Why Elvis Presley’s Friend Didn’t Like His Cover of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’

Elvis Presley covered numerous songs over the curse of his career, including Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” During an interview, his friend Marty Lacker revealed why the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll decided to cover the song. Lacker said he was greatly disappointed in Elvis’ “Sweet Caroline” for a very specific reason.

Elvis Presley holding a guitar
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marty Lacker felt Elvis Presley lost the plot after these famous studio sessions

According to Goldmine, Lacker was a friend, confidant, and employee of Elvis. He was present for the January/February 1969 sessions at American Sound Studios where the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll produced four of his most acclaimed late-period hits: “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Kentucky Rain,” and “Don’t Cry Daddy.” Lacker saw these sessions as an artistic rebirth for the “Heartbreak Hotel” singer following years of lackluster songs. Lacker felt this rebirth was short-lived.

“In my opinion, after the American sessions in ’69, from 1970 onward he lost it again,” Lacker said. “Here’s a good example. When Elvis finally started to do songs onstage, what does he do? He picked songs that were cut at American.”

Why Marty Lacker felt Elvis Presley’s cover of ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond was lacking

Lacker expressed disappointment with two of the cover songs Elvis released in the early 1970s. “He did ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ by B.J. Thomas and ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond,” Lacker remembered. “He heard those songs on the radio and did them because he liked them. However, when he did them with the TCB band, ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘I Just Can’t Help Believin” came nowhere near the originals because they lost the feel. I can’t emphasize enough how creative the American Studio musicians were.”

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How the public reacted to the 2 versions of ‘Sweet Caroline’

The original version of “Sweet Caroline” was a massive hit. The track reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the charts for 14 weeks. Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” earned a sort of immortality through its association with the Boston Red Sox. This association became a plot point in Seth MacFarlane’s comedy Ted.

On the other hand, Elvis’ version of the song languishes in obscurity. His rendition appeared on the album On Stage, also known as On Stage: February, 1970. On Stage features many cover songs, including Elvis’ versions of The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” and Joe South’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

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Elvis’ “Sweet Caroline” was not released as a single, so it didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It never became an anthem for Red Sox fans the way that Diamond’s rendition did, even though Elvis is arguably a lot more famous than Diamond. On Stage, however, was a modest success. It reached No. 13 on the Billboard 200, staying on the charts for 20 weeks. While Lacker was not a fan of Elvis’ “Sweet Caroline,” it certainly made its way into many listeners’ hands.