Reunions attendees young and old at the 50th Reunions tentSaturdaynight were entranced by the classic songs of Neil Diamond. As rumors of Diamond’s presence spread through word of mouth and social media, the crowd at the 50th grew progressively louder and more raucous as the night wore on.
Through his stage presence and references to himself as Neil Diamond, many concertgoers—including, toward the end of the performance,The Daily Princetonianand a member of the University’sOffice of Communications— believed that he was, in fact, the rock legend of “Sweet Caroline” fame.
“People around me definitely thought it was [Neil Diamond],” attendee Tori Rinker ’16 said. “My friend heard someone yell from the crowd, 'Oh my God, it's Neil Diamond!' He was very, very convincing in his musical interpretation."
The $6,000 contract was signed between Greaseband, a band that performed at the 45th Reunions tent the night before, and the Princeton Class of 1963 Reunion. It stated that “Jay White, a Las Vegas Neil Diamond Act will play 1 hour set” following the Greaseband’s seton Saturdaynight. White previously performed for the Class of 1963 — the same class he played foron Saturday— with Lorne Smith Band at the 2003 Reunions for the 40thReunion tent, according to a2003 Reunionsonline schedule.
Bob Carello, a representative for White, said that White would never attempt to convince audiences that he actually was Neil Diamond.
“We never do that,” White said. “That’s ridiculous. Not a chance.”
According to White’s biography on his website, fans have frequently mistaken him for Diamond, rushing the stage and screaming during his past performances. When Whitemet Diamond in 1996and asked the star to autograph a photo of him, Diamond reportedly asked White if the photo was of White or Diamond.
Many Reunions attendees had been speculating that a high-profile musical act would perform at the 25th Reunion after Bon Jovi held a surprise performance last year at the 25th Reunions tent. According to this year’sReunions website, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and DJ Amber Martin performed at the 25thon Saturday. The site lists “The Fabulous Grease Band” as the only performers at the 50th forSaturdaynight.
Harry Pasquito, the lead member of Greaseband, said that White was added to the bill after the contract was signed. He had coordinated logistics with White’s band so that they could use the Greaseband’s equipment. Pasquito said that he introduced the performer to the stage as Jay White, the Neil Diamond tribute. However, he said that after an attendee posted a Facebook update stating that Neil Diamond was performing, fans flocked to the tent expecting the real Neil Diamond.
“We were telling people backstage who were clamoring to get close to him, to touch him and stuff, ‘It’s not Neil Diamond,’” Pasquito explained. “And they go, ‘No, no, it’s really him.’”
The rumor spread through social media outlets, including retweets from the University’s official Twitter account that commended the performance.
Neither the University nor the Alumni Association of Princeton University was involved in hiring White.
The Alumni Association’s Associate Director for Reunions Mibs Southerland Mara declined to comment on the arrangement but confirmed that the performer was, in fact, a Neil Diamond cover act.
“The Office of Communications was not privy to the arrangements or plans of that event, which was organized by the respective class,” University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said. Explaining why the University retweeted posts claiming Neil Diamond had performed, he said, “It was part of the Twitter traffic about the same event that night, including from the Daily Princetonian."Meanwhile, 50th Reunion Chair Ed Walsh ’63 denied that Jay White performed at the 50thReunions tenton Saturdaynight.“We booked a Greaseband, but I don’t know any Jay White,” Walsh said. “We don’t want to stir this pot anymore than we have. The entertainment was there, and he came.”
He said that the act following the Greaseband was not arranged by or paid for by the Reunions team but rather organized nine months in advance by a generous alumnus of the class. Walsh declined to comment on the cost but stated that he was very pleased with the performance.
“He was awesome, wasn’t he?” Walsh said, referring to the act following the Greaseband, not providing further specification. “He always is.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this articlemisstated a quotation byMartin Mbugua. Also due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the value of the contract. It was a $6,000 contract. The 'Prince' regrets the errors.