Neil Sedaka named this song for the songwriter Carole King. They went to Abraham Lincoln High in Brooklyn, New York along with Neil Diamond. Carol (as her birth name of Carol Klein, before she picked the stage-surname of "King") first came into Neil Sedaka's life as a member of the Linc-Tones, the first group that Sedaka hustled together out of high school. Despite what impression Neil might have left, they did not date.
Neil Sedaka's career was on the rocks before this song. At Aldon music, producer and longtime friend Don Kirshner gave Sedaka the following advice: "Write a song with the girl's name in the title. Talk in the middle like The Diamonds did in 'Little Darlin'.'"
Sedaka, who co-wrote the song with Howard Greenfield, recalls the inspiration slightly differently. He studied Billboard magazine, and says, "I looked at the #1 record in every country in the world and analyzed it. And that's how Howie and I wrote 'Oh! Carol.' I took the beat, I took the drum licks, I took the guitar licks, I took the harmony changes, and I went to school on them. Howie wrote the lyrics in twenty minutes but was embarrassed. He thought it was terrible. But it was exactly what I wanted."
This was Sedaka's first Top 10 hit - his first charting hit was "The Diary" in 1958 at #14. It's easy to see from here where he gets that swagger. You see, Rich Podolsky's book Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear tells us that in school, Neil was the nerdy kid who'd rather practice piano than play football, so he got picked on a lot. That all changed when he performed at the Lincoln High School Ballyhoo Variety Show, with a song called "Mr. Moon," a lively bump-n-grind example of what was then considered the "new rock n roll." The audience went crazy over it, but the principle called Neil into his office and forbid him from ever playing the song in school again, saying, "I will not tolerate that kind of reaction among the students." The student body actually signed a petition to demand that the school allow Neil to play the song again at a talent show, again to an adoring audience. You'd be pretty sassy too, with a back-story like that.
"Oh! Carol" was co-written with Howard Greenfield, a longtime collaborator of Sedaka. In the aforementioned book, the story is that Sedaka and Greenfield were neighbors as kids; Sedaka would play piano in his apartment, and Greenfield's mother urged him to go meet him. Thus, they first worked together when Sedaka was 13 and Greenfield was 16.
The ladies singing falsetto behind Sedaka's middle spoken bridge are The Kittens, a girl trio group who Al Nevins had hanging around the studio. When Sedaka recorded, everybody thought something was missing. Nevins turned to The Kittens and asked them to fill in.
Carole King released an answer song later in 1959 called "Oh, Neil," which was written by Sedaka, Greenfield, and King's husband, Gerry Goffin. That one begins:
Oh Neil I've loved you for so long I never dreamed You'd put me in song
In the UK, this was Sedaka's biggest hit, reaching #3 in 1959. In 1972, it was re-issued there, reaching #19. This was a big deal, as Sedaka hadn't made the Top 40 in any country since 1963. He moved with his family to England, where he worked on his album Sedaka's Back, striking a deal with Elton John to release it on Elton's new label, Rocket Records. The first single, "Laughter In The Rain," did well in the UK and went to #1 in America, returning him to glory.
Other acts to cover this song include The Four Seasons, Blue Diamonds, The Hep Stars, and General Saint featuring Don Campbell, this last a UK hit.
Dwight from Virginia Beach, VaI stand corrected, Carole King was born Carol Klein ... thus Oh Carol ... I should've researched that first !!!
Dwight from Virginia Beach, Va... I accept the premise that Neil wrote the song for Carole King. If he did, why wasn't the song named Oh Carole ???
Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumCarole King and Neil Sedaka going together to school and falling in love. A very good song.
Alf from Kingston, CanadaMy sister had the album with all these songs on it, the RCA label with the puppy looking in the horn on the phonograph. when I was about 4 I thought it was a female singing, lol & wondered why a woman would be singing Oh Carol! Neil Sedaka's stuff is awesome! The song Sweet Little You has a similar piano part as Ernie K Doe's Mother In Law song. I'm not sure who wrote or who recorded it 1st but Ernie K Doe's song entered Billboard on March 27, 1961 & Neil's Sweet Little You entered Billboard on August 28, 1961.
Chinchu from Guayaquil, South AmericaThis was one of the first "product" songs, you know, a song that was written to hit the charts. Sedaka analyzed hit songs of that time and united them in this hit...
Darrell from Eugene, United StatesI wrote a version of this about myself in 1983, and I stopped singing it because everyone thought that I was a narcissist, extremely vain and/or in love with myself. Therefore, nary a copy of "Oh Darrell" still exists, the last having been burned in my wood stove in 1991.
Eva from Brisbane, AustraliaThe song "Oh Carol" is a very beautiful song, it is very romantic. Neil Sedaka rocks!
Mary from San Jose, Cai love the song called oh carol
Qubad from Mumbai, Msplease mail me this song this is one of the favourite songs of mine
Sanjaya from Kathmandu, IndiaDEAR SIR SEDAKA ! I AM A POP SINGER IN NEPAL AND I LIKE THE SONG "OH CAROL" VERY MUCH. I MADE A NEPALI REMIX OF "OH CAROL". I WOULD BE HIGHLY THANKFUL IF YOU WOULD SUGGEST AND GIVE ME FORMAL AUTHORIZATION THROUGH E-MAIL SO THAT I MAY RELEASE THE NEPALI REMIX "OH CAROL".
SINCERELY SANJAYA SHARMA NEPAL
Cengiz from Istanbul, TurkeyCarole King write 'Oh Neil' (1960), an answer to Sedaka's hit single, 'Oh Carol', that he had written about Carole King.