The movie "Solitary Man" (Starring Michael Douglas, 2009) uses the Neil Diamond song, "Solitary Man" as it's theme. That makes no sense.
"Solitary Man"-- just about the only song by Neil Diamond that I like-- is about a man who decides that he will just live alone rather than engage with women who, it seems to him, are likely to cheat on him, and play "games" behind his back. He's looking for a sincere, faithful woman, who won't see love as a "part-time" thing.
In the movie, Michael Douglas plays Ben Kalmen, a man whose career as a car dealer is crashing, and who is a serial womanizer. He just can't resist. He's already blown one marriage and has just seduced a woman in order to get her father to invest in a new car dealership. When he sleeps with her daughter, a chain of events brings him to near ruin.
Ben's problem is not women who play around behind his back. And he's not a solitary man-- he doesn't nearly have the gravitas for it.
As I said, I do like the song, and I've liked it since I first heard in the late 1960's, I think. It has that kind of self-pitying seriousness adolescent boys take on when they realize that girls aren't necessarily grateful to you if you like them: it's a bubble-gum pop-rock version of the infantile "My Way", a contemptuous statement of male insularity and self-sufficiency.
It's really a typical Neil Diamond song in the sense that it doesn't seem to reference any specific reality. Cute lyrics: "I'll be what I am". Yes, you will.
Somehow he walks in on Linda and Jim, without evoking any kind of actual location or circumstance: he "found" them together. His relationship with "Sue" died too. Just died. And he knows:
...it's been done having one girl who loves you,
right or wrong,
weak or strong
What? I'm not sure what he means by "right or wrong" and I'm not sure why a "weak" relationship would be any better than Sue. The two phrases do not add to our understanding or insight into this man's predicament. Here's an example of how it's done, from the master:
You say you're looking for someone
Never weak, but always strong
To protect you and defend you,
Whether you are right or wrong
Okay, so it's unfair to compare Neil Diamond with Bob Dylan. Okay-- so that's my point.
But while we're looking, more from Dylan:
You say you're looking for
Who will promise never to part
Someone to close his eyes for you
Someone to close his heart
"...close his heart"! Then he adds, later: "someone who will die for you and more".
So, I ask myself, what do I actually like about "Solitary Man"? I don't know. The chorus, I guess, and the minor chord it starts out in, and the sneaky rhythm. That's all. And maybe the way Chris Isaak makes it sound.
By the way, Diamond deserves some credit for the album "Tap Root Manuscript" (1970) which experimented with native African rhythms and textures more than a decade before Peter Gabriel or Paul Simon embraced the idea. That doesn't make it a good album-- it still has the excretable "Cracklin' Rose" on it, the most overplayed song of all time (once would have been sufficient). (It's real claim to fame is that it is one of the few songs that is more annoying than "Sweet Caroline", which has inexplicably-- or not-- infested the crowd at Boston Red Sox games, maybe because it was inspired by Caroline Kennedy. It's true.) But "Tap Root Manuscript" was relatively bold and relatively daring and it was important as an acknowledgement, by popular music, of the black roots of rock'n'roll.
Diamond started his career as a factory song-writer in the Brill Building, writing hits for other groups including the Monkees ("I'm a Believer", "Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow"). The Monkees later insisted on writing their own songs, which Mickey Dolenz likened to Leonard Nimoy becoming a real Vulcan.
Diamond once sang a duet with the Fonz, which could only have been less embarrassing than a duet with Helen Reddy at the same gig. Think about it: the author of "I am I Said" sang a duet with the man who destroyed the mystique of the 50's rebel. And the "I am Woman" lady.
I never quite understood why Diamond was invited to "The Last Waltz", the eponymous farewell concert of The Band. I thought at the time that it was an allusion to the strain of pure pop music that helped shape rock'n'roll, part of the mix that influenced the Band. Diamond is the opposite of The Band: colorless, predictable, pompous. You could tell he realized that he had just had the coolest honor ever by being invited. He could put it right up there next to his Grammy for "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (the soundtrack) and his Razzie for "The Jazz Singer".