The entertainment world is reeling from the news of Neil Diamond’s retirement from live performance following his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease. The music legend, responsible for hits like “Sweet Caroline,” “America” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” shared a message to his website Monday night announcing the cancellation of concert dates in Australia and New Zealand, where he had been scheduled to play as part of his 50th anniversary world tour in March.
The statement explained that the onset of the Parkinson’s has “made it difficult to travel and perform on a large scale basis but will allow Mr. Diamond to continue his writing, recording and development of new projects.”
Diamond, 76, added, “I plan to remain active in writing, recording and other projects for a long time to come. My thanks goes out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you.”
Celebrity tributes immediately began to flood in from across the globe. Micky Dolenz of the Monkees offered his well wishes to the man who penned “I’m a Believer,” the song that launched the TV band to superstardom in 1966. “Needless to say, I am dismayed at the news that one of the greatest songwriter/performers of my generation is having to curtail his activities due to illness,” he told PEOPLE in a statement. “Through his music, Neil brought untold joy to countless fans and to the world in general. I wish you all the best, Neil, and a remain a ‘Believer’ in everything you do.”
He was also honored by fellow songwriting icon Neil Sedaka, a friend from their days together in New York City’s famed Brill Building hit factory in the early Sixties.
“Along with everyone else, I was shocked to hear this news,” he tells PEOPLE. “We lived across the street from each other in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. He is the most talented of the singer/songwriters/performers that I watched hone their craft at the Brill Building. His recordings and his writings are just superb. He’s an all-around great guy. For all the joy he has brought to the world, I know it will come back to him tenfold. Sending all my love to him and his family.”
Other famous admirers shared their messages of support on social media. Barry Manilow, another Brooklyn native, added his voice to the chorus Monday night. “So, so sorry to hear about the great Neil Diamond’s illness,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m rooting for you Neil! Fight on from another Brooklyn boy!”
Diamond also earned a salute from the Boston Red Sox, who’ve adopted “Sweet Caroline” as their unofficial anthem.
“The news that Neil Diamond is retiring hits close to home, because for a generation of Red Sox fans, singing his ‘Sweet Caroline’ in the middle of the eighth inning has become an intrinsic part of the Fenway Park experience,” says Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner in a message to PEOPLE. “The song took on an even greater significance in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, when across the major leagues teams played the song as a show of solidarity with our city. And we will forever be indebted for Neil taking it upon himself to fly across the country overnight to sing ‘Sweet Caroline’ in person in our first game at Fenway Park after the bombing. That was a profoundly emotional moment.”
The brilliant Beach Boys maestro Brian Wilson has since spoken out, as did his daughter, Carnie, of Wilson Phillips fame.
“I just wanted to say to you @NeilDiamond,” she wrote. “Thank you for these years of touring and your timeless beautiful music that has brought happiness to the world. Take care and know that we all love you so much! Your heart light shines wherever u go!!”
Reba McEntire, Josh Groban, Nancy Sinatra, Mia Farrow, and others have also expressed their admiration for the music titan.
For his part, Diamond broke his silence Tuesday, responding to a Tweet from his wife Katie describing the heartfelt reaction news of his health brought the family. “Wow, I’ve received a bunch of messages from people in Aus & NZ who are donating their ticket refunds to good causes: Parkinson’s research, animal rescue groups, fire victim funds, etc,” she wrote. “My heart is so full of joy to see this silver lining. Faith in humanity = restored. Thank you!”
Diamond added, “This makes me smile. Thank you. Thank you to everyone for your outpouring of love and support. It makes a difference.”
Fans across the country last saw Diamond perform “Sweet Caroline” during FOX’s New Year’s Eve with Steve Harvey: Live From Times Square when he encouraged the large New York City crowd to join him in singing.
The Recording Academy will honor Diamond with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award during the Grammy Awards on Jan. 28, airing on CBS at 7:30 p.m. EST.