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Neil Diamond reveals 'Sweet Caroline' is about Kennedy daughter

Email|Print| Text size + By Mark Shanahan
Globe Staff / November 20, 2007

That Neil Diamond ditty they play during the eighth inning at Fenway Park? Turns out it's about JFK's daughter.

Breaking years of silence on the subject, Diamond has revealed that Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was the secret inspiration for "Sweet Caroline," the 1969 smash hit that's played at every Red Sox home game.

"I've never discussed it with anybody before -- intentionally," the celebrated singer told the Associated Press this week. "I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday."

Diamond finally got his chance when he performed via satellite last week at the First Daughter's 50th birthday party.

"I'm happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline," he said. "I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy."

Diamond, 66, said he was a "young, broke songwriter" in the '60s when he saw a cute photo of Caroline Kennedy in a magazine. "It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony," he recalled. "It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there."

A few years later, Diamond said he holed up in a Memphis hotel room and wrote the words and music in less than an hour.

"It was a No. 1 record and probably is the biggest, most important song of my career, and I have to thank her for the inspiration," he said.

Attempts to reach Kennedy, who's married to designer Edwin Schlossberg, were unsuccessful today.

Born in 1957, Kennedy was not yet 12 years old when "Sweet Caroline" was released. That the song was inspired by such a young girl is curious considering the lyrics' romantic overtones: "Where it began/I can't begin to knowin'/But then I know it's growing strong/Was in the spring/And spring became the summer/Who'd have believed you'd come along...Hands, touchin' hands/Reachin' out/Touchin' me/Touchin' you."

As a tribute to a Red Sox employee who had named her newborn Caroline, the team began playing "Sweet Caroline" occasionally in 1998. It was an instant fan favorite, and in 2003 the decision was made to play it all the time.

"What I did was make it an everyday anthem," said Dr. Charles Steinberg, VP of public affairs for the Sox. "People used it before only when they thought it might inspire a win, but I thought this song was powerful enough that it might change the atmosphere regardless of how far down we were."

Steinberg said Kennedy and her family attended a game at Fenway in '04, and he asked her if she was the Caroline in question.

"She said, 'No, not as far as I know,'" said Steinberg. "But certainly the notion was present then that it would be so cool if it was about her.

"Wow," said Steinberg. "This makes my day... This makes my year."

The Sox have tried to get Diamond to perform the song at the ballpark, and it nearly happened during the team's recent playoff run.

"Our sound people were talking to his sound people," said Steinberg. "We were ready with the microphone."

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Sox season ticketholder, was thrilled to learn about the Kennedy connection to "Sweet Caroline."

"It's a lovely story," she told us today. "There's something about that song that makes you feel better. It's really become a ritual and now with this news, it seems like it's going to continue."

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