Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline must rank as the number one sports celebratory anthem, sung by euphoric crowds in football stadia, cricket grounds and all sorts of other venues around the world. Not that Neil Diamond would have envisaged that when he wrote the song for his then-wife Marcia, back in 1969 (that’s 53 years ago!).
Here it is …
So, why has this song been so successful? Like most Neil Diamond songs, it is incredibly simple in terms of its harmonic structure, mostly A, D and E major chords with a few additional flourishes (actually it’s in B major, but Diamond plays it with a capo on the second fret, so as far as he’s concerned it’s A, D and E). But many, many great songs are based on simple chord patterns, so there must be more at play.
Putting aside the composition for a moment we start with a great basis: a catchy lyric, Diamond’s deep resounding voice, a driving 4/4 beat and a good arrangement.
The song is characterised by a lengthy build up to the chorus, which builds tension so that the chorus offers a massive release. It starts with a repeated phrase played by the horns in the introduction, which ascends in pitch and volume to finish on four big chords:
The verse also uses a repeated motif, which this time descends. I’ve marked the motif in red:
Then, in the pre-chorus, another repeated motif ascends to the dominant E:
And finally we get to the chorus with those big spaces which crowds and audiences all over the world like to fill for themselves – “oh, oh, oh” and “so good, so good, so good”.
And the build-up begins again.
Strangely, there are few songs that go for the build-up in such a big way. That definitely leaves a gap in the market that songwriters would do well to try and fill.