Story transcripts

Song Bird

Friday, November 16, 2012

Reporter: Charles Wooley
Producers: Steven Burling, Phil Goyen

She's had one hundred hit singles and written songs for The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Kylie Minogue and Adele.

Carole King is, quite simply, the most successful and prolific female songwriter of all time.

In fact, over the last fifty years, her music has been recorded by one thousand singers.

For those too young or too befuddled to recall the 1960s and early seventies, the songs of Carole King provide a perfect snapshot of the time.

It was an age when love and optimism reigned supreme and the earth moved in quite wonderful ways.

Carole King's The Natural Woman tour dates:

Canberra - Royal Theatre - Thursday, February 7
Brisbane - Entertainment Centre - Wednesday, February 13
Sydney - Entertainment Centre - Thursday, February 14
Hunter Valley - Hope Estate Winery - Saturday, February 16
Melbourne - The Plenary - Monday, February 18
Adelaide - Festival Theatre - Wednesday, February 20

King will also perform at Leeuwin Estate Winery, Margaret River, WA on February 9-10. Tickets on sale now at www.leeuwinestate.com.au.

Tickets:

All shows will go on sale at 9am on Friday, November 23.

My Live Nation members will be the first to access tickets during the exclusive pre-sale beginning midday on Monday, November 19. Head to www.livenation.com.au to register.

Ticket agent pre-sales go on sale at midday Thursday, November 22.

For complete tour and ticket information, visit: www.caroleking.com or www.livenation.com.au.

Full transcript:

STORY – CHARLES WOOLEY: I’ve never said this at the beginning of an interview, but your achievements are so prodigious I really don’t know where to start.

CAROLE: Well, pick one.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Okay, well let’s -

CAROLE: Thank you, by the way.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Let me name some songs. Ah, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, ‘Locomotion’, ‘One Fine Day’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, ‘I Feel the Earth Move’, and that’s just the tip, just the tip of the Carole King iceberg.

CAROLE: Well, I’ve lived. I’m now - this year I’ve turned 70, and in all that time - I’ve been writing songs for a very long time, and the lucky thing for me is that people like them, but that’s why there’s so many of them.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Carole King’s amazing musical dream run began way back in 1960, when at only 17 years of age she wrote “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”. Recorded by the The Shirelles, the first black girl band to top the American charts, it was co-written with first husband Gerry Goffin. “Will You Still Love Me” was the first of an astonishing 100 number ones for Carole King - a feat that’s unlikely ever to be beaten.

CAROLE: When a person is creative, you must write, you must have some of that when you’re writing, and the words just flow out of your pen or your computer or whatever. That’s what happens when I’m truly present - I get out of the way and all this stuff comes through.

CHARLES WOOLEY: And that is the question, isn’t it? If we knew where it came from, we would know how to do it, and there would be no great mystery to writing a great song.

CAROLE: But even if I - I am someone who knows how to do it, and is lucky enough to have it come through.

CHARLES WOOLEY: You know how to build it.

CAROLE: And I can still feel that sense of “oh my God, this is so beautiful. It’s coming through me and I’m watching it at the same time, and I’m so moved but I can’t sing it.” This happens sometimes when I’m performing. “You’ve Got a Friend” is one of the songs.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Well, there’s never a dry eye in the house, Carole.

CAROLE: Never a dry eye in the house, and the problem is -

CHARLES WOOLEY: Including me.

CAROLE: Including my own, but I have to, you know, think about something else so that I can stay focussed on being the channel for it, to get to the people instead of being one of the people affected by it.

CHARLES WOOLEY: In the 1960s, Carole King was part of the great American hit-making machine. Song after song written by King & Goffin became signature pieces for that decade’s biggest names. From Herman’s Hermits to Dusty Springfield, and even the Monkees, she was writing the soundtrack for the lives of a whole generation. And you had a marked effect on some people’s lives. I mean, I believe some of your songs have led to childbirth.

CAROLE: They have indeed. I’ve heard those stories, and I always go “Too much information, TMI”.

CHARLES WOOLEY: When we think of Aretha Franklin, we think of “Natural Woman”.

CAROLE: If I may say, many, many people have sung “Natural Woman”, most better than I. Aretha’s is the definitive version.

CHARLES WOOLEY: But yours ain’t bad.

CAROLE: Mine is another thing. Mine is not that great soaring vocal. It’s - here’s how I can sing this song, and it’s honest and it’s real and it’s authentic, and so that’s the appeal of that. But when it comes to just a presentation, Aretha.

CHARLES WOOLEY: When Aretha Franklin sang “Natural Woman” in 1967, it was a tumultuous time in the United States. Aside from the social and political upheaval, the music business was forced to adapt as a new wave of performers, led by the Beatles, launched an assault on the United States.

CAROLE: They changed the music business in a big, big way, because before that we songwriters could write for artists who needed songs. They didn’t needs songs, and neither did anyone else in the British invasion as we called it. The Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers, all the artists that came over that wrote their own songs, and then there was Bob Dylan coming up on the folk side. Again, a lot of singers writing their own songs, so that was a big change for us. It’s like “Oh, what do we do now?”.

CHARLES WOOLEY: You wrote melodies in a sense, and co-operated on songs, often - mostly initially for other people. Was that a great amount of generosity on your part, or was it -

CAROLE: No, it’s -

CHARLES WOOLEY: If I could sing like you, I’m saying, and I had those lyrics, I’d be so jealous I’d be doing them myself.

CAROLE: But I never thought of myself as a singer, and I think I grew into becoming one.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Mmm.

CAROLE: And to this day, they may review a performance and say “Well, her voice cracked on the high notes.” Duh, I’m not a singer.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Had it not been for her long-time friend and collaborator James Taylor, Carole King might have remained in the shadows - an almost anonymous songwriter.

CHARLES WOOLEY: James Taylor it was who really convinced you to get out there in the spotlight, and be a performer.

CAROLE: He - it was more than convinced, he said “you’re going to sing ‘Up on the Roof’” and “No, no, no, please, please don’t make me do it.”

CHARLES WOOLEY: You were on tour.

CAROLE: We – yeah, we were on a sort of a mini college weekend tour thing, and he did -

CHARLES WOOLEY: He dragged you out to sing your song, introduced you as the writer -

CAROLE: Introduced me and said -

CHARLES WOOLEY: And people said “oh, did she write that song?”.

CAROLE: They did do that, they, it was like “Oh.”

CHARLES WOOLEY: Of course they did.

CAROLE: Well he - he set me up.

CHARLES WOOLEY: How did you feel about this? You were white knuckled.

CAROLE: I was terrified, and I began to sing and it was very timid, and then as I, you know, got into it more, I could feel that little shift that, you know, where people were open to the idea but I had to win them over. But I didn’t know how to win them over, so I just sang the song, and there was a shift and they were with me. And once that happened, I have rarely had moments of lack of confidence.

CHARLES WOOLEY: This newfound confidence encouraged Carole King to record what became one of the biggest selling albums of all time. It sold 25 million copies. A rich collection of songs called “Tapestry,” about love and heartache. King has been married four times - she should know a bit about the subject. What are your conclusions about love and its place in the human condition?

CAROLE: Can’t live without it.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Can’t live with it either.

CAROLE: Well, sometimes can’t live with it, but can’t live without it. Love is - it’s the best, and everybody should have it. You know, I’m playing this for my son and his wife, my daughter-in-law, and he starts going “I believe in loving and loving love, and loving love, and love and love.” So he was totally busting me on the generation gap, because there’s not a lot of songs about loving love and believing in all that, but I did remind him that it paid for his college - loving love.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Yeah, it has worked for a long time.

CAROLE: Yes.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Apart from her family, Carole is also passionate about President Obama and the environment, but don’t expect her to be preaching about either subject when she visits Australia on tour early next year.

CAROLE: I don’t discuss my politics in a show unless it’s a political show. The rest of the time it’s a non-partisan stage, and people need to know that. I don’t fault other artists for doing it, I’ve just made that choice. You come to hear me in concert and that’s what you’re paying for. If you were coming to a political concert -

CHARLES WOOLEY: Sure.

CAROLE: You will get an earful.

CHARLES WOOLEY: Your book “Natural Woman” notes quite wittily that “old rock and rollers never die, we just lose track of time”.

CAROLE: Yes, we do. It’s - you go “where did 70 years go?” or “where did however many years I was conscious?”. We do lose track.

CHARLES WOOLEY: But you’re not finished yet.

CAROLE: No, I’m not finished. I’m - you know, I’m here until they decide they want to take me off the mortal coil.

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