1971 proved to be a landmark year in music which saw the release of albums such as David Bowie’s ‘Hunky Dory’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, and Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’. Keeping these releases good company was Carole King’s magnum opus ‘Tapestry’, which, 45 years later, still managed to draw a crowd of 60,000 people to Hyde Park.
Hailed as the definitive record for women exploring independence, friendship, love, and loss, by 1971 King was already established as a popular songwriter for other artists including Aretha Franklin and The Shirelles’. Her divorce from husband and song writing partner Gerry Goffin sparked a creative period which culminated in Tapestry.
Billed as the first time she has ever played the album live in its entirety in the UK, ‘timeless’ seemed to be the word on everyone’s lips. Judging by the crowd demographic, which mostly consisted of mothers and daughters, this wouldn’t be an unfair assumption. Striding onstage following a video message (from President Obama and Tom Hanks no less), King launched into ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ backed by her incredible band and a choir of 60,000 audience members singing along. What struck me the most was the sheer musicianship displayed by King whose skills as a pianist never once faltered. Judging her by the original 1971 recording, her voice remains as raw and mellifluous as ever, perhaps best exemplified by when she sang ‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘Way Over Yonder’.
Up tempo tunes including ‘Beautiful’ elicited huge crowd singalongs and it was hard not to be won over by her vivacity and optimism. There was a lovely moment when her daughter Louise Goffin (also a musician) joined her onstage for an emotional rendition of ‘Where You Lead’ and ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ She remarked in between songs, ‘So this is what 74 feels like’, and it was indeed an awe-inspiring thing to watch King dance onstage with her guitar (in 4 inch heels!). Although a huge medley of her tunes made popular by other artists like ‘The Loco-Motion’ got crammed into a 10-minute slot, she more than made up for it by bringing the West End cast of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ onstage. After an upbeat reprise of ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ the show ended with King’s James Taylor collaboration ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, which made for an emotional ending.
While longevity is just a dream for some musicians, Carole King has formulated the blueprint which everyone aspires to and it is remarkable to see a woman who has been so successful be so humble onstage. If this is indeed what 74 looks like, we can definitely expect more from Carole King in the years to come.
This article was published in our September 2016 issue.