Neil Diamond, Dr. Jack Steinberg and Idina Menzel

Nate Bloom blogs on this week's Jews in the News.



Sweet Caroline at the World Cup, Menzel and Bellow Documentaries


NEIL DIAMOND, 81, retired from performing in 2018 following a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. But I recently read he made a special appearance last June at Fenway Park in Boston to lead the Red Sox crowd in singing his song, “Sweet Caroline”. (For 20 years, Diamond’s recording of “Caroline” has played at every Sox game. The crowd always sings-along).


Not long ago, I found a Youtube video of Diamond singing “Caroline” last June. To my surprise, “surrounding” the Fenway video were many Youtube videos of U.K. soccer fans singing “Sweet Caroline” to boost their local or national team. Yes, some American college team fans also sing “Sweet Caroline”, but the number of U.K. soccer fans singing “Caroline” dwarfs the American “singer” numbers. It is amazing to see packed European stadiums with thousands singing “Caroline”.


“Caroline” became popular (around 2005) with boosters of Northern Ireland teams. Then it spread to English teams. In 2020, the fans sang it when the English National (soccer) team played in the “Euros” final ( Youtube video). In 2022, the English National Women’s team, the Lionesses, won the Euro Cup. Right after the victory, fans and players “screamed-out” “Sweet Caroline” (video).  


Now posted is a Youtube video of American and English fans jointly singing  “Caroline” at the U.K./U.S. World Cup match (Nov. 25). And I just came across the fans of a Dutch team singing “Caroline”.


I think “Caroline” is so popular for two main reasons: (1) Over the last 20 years, Sox fans “morphed it” into a crowd-participation song (such as repeating, several times, the lyric “so good”) and (2) “Caroline” isn’t some hyper-masculine, fight song. It’s “sweet”. It’s for everybody and not hostile to anyone.


Backstory: In 1997, Amy Tobey, who was in charge of music played at Sox games, added “Sweet Caroline”. But she would only play it once a week. Enter Dr. JACK STEINBERG, who became the Sox V-P for public affairs in 2002. He quickly noticed how popular the song was with fans and he directed that it be played at every game. The rest is history.


Dr. Steinberg, now about 75, had a pro baseball background (a sort-of office intern),  before he became a dentist. He maintained a hand in dentistry and in pro baseball public affairs for a long time. When he was interviewed by the San Diego Jewish paper in 1999, he was the San Diego Padres team dentist and (!) their public affairs V-P. He is now the owner of a Red Sox minor league team.


On Dec. 9, Disney+ will begin streaming a documentary about singer/actress IDINA MENZEL, 51. Entitled, “Which Way to the Stage”, the film will cover her life and career. It will end with her headlining a Madison Square Garden concert.


Menzel’s first big break came as a star of the hit stage musical “Rent” (1996). She became nationally well known as a star of the musical “Wicked” (2003). Worldwide fame followed as she provided the voice of Elsa in the mega-hit “Frozen” series of animated flicks.


Nobel Prize winner SAUL BELLOW (1915-2005) is the subject of a new American Masters documentary profile. Its entitled “The Adventures of Saul Bellow” and it premieres on Dec. 12 (Check your local PBS station for exact time. Also, on the PBS app/website).  Many prominent writers, including Salman Rushdie and the late PHILIP ROTH, were interviewed for the documentary.


Bellow was born in Canada. His parents were very poor immigrants. When he was 9, his (Orthodox) family “sneaked” into America (they eventually got legal status) and settled in Chicago, where Bellow lived most of his life.The title of the PBS special references “The Adventures of Augie March” (1953), a novel that won the National Book award for best fiction and established Bellow as a major author and a key “player” in the flowering of American Jewish literature in the ‘50s and ‘60s.


The American Masters site says: [The film covers] “Saul Bellow's impact on American literature and how he navigated through issues of his time, including race, gender and the Jewish immigrant experience… He illuminated 20th-century American life through philosophical depth and a wild sense of humor. Some of the greatest American writers alive today credit him as their main inspiration.”


Bellow had tremendous energy. He kept on writing and teaching well into his ‘80s. He had energy in another way: He was married five times. Four wives were Jewish. All his marriages, save his last, ended in divorce. He had four children, all with Jewish wives. First, he had three sons. Then he had a daughter with his last, Jewish wife. Bellow was 84 years old when his daughter was born (2000).

I couldn’t find another Nobel Prize winner who became a father at such an advanced age. Other “geniuses”, like Charlie Chaplin and Picasso, fathered a child in their ‘70s. But not in their ‘80s. 


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