I’m on the verge of making a retraction. Sort of. See, I’ve always hated Neil Diamond. Always. Possibly just because my Mom did, so I’m willing to admit that it’s a judgment I’ve made without much research. Nonetheless, I’ve always associated the guy with bad hair, ugly leisure suits, and overly-emotional ballads. And there’s not much he can do at this point about the hair and the clothes. But. He sings “Sweet Caroline”, a song that does for my daughter what “Jessie’s Girl” did for me as a kid. (According to You Tube, Wikipedia and nearly every other Google Search result, it really is spelled “Jessie’s Girl”.)
I remember my Dad explaining that the “Jessie” in the song was a guy, but I really didn’t care. I came up with some bizarre logic of my own by which, since I was Jessie (even though I spelled my name “Jesse” at that time), and since I was a girl, I could be both Jessie and Jessie’s girl. Yeah. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, nor did it then. But. The point is that I loved that song. Rick Springfield was singing my name, and there was no faster way for Dad to make me happy than to use his home studio to play me Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and The Who’s “Athena” (from It’s Hard) at top volume.
Caroline is the same way with Neil Diamond. Way back in her Gan Shalom days, Miss Denise used to sing her “Sweet Caroline” all day at school. When we first moved to Montgomery, we went to a minor league ballgame, and that was the song playing as we entered the stadium before the first pitch. One of her many nicknames is “sweet girl” because she’s such a cuddlebug. So she’s got some crazy logic about how the song is about exactly her because she’s both “sweet” and “Caroline”. This has me softening considerably towards Mr. D. (Note, she’s actually named for a different musical Caroline, the one who’s “feelin’ down today” in the portion of “Fallin’ In And Out of Love With You” that precedes Pure Prairie League’s “Amie”. And also for Scott’s great grandmother Caroline.)
Scott and I helped Linda and her husband Robert move across town this weekend. (I should say “Scott helped”. I played in the pool with the kids, which nominally allowed the other adults to work without them underfoot. ) Anyway, I wound up with some swag in the form of Robert’s entire CD collection. (I cannot believe he was getting rid of them. I swear I picked out at least fifty new discs.) Robert, as it turns out, is a Diamond fan. So we suddenly went from owning zero copies of “Sweet Caroline” to owning five.
And my sweet Caroline has taken over the car CD player, running her song in a continuous loop that would make me revert to my previous stance about dear Neil if it weren’t so utterly cute. The version she likes best is live, and she sits in the back seat waiting for the audience to hum along so she can sing with them. And her little voice is so pretty, so lilting that after just once listening to her accompaniment, everybody else in the car, Sam included, bursts into the chorus because we’re so excited about what she just sang.
And she has no idea. None. For her, all that matters is that Neil Diamond is singing her name, straight to her. As far as she’s concerned, the rest of us are excited about the same thing, not about the lovely, tuneful little melody she just hummed with the audience.
There’s more to this story, but I think I’ll stop there for now and continue with Sam’s song another night.