How Did 'Sweet Caroline' Become England's Unofficial Football Anthem in Euro 2020

As the referee blew the full-time whistle at the Wembley Stadium that marked the end of extra time of the second semi-final between and Denmark there was a chorus being sung in unison inside the Wembley Stadium.

 

 

England fans all across the stadium broke out into the chorus of Neil Diamond’s hit song ‘Sweet Caroline’ with the England players and later joining them to sing the 1969 hit.

Ever since England’s last-16 win over Germany at the same venue, the Neil Diamond hit has been belted out by the Three Lions fans at any and every opportunity during their run to the final.

FootTheBall takes a look at why the soft rock song from the late 1960s has become an unofficial anthem for England’s men’s national football team in Euro 2020

 

THE ORIGINS OF ‘SWEET CAROLINE’

‘Sweet Caroline’ was written by American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond for American president John F. Kennedy’s then 11-year old daughter. In an interview he mentioned that seeing a picture of a young Caroline on a horse with her parents created an image in his mind.

 

Sweet Caroline

Caroline Kennedy (centre) with her mother First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (left) and father John F. Kennedy (right) (Image courtesy – today.com)

 

And the remainder of the song formed about five years later after he saw that picture on a magazine cover. The song was arranged by Charles Calello and was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee at the American Sound Studio.

 

Sweet Caroline

Neil Diamond wrote the song after seeing Caroline Kennedy on a magazine cover (Image courtesy – Twitter/ Neil Diamond)

 

Diamond also sung the song on the occasion of Caroline Kennedy’s 50th birthday in 2007. Kennedy is the only surviving child of John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

She is an author, attorney and diplomat who was the United States ambassador to Japan for four years from 2013 to 2017

 

HOW DID IT BECOME ENGLAND’S UNOFFICIAL FOOTBALL ANTHEM?

Whenever one comes across England fans celebrating their national team’s win, one pictures them singing ‘It’s Coming Home’ – a song officially titled ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’, written by David Baddiel and Frank Skinner in collaboration with The Lightning Seeds.

It was intended as England’s football anthem in the build-up to the Euro 96 tournament on home soil. Fans witnessed its resurgence during the 2018 World Cup when England finished in fourth place in Russia.

 

Sweet Caroline

Ian Broudie (left), Frank Skinner and David Baddiel promote Three Lions (Image courtesy – The Guardian website)

 

But England fans were seen singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the conclusion of the Three Lions’ match with Germany in the last-16 in the British capital. The DJ on that day, Tony Parry, recalls going with his gut by playing the 1969 song.

I was going to play Vindaloo, but went with my gut. Even the German fans were belting it out in the end. It’s a song that all fans can enjoy”.

“The match director said in my in-ear, ‘The world’s been closed for 18 months… let ’em have it”

And then on the day of the semi-final, fans were seen singing the Diamond hit as the players were training before the start of the match.

After two hours when England had confirmed its passage to its first-ever major tournament final in 55 years, the party really started all over the country and ‘Sweet Caroline’ was the anthem on everyone’s lips.

There are certain songs that you go, ‘I completely get why this is being sung en masse” said actor Steve Furst, who performs a tribute act to Neil Diamond.

“And a song like Sweet Caroline is in no way a surprise because the Diamond appeal is that he doesn’t overcomplicate anything. That very simple sing-along chorus just makes it perfect, and everyone knows it”.

 

‘Sweet Caroline’ has become a fan favourite with the England supporters in Euro 2020 (Image courtesy – independent.co.uk)

 

“It’s a song that’s got a lot of nostalgic resonance for many of the people who sing it” said Paul Carr, who is professor of popular music analysis at the University of South Wales.

“The big thing is simplicity of the melody, and there’s something in the lyrics,” he added. And it is indeed true that the actual USP of the song are the emotive phrases that are simple at the same time.

For example, “Reaching out, touching me, touching you” are coupled with the anticipatory-style build-up that gives way to a stirring chorus. 

All these qualities make the song a perfect sing-along for everyone who is cheering on for their national team inside or outside the stadium.

 

‘SWEET CAROLINE’ HAS GOT PLENTY OF FANS ALL ACROSS THE BOARD

And it is not only that this song has become popular during England’s Euro 2020 run to the final, it was played by Arsenal after their 2017 FA Cup semi-final win. It has also been played by the Northern Irish football team and their fans.

‘Sweet Caroline’ might just eclipse ‘Three Lions’ given its appeal among England supporters right now. And even the co-writer of ‘Three Lions’, Frank Skinner thinks that it is better than the latter song.

 

Sweet Caroline

England manager Gareth Southgate is a fan of ‘Sweet Caroline’ (Image courtesy – The Guardian website)

 

“I thought Sweet Caroline went slightly better than Three Lions in the post-match sing-song. I felt like we’d beat Germany and lost to Neil Diamond in extra time” Skinner said after the Germany game.

The England squad have definitely performed better whenever the song is played on speakers at the Wembley Stadium and even the gaffer is a huge fan of the Neil Diamond song.

“You can’t beat a bit of Neil Diamond” Gareth Southgate said while speaking to ITV before Wednesday’s game with Denmark. “It’s just a really joyous song, I think, that brings people together”

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