson lost count of the times the little old ladies leaned over during the hymn-singing portion of the service. Hello Again, they'd say, do you know you sound just like Neil Diamond?
Neil Diamond? Denson had never heard of the guy.
And life as a singer? It seemed unlikely.
His siblings regularly held their ears and squealed "noooo" when he sang. When Denson tried out for a solo in his high school choir, the director made it clear he would not be the Solitary Man.
Music, for the Charleston, W.Va., man was a Song Sung Blue.
Denson, 40, ended up going to college to be a preacher but that didn't work out. He kicked around, living like a nomad, he said. Working for a while as the personal assistant to June Pointer, of the Pointer Sisters, he eventually went on to work as a hotel clerk in Washington, D.C. His inner Diamond was starting to sparkle, though, so he'd sometimes sneak into the lounge and bust a few bars of Cherry, Cherry.
His employers were not amused. "They said, 'You've got to stop singing,'" Denson recalls. "'You're going to be terminated if you don't stop singing.'"
He thought to himself, "Neil Diamond, All I Really Need Is You."
Denson kept singing. He was fired.
Nearly broke, a friend flew him home so he could be interviewed by a local paper about his Neil-ness. Faster than you can say Cracklin' Rosie, he was getting gigs.
And since this is America, darn it, this short, bald, black guy channeling the vocal stylings of a Jewish guy from Brooklyn with an impressive head of hair was embraced by the fanatical Diamondheads, Neil's fan club. One elderly lady showed up at show after show, even fashioning a dress out of nine or 10 "Black Diamond" T-shirts. Her husband, now gone, had been a real Diamond fan and hearing this near-Neil made her still feel close to him.
Denson had found his Heartlight. "Sometimes I pinch myself," Denson said. "I can't believe this is something that I really do."
He says he's not one of those impersonators who thinks they actually are their musical inspiration. Still, every year, on Jan. 24, he throws the real Neil Diamond a birthday party with a cake, some punch and balloons. People bring presents for Denson's idol. This year, though, he kept the Godiva chocolates for himself.
Hearld-Leader (Lexington, KY)