“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“Holly Holy” is one of the most loved songs by renowned American singer and writer Neil Diamond. But truth be told, the lyrics aren’t the easiest to decipher.
That said, it is beyond clear that both lyrics and music are heavily inspired by Christian music. And the choir’s presence throughout the song makes the gospel music influence upon it even more pronounced. Furthermore, the whole song is filled to the brim with a very potent spiritual atmosphere.
Many reviewers have described this song as one in which you just don’t listen to. According to them, you’d be doing great injustice to it by only just listening to it. You need to feel it within your soul too! We can’t help but agree with them there.
To be honest, this piece is the type that has the capability of convincing even a non-believer of the existence of a spiritual realm somewhere. Such is the sheer power nestled within every atom of “Holly Holly”.
Neil Diamond sheds light on the meaning of “Holly Holy”
Like we stated above, the lyrics of this song are so challenging to decipher. Apparently, not even Neil himself could give a thorough explanation what they mean. And this is despite the fact that he composed this song himself.
In one interview we stumbled upon, Neil referred to this song as being about a powerful “religious experience”. However, he said it isn’t the kind of religious experience between “man and God”. Rather it is one designed to be between a man and the woman he loves.
Owing to Neil’s explanation, we can consider this song a love song. But tagging it merely as a love song alone really doesn’t do justice to it. It is a deeply touching spiritual song. It’s spiritual energy can be said to be comparable to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.
October the 13th, 1969 was the day Neil released this masterpiece. It was initially released as a non-album single. However, Neil later added it to the tracklist of his “Touching You, Touching Me” album of 1969. The song also made it onto his Greatest Hits album of 1992.
“Holly Holy” is one of Diamond’s most critically and commercially successful songs. For example, it succeeded in giving Diamond a top-10 hit in not only the United States but the following countries as well:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
At the end of the day, this masterpiece went on to receive platinum certification in America.
Over half a century after the song’s release, it experienced a renewed popularity in 2021. This came about after it was featured in Netflix’s 2021 hit miniseries titled “Midnight Mass”.
Just to note, there is another popular Neil Diamond song titled “Soolaimon (African Trilogy II)” that also made a prominent appearance in the aforementioned series.
I had a dream a year or so ago. I was on a skateboard hanging onto the end of a truck and going fast. I was hearing this song which I had heard many many years ago. All the words too which awake I would not know. I woke up feeling great but wondering why that dream and that obscure to me song was in my dream. I still have no idea why but it was a great dream and I love the song. Thanks Neil. You have written so many wonderful songs. My wife is named Caroline. Beautiful song.
It is amazing how well the phrases in that song so well juxtaposed with what was being conveyed in those scenes. I have replayed the song so many times as well as the series. I can’t stop thinking about this series. Having a church background, I was feeling somewhat guilty knowing it was a horror flick, but there was so much truth in the mysteries of religion, it left me wondering. So thought-provoking. Neil’s Holly Holy is incredible!
It’s probably my favorite Diamond song, but it’s always been clear the song is about maritalsexual desire and fulfillment. The building, the tension, the release, the resulting child. He mentions the Song of Song, a book in the Bible explicitly about the joy of sexual desire in marriage. Neil couldn’t explain that back then because censorship of that kind of talk and lyrical meaning was deep. He kept it coded and knew his fans would FEEL what he meant.
Thank you for that! That really makes it more understandable. I was born in 67 so I remember it on the radio in my mothers car when I was really little but I don’t remember any other songs that far back. That’s shows that it definitely has a spiritual affect enough to be memorable to a 2 or 3 year old
Thank you Neil for “Holly Holy”.
Just genius pairing Holly Holy with the climatic scene in “Midnight Mass”
I agree. Holly Holy brought me into that moment of the show–I felt a sense of awe and reverence, as if I were in that church. It was what I expect the islanders were feeling. It left a strong impression – a powerful scene.
Holly Holy is a moving adoration of love and well suited to Midnight Mass. Midnight Mass is a work of art as a set of love stories. Riley would rather go up in flames than hurt Erin. And in the disastrous finale, Pruitt tells Mildred he did it all for her as they try to destroy what he started in an attempt to redo his life with her. The whole thing is overlaid with Catholicism, scripture and evangelical fervor intense enough to evoke Jonestown like suicide cult devotion. Holly Holy was played as a procession carried the cross towards the alter after a seeming miracle. So the story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but evoked a deep emotional response in me. Like love. Like the music. I would flip the above narrative around. To understand Holly Holy, watch Midnight Mass.
Doesn’t anyone see the biblical nature of the song! Sing a “Song of Songs” it’s a book of the bible. It could be both a wife and also possibly even holy spirit. I say holy spirit because this is usually a word that is in the feminine in Hebrew. Also the dove is the symbol of the holy spirit…birds fly! It has the same sort of quality as reading this book in the bible. When it is read for the first time by many the reaction is similar, and some wondered whether it should be included in the bible. They didn’t know what to make of it, but it was decided to include it in the bible anyway. If Neil Diamond said the above, he may have been encouraged to say it at the time. In another video he says the song is designed a certain way to make you feel and try not to listen in an attempt to decifer the words but to just feel them. I never really fully appreciated or understood this song when I was younger. I was indifferent to it and to Neil Diamond and his style. But now that I’m older and more serious about the spiritual I understood immediately! He does a beautiful job recreating the Song of Solomon or Song of Songs. He is an amazingly talented individual. He must descend from the tribe of Levy.
My mother passed away in May of 1970. I was 8 years old. This song was her favorite. You have to feel this song in your soul to understand it! Thanks Neil. My mom loved you and so do I. God bless you!!
Holly Holy is great on the Hot August Night album. All other versions are cr-p.
It’s the same song so it can’t be crap.
Gotta agree. It’s the build up on Hot August Night. The studio versions feel flat to me, too.
> knew of the song. But tonight I thought of my sisters unhappiness in her job. And her coworkers hate it when she sings. She has a beautiful voice .so I told her to sing Holly Holy and Amazing Grace at lunch when she was alone.She told me she always has a song in her head. She is Christian. This made me look up Holly Holy by Neil Diamond. After listening I realized it was a deep)y spiritual song. And he mentioned about a man who could not walk upright and was touched and rose up. I’ll have to tell her about this tomorrow.
Neil said it can be anything u want it to be
Growing up in in Rural South Africa I had an uncle who was a farmer and also a big Neil Diamond fan. So every start of the planting season he used to gather all his workers together by the farmshed in a type of ceremony to bless the coming season. He would read something from the old testament, and then got up on the tractor and with great solemnity would say the following magic words….. “Cante Libre, Soolaimon, Holy Holy….” these magic words used to impress the farm workers so much that they actually believed in his powers as some kind of worker of old testament powers.
That story is so awesome lol
Yes, it is a song about divine love. The divine love of connection which can be through sexual expression or a spiritual connection. It is the closure of longing to be a part of…to merge..to set the heart free. Neil Diamond, I suspect, started Holly Holy as a love song but it grew and grew into the glory and power of love the transcends the body. The song writer became the vessel..the shaman to remind people of the glory of love.
When I watched Midnight Mass (several times) it struck me that there had to be a rebellious catholic somewhere in the series creation. The constent theme, to me, was healing the soul and eternal life. Hmmm…eternal life offered by Christ or a vampire disguised as an angel. The whole point of Christianity is eternal life. To be as one with the Creator
Yea, it was just another vampire show but the parallels were excellent. I’m surprised the ” Born Agains” didn’t rise up and protest.
Neil Diamond’s Holly Holy fit right in (at least in my humble opinion).
This song is about a female faith healer that Neil Diamond is in love with
That makes sense…possibly one he met at Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show while in Ky which may be where the song Ky Woman came from also.
That was in Mississippi .
I too saw Midnight Mass and feel that the way the scenes are tuned to the lyrics is one of the best uses of the medium that I have ever seen!
I immediately replayed the sequence again and again- the cross shot from behind as the altar boys carried it down the aisle… the way everyone stands up… the way the subsequent services fill up with worshipers..,
Well done! So well done!
Loved the series- love the song-
Born in 1951 I grew up with Neil Diamond’s music. I was listening to Holy Holly with eyes closed and while rocking to the rhythmn felt this tremendous joy in my heart. I then wondered, what the song is all about and found this website.
I also watched Midnight Mass which I found sensational, although a bit perplexing as no-one in the series seemed to cotton on that this rather ugly angel was something different entirely.
My favourite Neil Diamond track is Solitary Man. It reminds me of my first boyfriend. I was 14 and he 19. He always played it on the juke box. So long ago and so much has changed, and yet one wonderful constant is that Neil’s songs and music are adored just as much today as they ever were.
Symbolic Messages from the Holly
Let your beauty shine within even in times of dormancy
Rule the day, and let your generosity be your legacy
The energy of life is ever-present
The ancient Celts would bring holly into their homes for their bright, cheerful disposition. They were also considered a symbol of good luck.
Just as the oak attracts lightning, holly repels lightning. It was often planted around homes for protection from lightning, and for this reason it is viewed as a symbol for protection.
Interestingly, science has actually discovered the distinct leaf-shape of the holly acts as a natural repellent for lightning energy, making the holly’s protective significance more than just lore.