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Music Friday: Neil Diamond Retires Due to Parkinson's Diagnosis; Ride Has Been 'So Good, So Good, So Good’ January 26, 2018

Welcome to Music Friday when we normally bring you fun songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we bend the rules just a bit to pay tribute to the incomparable Neil Diamond, who was forced to cancel the third leg of his year-long, worldwide golden anniversary tour due to a Parkinson's diagnosis.

Diamond made the announcement on Monday, just two days short of his 77th birthday.

“It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring,” said the Brooklyn native. “I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years. My thanks go out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you.”

Diamond's "so good" comment is a nod to his timeless 1969 hit, "Sweet Caroline," a song that has been woven into the fabric of American culture. Played at sporting events from coast to coast, when Diamond sings the line, "Good times never seemed so good," the crowd chants back, "So good, so good, so good."

Originally believed to be an ode to Caroline Kennedy, the then-11-year-old daughter of late President John F. Kennedy, "Sweet Caroline" was actually written for Diamond's second wife, Marcia.

Diamond revealed the truth during a 2014 appearance on the Today show.

"I was writing a song in Memphis, Tenn., for a session. I needed a three-syllable name," Diamond said. "The song was about my wife at the time — her name was Marcia — and I couldn't get a 'Marcia' rhyme."

The song was released in the summer of 1969 and zoomed to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Over the course of his 56-year career as a singer-songwriter-musician, Diamond has sold more than 130 million albums worldwide and placed 38 singles in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. None has been more enduring than "Sweet Caroline." The song has been covered by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Julio Iglesias and many more.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Diamond was a member of Erasmus Hall High School’s Chorus and Choral Club along with close friend Barbara Streisand. Diamond got his first inspiration to write his own songs when folk singer Pete Seeger visited a summer camp he was attending as a teenager.

“And the next thing, I got a guitar when we got back to Brooklyn, started to take lessons and almost immediately began to write songs,” he told Rolling Stone.

Just 10 credits short of an undergraduate degree from New York University, Diamond dropped out of college to take a 16-week assignment writing songs for Sunbeam Music Publishing. The job paid $50 per week. Later in his career, he would joke, “If this darn songwriting thing hadn’t come up, I would have been a doctor now.”

Please check out the rare video of a 33-year-old Diamond singing "Sweet Caroline" on the Shirley Bassey Show in 1974. The lyrics are below, but you probably already know the words...

"Sweet Caroline"
Written and performed by Neil Diamond.

Where it began, I can't begin to knowing
But then I know it's growing strong
Was in the spring
Then spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I'd be inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don't seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I'm holding you

One, touching one
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I'd be inclined
To believe they never would
Oh no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believe they never could

Sweet Caroline

Credit: Screen capture via