The Story of... 'Sweet Caroline' by Neil Diamond

11 July 2024, 14:47 | Updated: 11 July 2024, 14:50

Neil Diamond On Stage in 1984
Neil Diamond On Stage in 1984. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

'Sweet Caroline' by Neil Diamond is one of the catchiest songs of all time, and we can't help but belt out the chorus whenever we hear it.

The pop favourite has become a stadium anthem in recent years, and has even been adopted by England football fans on their quest for a first piece of silverware since 1966.

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 Neil Diamond songs, he wrote the song, and 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).

    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 fits the song perfectly.

  3. It was inspired by John F Kennedy's daughter Caroline

    John F. Kennedy relaxes with his wife Jacqueline and daughter Caroline
    John F. Kennedy relaxes with his wife Jacqueline and 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.

    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?

    Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline High Quality neildiamond

    The song reached number four in the US, but surprisingly only number eight 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 and football anthem?

    Neil Diamond Singing Sweet Caroline In FenWay Park 4/20/13

    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 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.

    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.

    Since then, it has been adopted far and wide. The Sydney Swans AFL team play it, as do the rugby side Castleford Tigers.

    Exclusive - Neil Diamond gets behind England after fans adopt 'Sweet Caroline'

    The England cricket team celebrated their World Cup win in 2019 with several choruses of the tune, and it has been sung often at Lord's.

    Arsenal played the tune in 2017 to celebrate their FA Cup semi-final victory at Wembley, and then Aston Villa began singing it at a match against Stoke City in 2019.

    Now, England football fans have made it their own. Following England's famous victory over Germany at Euro 2020, the Neil Diamond classic was blaring out on TV as the team celebrated.

    During manager Gareth Southgate's interview, he praised it, saying: “To hear [the fans] at the end… I mean, you can’t beat a bit of Sweet Caroline, can you? That’s a belter, really.”

    Neil Diamond himself loved this fact, telling the Telegraph that he was "thrilled", adding: "Well, I hope you can do it again - here's to England".

  6. Who else has covered it?

    Robbie Williams and his dad - 'Sweet Caroline' live

    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

    Following the 2020/21 coronavirus pandemic, Neil Diamond launched a global singalong event of the famous song, and it was rather emotional:

    Neil Diamond - Sweet Caroline (Global Singalong)