Don’t hate me, but I had no idea who Carole King was before last night.
Well, not really.
Sure, I knew and loved her songs, both the ones she wrote, composed and performed and those belted out by some of the greats in the industry. But I didn’t know her story, her rocky road to the icon she is today – and boy is it a good one.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” opened last night at the Winspear Opera House as part of AT&T Performing Art Center’s Broadway Series. In its first national tour, the musical traces the career of King from a teenager looking to sell one of her songs to her triumphant career as a solo artist. The 2014 feel-good hit and recipient of two Tony Awards was described by The New York Times as “A complex, revitalizing portrait of the real, conflicted person within the reluctant star.”
Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice.
The musical begins in the home of Carol Klein, a talented teenager living in Brooklyn with her mother who pushes her to pursue a career in education rather than entertainment. A little digging into the artist’s early years, it’s easy for me to understand why she was persistent to follow her dreams. By the time Carol was four years old, she had developed a sense of absolute pitch, which enabled her to often name a note correctly by just hearing it. One might say she was destined to become one of the 20th Century’s best-selling stars.
She didn’t do it alone, though.
It was actually her co-writing with husband Gerry Goffin that gets her noticed. For years, the duo was the songwriting team behind Don Kirshner’s Dimension Records, helping many of singers rise to the top of the charts with hits such as “The Loco-Motion” for their babysitter Little Eva, “Take Good Care of My Baby” for Bobby Vee, and “Up on the Roof” for the Drifters.
What a prolific time it must have been to be a part of a music industry in that time, where hits were churned out in masses, and then to see the entire game shook up by artists such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Fun fact: King and her husband wrote The Beatles song “Chains.”
Getting a behind the scenes look at how some of the music came to be and then listening to it be performed took me back to my childhood when my mother would play the oldies channel in the car.
I’m pretty sure this musical was a walk down memory lane for everyone in the crowd.
The musical also gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look into King’s home life with a husband who (in my non-professional opinion) floats in and out of the manic and depressive phases of Bipolar Disease.
In the heartbreak of her two-time cheating husband, King finds both the courage to say “enough” and in her own ability to record and perform a series of songs she wrote in the aftermath. Recording her own music in 1971 marked a massive change in the music industry for the singer-songwriter trend.
She also happened to win a Grammy for Best Album, Record of the Year (It’s too Late), Song of the Year (You’ve Got a Friend), and Best Female Pop Vocalist, in 1972 for her album Tapestry. She went on to receive three more Grammys, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for “Popular Song,” and was inducted into the Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for songwriting.
What can I say: I loved it. It was a rocking good time. The acting and singing were impeccable. It was funny. It was sad. Go see it!!
The musical will be at the Winspear through Sunday, June 23. Tickets are available here.