Friday, July 6, 2012

Neil Diamond--Sweet Caroline (1969)

     Neil Diamond is one of the few songwriters left (along with Carole King) who's musical heritage flows directly through the Brill Building which is the 60's equivalent of Tin Pan Alley. He began as a pure pop singer who crafted some of the best songs of the late 60's/early 70's. His desire to become a more "serious" songwriter took him to some strange places musically and didn't always work, but his attempts were fascinating, and  often took flight as successful hits.
     Neil was born in Brooklyn in 1941 to parents of Russian and Polish ancestry. He had taken an interest in music early on, but began to sing and play the guitar during his teen years. He was known in high school as a fine fencer, and in fact was given a scholarship to New York University in fencing and would eventually be on the US Men's championship team.  He originally intended to study medicine, but during his senior year, switched to the NYU's School of Commerce and retained his student status until 1965, but from that time on his focus was on being a songwriter/singer. It was in 1965 that one of his compositions, "Sunday and Me" was recorded by Jay & The Americans and hit the top twenty, the first of his songs to become a hit.
     He had his first charting song as a solo artist in 1966, "Solitary Man" reached about the midway point of the hot 100. It's follow up, "Cherry Cherry" reached the top ten and his career as singer/songwriter was on it's way.  A string of top 20 hits for him and others (most notably The Monkees) continued through 66' and 67'. As the next year opened however, artists were beginning to do more "serious" work musically and Diamond was showing discontent of writing just pure pop songs. This disagreement with his record label, "Bang Records", let him to leave the label and sign an contract with Uni. This was to lead him to some of his more enduring records.
     Before 1969 was over he had scored first with, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" then with his biggest hit up to that time, "Sweet Caroline". In an interview on Dec. of 2011, Diamond attributed the name Caroline to Caroline Kennedy. He said that a magazine cover photo of her as a young child on a horse with her parents in the background created an image in his mind, and that the rest of the song came together about five years after seeing the picture.
     The song reached number 4 in late 1969 and set in motion a very prosperous five year period for the singer. He had bigger hits, "Cracklin' Rosie" (#1 1970),  "Song, Sung Blue" (#1 1974), "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" (#1 1978), "Love On The Rocks (#2 1980), but none has stayed in the public imagination more than this one.



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