“Cherry, Cherry” gave Neil Diamond his first Top Ten hit as a composer and as a recording artist. There are varying accounts of the song’s genesis and of the circumstances of its recording. According to biographer Rich Wiseman in his book Neil Diamond: Solitary Star, Diamond’s first version was called “Money, Money,” but Bert Berns, the songwriter/producer who was head of Bang Records, to which Diamond had just been signed in January 1966, wanted the song to be about romance instead of finance, leading to a change of title and lyrics. Berns, an aficionado of Latin rhythms, was also an influence on the song’s arrangement, according to Wiseman, who says the song was cut along with Diamond’s first single, “Solitary Man,” at his first Bang recording session on February 14, 1966, but then re-done a week later. Diamond, in his liner notes to the box-set retrospective In My Lifetime, remembers things differently. He recalls coming up with a guitar lick while meeting with his producers, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, then going home and finishing the song, after which he (on acoustic guitar and vocals), Barry and Greenwich (on background vocals and handclaps), arranger Artie Butler (on piano and organ), and an unnamed bass player, cut a demo version. Later, he did an official studio recording with drums and horns that was deemed unacceptable, and the demo was released instead. (In My Lifetime includes the previously unreleased studio version, which differs considerably, not only in arrangement and performance, but also in structure and lyrics, from the familiar one.) Since another date of January 25, 1966, has been given for the recording of “Cherry, Cherry,” it is possible that was the date of the demo session, with one or two unacceptable studio versions attempted later. In this case, “Cherry, Cherry” would have been Diamond’s first recording for Bang.
It was, however, his second single release, following the chart entry “Solitary Man,” and a distinct contrast to that moody effort. Boasting simple, slangy lyrics (“the girl’s outta sight,” “She got the way to groove me”), it was an infectiously catchy dance song and a celebration of young love and lust (“You know what I’m sayin’”). Early in his career, it indicated that there were more sides to Diamond than just the wounded loner he had portrayed in “Solitary Man.” Bang released the single in July 1966. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending August 20 and peaked at number six on October 15. It success led directly to Diamond’s greatest opportunity as a songwriter. Publisher Don Kirshner, hearing “Cherry, Cherry,” asked Diamond if he had a similar song that could be used by the Monkees, a group assembled for a new television series in the style of the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night. Diamond played him “I’m a Believer,” a tune he had intended to use as an LP track. Kirshner took it, and by December 31, 1966, the Monkees’ recording was spending the first of its seven weeks at number one.
Bang naturally put “Cherry, Cherry” on Diamond’s debut album, The Feel of Neil Diamond, released in August 1966. Among the early covers of the song were a jazz reading by Dizzy Gillespie on his LP The Melody Lingers On and a pop/rock version by the Music Machine on its chart-making first album (Turn On) The Music Machine. Diamond’s recording also appeared on his second album, Just for You (August 1967) and on Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits (June 1968). By then, he had broken with Bang and signed to Uni Records, and in 1970 he recorded a live performance of “Cherry, Cherry” for his first concert album, Neil Diamond/Gold (July 1970). Bang countered by putting the original recording on its simultaneously released compilation Shilo. Diamond cut a second live version that was featured on his album Hot August Night (November 1972) and released as a single. This new take on “Cherry, Cherry” entered the charts on March 17, 1973, and peaked at number 31 on May 5. (It also made number 19 on the Easy Listening chart.) Bang gave the original version its fourth LP release on Double Gold (December 1972). After Diamond purchased the Bang masters, he included it on his own compilation, Classics: The Early Years (May 1983), and thereafter on subsequent hits collections including The Greatest Hits (1966-1992) (June 1992), In My Lifetime (October 1996), and The Essential Neil Diamond (December 2001). He gave it a third live reading on Hot August Night II (October 1987) and a fourth on Live in America (June 1994). All of these Diamond albums reached the charts. In addition, “Cherry, Cherry” has been covered by Anita Kerr, Spectrum, the Starlite Orchestra, Joey Dee & the Starliters, the Evening Star Orchestra, Percy Faith & His Orchestra, Luba Mason, and Danny Dean & the Homewreckers, and Diamond’s version has been featured in the films How to Make an American Quilt (1995) and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004).