Music legend here on a mission

By Roger Moroney

In a month's time, Carole King, one of the most remarkable songwriters and performers in the history of modern

music, will take the stage at the Mission.

From her ranch in Idaho, she chatted to Roger Moroney about music and heading "back" to Hawke's Bay.

"I can't wait to come back," Carole King said down the line from her rural home up there in the northern Rockies.

That sort of took me by surprise as I couldn't recall her ever playing here.

But her call on the Bay was not music-driven.

"It was some time ago. I was there on a trip with my son and daughter-in-law. We drove all around the North Island and we went to Hawke's Bay. New Zealand is a beautiful place. I love your country," Ms King said.

She was in relaxation mode, staying warm inside against the white winter where she said the temperature was struggling to edge over zero.

Not that she minded too much as one of her passions is cross-country skiing. "Hey, you put plenty of clothes on and keep warm," she said.

And she was still fizzing about Christmas.

"It was wonderful here and I got to celebrate it with three of my five grandchildren."

She has been relaxing because things are going to get a little busy soon.

On February 7 she embarks on a 13-day nine-concert tour of Australia before heading across to the Bay for the Mission Concert, where she will open for Barry Gibb, on February 23.

"Yeah it could get that way [busy]," she said, adding that much of the year would be taken up receiving accolades.

"I've got lots of awards to go to this year, which is nice - it is such an honour."

She is looking forward to taking to the Mission stage, which she had heard plenty about, and while none of her family is coming out with her, plenty of good long-time friends who made up the band for her 2010 Troubadour tour with James Taylor will be with her.

"We'll do some fun stuff, some older stuff; some different arrangements. No real new stuff because I'm not writing much these days," Ms King said.

But in the early years, oh, she wrote some stuff, all right.

Along with Gerry Goffin, she wrote her first No1 hit at the age of just 17, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? for the Shirelles.

The Goffin/King partnership went on to stamp an incredible mark in the legend of popular music.

As they say, the hits just kept on coming.

For many, of a certain age who first encountered Carole King when she released what is arguably her pinnacle work, Tapestry, in 1971, she was the woman who wrote or co-wrote masterpieces like You've Got a Friend, So Far Away, It's Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move and You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman but whoa, there's way more than that.

Since embarking as a teenage songwriter in New York more than 50 years ago, she has had more than 400 of her songs recorded by more than 1000 other artists.

Hit singles? Oh, about 100.

You'll hear them all the time, and are probably not aware it was Ms King who wielded the songwriting pen.

Like Bobby Vee's 1961 hits Take Good Care of My Baby and Run To Him.

Crying in the Rain for the Everly Brothers, Up On the Roof for the Drifters, One Fine Day for the Chiffons, I'm Into Something Good for Herman's Hermits, Pleasant Valley Sunday for the Monkees - the list is too long, there's not enough paper here to handle it.

And, of course, she had her own hits with her own work - the stunning It Might as Well Rain Until September is a recognised classic.

Another couple of fine songwriters, two lads by the name of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, were once quoted as saying all they ever wanted to be was like Goffin and King.

It was probably a question she has heard many, many times before, but I had to ask it and Ms King, bless her, was happy to answer: Does Carole King have a favourite Carole King song?

"A lot of people tell me their favourite is You've Got a Friend. Yeah, that's good with me."

So we'll hear it at the Mission, of course?

"Oh I might do that one," she said with a laugh.

Her own musical tastes?

"I run the whole gamut. I listen to everything from Earth, Wind and Fire to Alicia Keys ... jazz, classical, yeah, I run the gamut."

As her devotion to the environment and political issues reveals, she is a strong and spirited woman who stepped into an essentially male-dominated world of music in the late 1950s.

But, as she explained, they were not hard years to travel through.

"It wasn't tough because the part of a music business I was going into, rock and roll, was a fledgling part of the whole industry. No one really knew where it was going."

Many of those early experiences feature strongly in her acclaimed and top-selling autobiography, A Natural Woman.

She said she wanted to write the book for herself, and for other women, especially those just starting to set sail in life "to educate younger women".

The response has been staggering, with an endless stream of "thank yous" for the inspiration and direction it had given many.

The love of playing and singing has never waned, and she said while the Mission may be an open amphitheatre she would approach it as she did all her concerts.

She sees the audience as just a tight and collective group of friends she wants to play for. She creates a magic, almost one-on-one feel to it.

"And once I get out there it's hard to pull me away," she said, adding she had a little advice for her Mission friends.

"I hope it doesn't get too hot out there for the people in the audience. People at wineries tend to have a pretty good time," she said, before adding "but they have to take it a little easy in the heat."

She may be 70, but she may also be 17. Tireless. Amazing.

Carole King is the special guest artist with Barry Gibb, at the Mission Estate Winery Concert on February 23.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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