Single Stories: The Monkees, “I’m A Believer”
52 years ago today, The Monkees entered the studio and began the process of recording the song that would become their second #1 hit.
Written by Neil Diamond, “I’m a Believer” wasn’t actually written for The Monkees. The song found its way into the group’s orbit through Don Kirshner, who’d been aware of the success Diamond had found with “Cherry, Cherry.” Diamond reportedly wanted country singer Eddy Arnold to record the song, so one can only imagine his surprise when the song was instead turned into a pop hit.
“I’m a Believer” was sung by Micky Dolenz, and at least one reason why that ended up being the case was that Michael Nesmith told producer Jeff Barry, “I’m a songwriter, and that’s no hit,” which led to Barry banning him from the studio while Dolenz recorded his vocal for the track. Happily, Nesmith was very, very wrong: as noted above, “I’m a Believer” was a #1 hit.
Diamond also recorded his own version of the song for his 1967 album JUST FOR YOU, but it’s fair to say that The Monkees ended up with the bigger hit. In 2008, Mojo interviewed Diamond and asked him if he’d ever resented the success that The Monkees had with his song, and the answer was a resounding “no.”
“I was thrilled, because at heart I was still a songwriter and I wanted my songs on the charts,” said Diamond. “It was one of the songs that was going to be on my first album, but Donny Kirshner hears ‘Cherry, Cherry’ on the radio and said, ‘Wow, I want one like that for The Monkees!’ He called my producers, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich – ‘Hey, does this kid have any more?’ And they played him the things I had cut for the next album and he picked ‘I’m a Believer,’ ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,’ and ‘Look Out (Here comes Tomorrow),’ and they had some huge hits. But the head of my record company freaked. He went through the roof because he felt that I had given #1 records away to another group. I couldn’t have cared less, because I had to pay the rent, and The Monkees were selling records, and I wasn’t being paid for my records!”
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