The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #239: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #239: Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond.

Unlike many famous singers and musicians, Neil Diamond was not born to sing. Although he always enjoyed the Arts, even singing in his High School choir with a fellow student who went by the name of Barbra Streisand. But, as he grew up, he never envisioned himself living the life of a singer, let alone, a world famous singer who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide and is in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. No, when Neil Diamond was a teenage boy, he picked up a guitar and began writing songs as a way to meet girls. That’s it. Plain and simple. Diamond realized that he seemed to be having an easier time attracting cute girls at school when he would strum his acoustic guitar and/or read some of his poetry. Obviously, Diamond is not the first male to realize the power of music when it comes to attracting a mate. As his schooling went on, Neil Diamond found himself growing less and less interested in his studies. Music began occupying an ever-increasing amount of his time and his energy, culminating in a job offer from a music publishing company to write songs for $50 per week. That was enough to cause Neil Diamond to drop out of school. He was now a professional songwriter. He hadn’t turned twenty yet, either.

After a few months of very mediocre results, he was fired from his job and found himself out in the world on his own without and means of financial support. So, before giving up on his dream, he dedicated himself to being a writer for the rest of the calendar year. If was still starving and scuffling by that time, he would give up his newly acquired dreams and go home to his family. Starvation has a way of helping with focus, I guess, because while Neil Diamond was trying to exist on three dollars a day for food, he began writing songs with every ounce of energy he could muster. Results were slow to come in but, after several months, he came up with “Cherry, Cherry” and “Solitary Man”…..which, in essence, is the story of those struggling times as a writer before fame kicked in.

“Solitary Man” was Neil Diamond’s first hit song. With that success under his belt, he moved in to work at the famous Brill Building in New York as a songwriter. His biggest sale was “I’m a Believer” which he sold to The Monkees. He, also, ended up selling songs to Elvis, Cliff Richard and Deep Purple, among a varied clientele. Not too long after those successes, he signed his own recording contract and released “Cherry, Cherry”, Solitary Man” and “Kentucky Woman”. He began opening on tour for such varied acts as Herman and the Hermits, as well as, The Who. In the end, his career took off and, along the way, he recorded such classic songs as, “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, “Red, Red Wine”, Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”, “Crackling’ Rosie”, “Shilo”, “I Am…I Said”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Longfellow Serenade”, “If You Know What I Mean”, “Beautiful Noise”, “Desiree”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (with Barbra Streisand)”, “Forever in Blue Jeans”, “Love on the Rocks”, “America”, “Hello Again”, “Heartlight”, “Sweet Caroline” and hundreds more. What a great career he had!

As for the song, “Sweet Caroline”, there are two versions of how it came to be. First of all, the most popular version is that the song was inspired by Caroline Kennedy. The story goes that Diamond saw a photo of Kennedy when she was a child. In the photo, she was dressed to go horseback riding. There was something about her wholesomeness and innocence as a child that touched his heart. This version of the “Sweet Caroline” origin story was the official story for many years until one day, Neil Diamond, himself, stated in an interview that the inspiration for the song came from his first wife (who was not named “Caroline”. Diamond stated that she embodied all of the beauty and wonder of the “Caroline” in the song but that he changed her name for a fictitious one because the three syllable name worked better with the musical structure of the song). In any case, the song “Sweet Caroline” was a hit when it was released but, over time, it has taken on a life of its’ own. The song has been adopted by many sports teams and is played regularly at home games, as the crowds sing along. The most famous instance of this happening is at Fenway Park in Boston when the Boston Red Sox play.

Neil Diamond began writing songs in order to meet girls but, in the end, he discovered a way to write songs that captured people’s hearts. He is one of the most prolific and popular singers America has ever produced. So, without further delay, here is Neil Diamond with his rendition of “Sweet Caroline”. I will, also, include a video to the song being sung at a Red Sox game, too. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, can be found here.

The link to the video of the song, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond being sung by fans at a Boston Red Sox game, can be found here.

The link to the official website of Neil Diamond, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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