The Meaning of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”

Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” was released in May of 1969, just before the famous “Summer of Love” that spawned Woodstock Festival and changed the shape of pop culture forever. Neil Diamond wasn’t exactly part of the hippie culture, but he did release an excellent song that was popular at the time of its release, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard charts in the United States, and is still widely popular in the world of music today.

“Sweet Caroline” is also damn fun to belt out while drinking beer at a professional sports game, which is how many people today have been introduced to the song.

Neil Diamond’s hit can be heard blasting through the speakers at every Boston Red Sox game at their home field of Fenway Park, where it is played at the bottom of the 8th inning. The song is also commonly played during New York Rangers hockey games, and coach Tom Renney even named it the club’s song of the year for the 2005/2006 season. The Carolina Panthers of the NFL have also adopted the song, as well as the English soccer (football) team.

So, with all these sports fans singing “Sweet Caroline”, one would assume that the song had something to do with sports. While it does certainly sound so good, so good, in a stadium, sports have absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of “Sweet Caroline”.

The lyrics tell the story of meeting a loved one and watching the time slip away. As the relationship progresses, you find yourself exclaiming with happiness that you’ve finally found love, and everything is better than you could have ever hoped: “Sweet Caroline / Good times never seemed so good / I’ve been inclined / To believe they never would”.

Prior to 2007, Diamond had never mentioned anything about the meaning of “Sweet Caroline”, but in an interview he gave in advance of singing the song for Caroline Kennedy on her 50th birthday that year, he said that she was the inspiration for the song, at just 11 years old when the song was released.

In 2011, Diamond touched upon the “Sweet Caroline” lyrics once again in an interview on the CBS Early Show, when he said that he saw a photo of Caroline Kennedy on a horse with her parents, and the image stuck with him for five years until he finally wrote the song.

Finally, in 2014, while promoting his album Melody Rose, he told the Today show that the song was about his first wife, Marsha. He explained that he couldn’t find a good word to rhyme with Marsha, and he knew he needed a three-syllable name, so he went with Caroline on a whim. This sort of contradicts everything he said about Caroline Kennedy, unless he found her name as an inspiration while searching for a good three-syllable name.

Regardless of whether you believe that Neil Diamond wrote “Sweet Caroline” for Caroline Kennedy or his first wife Marsha, it’s catchy, it works, and you’re bound to hear it blaring through the in-house speakers the next time you attend a sports outing.

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