After the fury and majesty of Neil Young Week, Rock Turtleneck was starting to wind down for a well-deserved Thanksgiving break. But then a whole new reason to give thanks came in through the RT transom, courtesy of a headline on Yahoo! about another Neil:
"SWEET CAROLINE" WAS CAROLINE KENNEDY
According to the Pulitzer-worthy story, Neil Diamond held his Deep Throat-like secret until last week, when he performed the song via satellite at Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's 50th birthday party.
‘Twas a photo of young Caroline and her pony Macaroni in the heady days of Camelot that caught the eye of Diamond, then a struggling songwriter.
"It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there," recalled the Bard of Flatbush.
But it wasn’t until years later while in a hotel in Memphis (where else?) that his signature anthem would pour out of him like a Junior's egg cream in under an hour.
"It was a #1 record and probably is the biggest, most important song of my career, and I have to thank her for the inspiration," he said. "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."
"Sweet Caroline" should be played non-stop atop the Golden Gate Bridge and Empire State Building, for it is almost impossible to feel blue when it is playing. Personally, I took the song (and the man) for granted until the late 1980s, when it emerged as a can’t-miss drunken college party anthem. The collective level of the room’s intoxication could be perfectly gauged by the loudness of the “buh buh buuuhs” in the chorus.
Yes, like a fine cheese, "Sweet Caroline" has aquired new meanings and complexities over time. So let us pause and give thanks for Neil and his brilliant, joyous, all-purpose ode to an American princess and her lil’ equine.
MP3: Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline,” Hot August Night, 1971
YouTube: Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline,” The Shirley Bassey Show, 1974