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Neil Diamond and Herbie Hancock take on Beatles classic for a good cause

September 10, 2010 |  3:55 pm

RS102_121861_0189 When Neil Diamond called Herbie Hancock to do a collaboration, the jazz legend readily says he didn’t share much in common with the singer – other than a fiscal one.

“I had never even met Neil before. The connection we have is we have the same accountant," Hancock says, laughing about the unlikely pairing. "I was happy we did it. He’s such a great talent. It gave me the opportunity to do something with him for a great cause.”

The cause being the “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon.

In only its second telethon -- the first in 2008 raised more than $100 million - the live and commercial-fee special airing Friday brings together a mix of music, film and television stars making their own pleas for donations to cancer research.

The two legends teamed together to take on the moving Beatles classic “Yesterday,” though the pair didn’t have much time to perfect the tune, as they had just physically met for the first time a day prior to Wednesday’s rehearsal on the Sony Pictures lot.

“I was happy to do it for a couple of reasons, mainly for the real purpose which is supporting ‘Stand Up to Cancer.’ But also because I love the idea of collaborating with someone who may not be in the same generic family of jazz,” Hancock said, “something that’s outside of something I’ve done before.”

The performance – and the song – hit home for the two musicians, as Hancock and Diamond each lost a grandmother to the disease, and Diamond’s mother is a cancer survivor who just celebrated her 92nd birthday, which he uses as the intro to the song.

“It’s a great song. It just happens to be a song I recorded. I suggested it and Herbie loved it. It’s right for the moment,” Diamond said. “I’m just going to hope that my fans make the connection and join in to help out.”

Hancock and Diamond’s performance will be available on iTunes, according to a rep for Diamond. Other performers slated to appear include Stevie Wonder with Queen Latifah, Martina McBride, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, The Edge, Jakob Dylan, Lady Antebellum, Dave Stewart and Leona Lewis.

More information can be found at Standup2cancer.org and the show airs live Friday at 8 p.m. on numerous major networks and streams online on YouTube.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Herbie Hancock and Neil Diamond rehearse for the "Stand Up to Cancer" telethon. Credit: Rick Rowell / ABC