NEW YORK (AFP) - Neil Diamond, one of the best-selling singers of all time, announced Monday he was immediately retiring from touring after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Following his doctor's advice, the Brooklyn native who turns 77 on Wednesday scrapped Australia and New Zealand stops scheduled for March as part of a global tour to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a recording artist.
However, Diamond said in a statement that he plans to "remain active in writing, recording and other projects for a long time to come."
"It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years," the singer said, apologising to his fans who had been anticipating the upcoming shows.
In a nod to his signature song Sweet Caroline, Diamond thanked his loyal fans, saying: "This ride has been 'so good, so good, so good' thanks to you." Diamond, who dropped out of New York University to start a career writing songs for stars such as The Monkees, found fame on his own by the late 1960s after emerging from the folk scene.
As tastes shifted to louder and more provocative rock, Diamond won a fan base by going into softer fare that harked back to classic pop.
The old-style crooner packed concerts with hits including Sweet Caroline, Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon and Cracklin' Rosie. An inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Diamond will be honored again on Sunday with a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys.
Diamond recently appeared to be healthy, albeit frigid, as he appeared in a stocking cap on New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square to lead the packed crowd in a singalong of Sweet Caroline. In a 2014 interview with AFP, Diamond said he tried not to be influenced by whatever was popular on the radio - and that he could not imagine ever retiring.
"I think it would be horrid for me, stopping would be very difficult," Diamond said. "It's part of who I am." Diamond had already performed 55 shows on his 50th anniversary tour, filling arenas across North America and Europe.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body's motor system, often causing shaking and other difficulties in movement.
The disease, which mostly commonly affects older people, is not fatal in itself but can become debilitating.