'Sweet Caroline' by Neil Diamond: The making of the 1970s stadium anthem

23 June 2021, 16:30

Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

'Sweet Caroline' one of the most catchy songs of all time, and we never get bored of hearing the Neil Diamond classic.

But did you know the Neil Diamond song's history? Who was Caroline in real life? How did it become a sporting anthem? Here's all the big facts...

  1. Who wrote 'Sweet Caroline'?

    Like most of Neil Diamond's songs, he wrote the song on his own.

    It was first released in 1969 under the title 'Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)'.

  2. What is 'Sweet Caroline' about?

    Neil Diamond and wife Marcia in 1981
    Neil Diamond and wife Marcia in 1981. Picture: Getty

    Neil Diamond wrote the song about his second wife, Marcia Murphey, who he married in 1969 (they divorced in 1995).

    Read more: Neil Diamond releases stunning new orchestral version of 'Sweet Caroline'

    However, He needed a three-syllable name to fit the melody, so 'Sweet Marcia' didn't work.

    The name Caroline is one he had written down, and it fit the song perfectly.

  3. Was it inspired by John F Kennedy's daughter Caroline?

    John F. Kennedy with his wife, Jackie, and their daughter, Caroline
    John F. Kennedy with his wife, Jackie, and their daughter, Caroline. Picture: Getty

    There had also been longtime speculation that the song was about Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the American president JFK.

    Diamond has said that Caroline gave him the idea for the name, but had nothing to do with the song's inspiration.

    However, in 2007, Diamond performed the song via satellite at Caroline Kennedy's 50th birthday party, and said that the song was about her, after seeing a photo of her at the time.

    Read more: Neil Diamond plays funny 'Sweet Caroline' update with coronavirus advice lyrics

    Neil later said: "I've never discussed it with anybody before - intentionally. I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday. I'm happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline.

    "I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy. It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony. It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there."

  4. How did it perform in the charts?

    The song reached number 4 in the US, but only number 8 in the UK in 1971.

    It has however proven to be enduringly popular and, as of November 2014, has sold over two million digital downloads in the US alone.

  5. How did it becoming a sport anthem?

    Despite having nothing to do with Boston, or the Red Sox, or even baseball, the song is played at Red Sox home games in Fenway Park before the Red Sox bat in the the 8th inning.

    Amy Tobey first started playing the song in 1997 - and she apparently played it in honour of a Red Sox employee who named her newborn daughter Caroline, but Tobey has said that she simply liked the song.

    Gold's Hall of Fame: Neil Diamond

    It proved popular with the fans, and became a popular selection between innings. When Charles Steinberg took over as Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs in 2002, he also championed the song, and placed it as an 8th inning ritual, where it has been played ever since.

    The song is an audience participation classic, with the crowd singing "dum-dum-dum" after the words "Sweet Caroline" in the chorus and "so good, so good, so good" after "good times never seemed so good".

    After the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the New York Yankees - rivals of the Red Sox - began playing this song as a show of support. A few days later, Diamond made a surprise appearance at Fenway Park, where he performed the song in its traditional 8th inning timeslot.

  6. Who else has covered it?

    Among its many covers include:

    • Robbie Williams (who often performs the song live)
    • Frank Sinatra
    • Dustin the Turkey (who took it to number one in Ireland)
    • Bobby Womack
    • Glee cast
    • James Corden and many others (including Neil Diamond) at the 2017 Grammys