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Oak Lawn resident sings Neil Diamond classics

Steve Richards as Neil Diamond | Supplied photo

Steve Richards as Neil Diamond | Supplied photo

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Updated: August 22, 2013 4:12PM



Steve Richards recalls seeing many performers at the Condesa Del Mar in Alsip, including the legendary Frank Sinatra.

Seeing such singers proved inspirational as he was growing up. Like everyone, Richards sang in the shower. After a while he started to sing for friends “but not in the shower,” he said jokingly.

Friends liked what they heard. Soon, he began performing Elvis, “along with 48,000 other singers,” he said.

These days, the Oak Lawn resident still sings songs made famous by Elvis. But he will take on the challenging voice of Neil Diamond when he performs at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Knights of Columbus, 100 S. Infantry Drive, Joliet.

Like Sinatra, Diamond is especially difficult to perform because both tend to sort of talk through songs with impeccable phrasing.

Duplicating Diamond’s approach to a song is challenging, he said.

“He’s basically talking and phrasing. Sinatra had the same thing. It’s a gift. Sing and phrase at the same time. Sinatra had it. Diamond has it. There’s not many who can do it. Paul McCartney, he sings. Think of Sinatra, ‘start spreading the news.’ He’s talking. What makes Diamond so difficult is that resonance in his voice,” Richards said.

“It’s very unusual. His voice has such power to it,” Richards said.

Years of practice have proven invaluable, and he tries to bring a Diamond-like passion to each performance.

“You’ve got to reach the audience with feeling. You’re telling a story and when you do it the right way, people think, ‘I know what you are talking about.’ To bring emotion, it really does take you to another place,” he said.

“When you do it with your heart ... you’ve got to love what you do, and I do,” he said.

His career has taken him long and far around the country. He performed an Elvis and Diamond show in Milwaukee on Aug. 16, the 36th anniversary of Elvis’ death.

Richards once sang a duet in Las Vegas with country star Garth Brooks, a performance that netted a story in a local newspaper the next day.

On his travels, he got to meet McCartney when both had shows in St. Louis. Sir Paul, Richards said, was very personable.

Back in 1972, writing for a college newspaper, Richards met John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Chicago. He was extremely nervous, so Lennon suggested Richards call him later for the interview. A friendship developed to the point where Richards felt comfortable calling Lennon to chat now and then.

He met George Harrison, but has yet to meet Ringo Starr.

Richards fondly recalls wowing a Wrigley Field crowd before a Cubs game, which impressed team brass enough to offer he and his band a gig at the Cubs Convention.

“I still have the program,” he said.

Richards performed for 16 years at the start of his career. He then took a break for what turned out to be a failed romantic relationship.

Afterwards, he soon found himself back on stage with his first love.

“I’m happier on stage than, say, in a relationship because that’s where I feel more free, more comfortable,” he said.

“September Morn,” “I’m a Believer,” “Red, Red Wine,” “Play Me” and “Hello Again” are just a few of the Diamond classics that will likely be on Richards’ set list in Joliet. Tickets are $10.

Information is at (815) 725-0746.



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