NPR logo

Carole King, James Taylor: Together, 40 Years Later

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Carole King, James Taylor: Together, 40 Years Later

Carole King, James Taylor: Together, 40 Years Later

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Im Robert Siegel.

(Soundbite of song, "I Feel the Earth Move")


And Im Melissa Block.

Thinking back almost 40 years, to a needle dropping onto vinyl and this voice.

Ms. CAROLE KING (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) I feel the earth move under my feet. I feel the sky tumbling down...

BLOCK: For me, it was Carole King first. James Taylor got me later.

(Soundbite of song, "Fire and Rain")

Mr. JAMES TAYLOR (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone. Susanne, the plans they made put an end to you...

BLOCK: Carole King and James Taylor were playing together on those albums from the early '70s - King on piano, Taylor on guitar. And now, theyve reunited.

Unidentified Woman: I love you guys.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Ms. KING: We love you, too.

Mr. TAYLOR: We do. We love you.

Ms. KING: Honest to goodness.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

BLOCK: They're near the end of a concert tour, filling arenas around the country. Carole King is 68 now. James Taylor is 62.

(Soundbite of song, "Sweet Baby")

Mr. TAYLOR: (Singing) He said good night you moonlight ladies. Rockabye sweet baby, James.

BLOCK: It's called "The Troubadour Tour," for the club in Los Angeles where Carole King and James Taylor first played together in 1970, and where they discovered just how well they blended.

Mr. TAYLOR: It was an amazingly good fit. It just felt very familiar and as if we were twins separated at birth or something.

Ms. KING: And I have to share with you. When James said that about, you know, separated twins, I just looked at him because I had just had that exact thought.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KING: Because it is like when, you know, the blend that the Everly Brothers have, or family members who sing and play together. Thats in their DNA. To our knowledge, we dont share DNA.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KING: But it feels as if we do.

Mr. TAYLOR: But we really do share very much a sort of musical vocabulary. Our tastes and tendencies, musically, are very parallel.

BLOCK: What is that vocabulary, do you think?

Mr. TAYLOR: There's some things about it that you could you mention. We like the same kind of suspended chords. We have a similar way of sort of voice-leading. Given a melody line, we tend to harmonize in a similar way. We tend to, you know, there are a lot of suspended fourths that we like to use. It's just remarkable how in step we are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KING: Very much.

(Soundbite of song, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?")

Ms. KING: (Singing) Tonight, the light of love is in your eyes, but will you love me tomorrow?

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

BLOCK: Well, take me back 40 years to those first shows at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Youve talked before, James, about first hearing a song at the Troubadour that would become a huge hit for you - a Carole King song.

Mr. TAYLOR: Yeah, it was. My only number one hit, so far, was "Youve Got A Friend." And Ive traveled around the world on that song and played it for audiences over and over again, and it never grows tired for me. It just is - I always make a connection with the tune, and Im brought back to that moment at the Troubadour, when I stood outside the dressing room, which was on the balcony, and looked down at Carole playing her set on the stage below.

And as soon as I heard the tune - and I heard it the first time, I think, it was played in public - to me, it was so compelling musically I just I had to play it. I had to get to a guitar. I was desperate to get to my guitar and just wander through those changes and sing that song.

(Soundbite of song, "Youve Got A Friend")

Mr. TAYLOR: (Singing) You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, Ill come running to see you again...

BLOCK: I can tell you, from sitting in the audience at the arena here in Washington, that -you know, not just on "Youve Got A Friend," but on just about any song you play - "Sweet Baby, James," "Blossom" - all the way through, you know, if you tip your head back, you're just surrounded by this cathedral of voices singing along with you.

And I wonder if you're thinking about the people in the audience, thinking back to the moments of their life where these songs were everything, where they really were the fabric of a certain point in their lives?

Ms. KING: Here's whats interesting to me about that. Yes, we are thinking about that, because we can feel that and it's just sort of one consciousness. But the thing that I continue to find astonishing - and increasingly so as this tour builds momentum - is the number of people for whom it was not the soundtrack of their lives. It was the soundtrack of their parents' and, in some case, grandparents' lives.

Ms. KING (Singing) And call my name out loud. Soon, you'll hear me knocking upon your door, your door, your door. You just call out my name and you know...

BLOCK: James, do you think about - sort of that shared experience, what people are thinking as they're listening to these songs again?

Mr. TAYLOR: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think that live performance is, you know, music has become sort of - it's ubiquitous. You listen to it in the car. You listen to it on your iPod when you're on the treadmill. You listen to it in the frozen foods and in the doctor's waiting room.

But when you go to a concert, thats time that you have put aside and focused on the music. And it really is a, you know, we joke and say, you know, to the audience, we're glad you came; it's not the same without you. But really, you know, it's like going to church for Carole and me. I mean, a lot of it is celebratory and some of it is, you know, irreverent and irrelevant. But it's very uplifting. And it's the thing that keeps you coming back, that keeps you, you know, on the road and touring.

BLOCK: And you have, playing behind you, three musicians who you call the original cast: Danny Kortchmar on guitar, Leland Sklar on bass, Russ Kunkel on drums; guys you were playing with back in 1970-'71. It must feel, I would think, like a backbone, knowing they're there after all this time, backing you up.

Mr. TAYLOR: It's true. We worked for a decade, pretty much, with those guys. And, you know, Kooch(ph) and I got together - Danny Kortchmar and I got together. We met on the Massachusetts shore in, you know, 1962, or something and were in our first bands together. So, for me to look over and see Kooch there is really just - it's a real parallax view, you know.

BLOCK: The rhythm section, too, I would think would be, just knowing that they're - that you know everything, I think, about what they can do, what they can do for you.

Ms. KING: Ill tell you what Russ said to us one night. You know, he said listen, Lee and I are here. We're going to give you this rock-solid foundation. You just go do what you need to do, and we'll be there.

Mr. TAYLOR: You know, it's true. It's a real reunion of Carole and me, and these three guys. It's so cool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TAYLOR: It's great. Anyway...

(Soundbite of cheering)

BLOCK: The night that I saw the show here in Washington, the song that you closed the set with, the final encore - you're sitting side-by-side. You were sorting of leaning against each other doing this just lovely duet of James Taylor, your song, "You Can Close Your Eyes."

Ms. KING: Yep.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: And it's a magical moment.

Ms. KING: It is for us, too, every single time.

(Soundbite of song, "You Can Close Your Eyes")

Mr. TAYLOR and Ms. KING: (Singing) Well, the sun is surely sinking down, but the moon is slowly rising. So this old world must still be spinning around...

Ms. KING: It's down in volume but so intense in emotion for me. But most, most of all, the people in the very highest-up, farthest-away seats, I can feel the energy with us right on stage. It is the most amazing phenomenon I've ever experienced.

(Soundbite of song, "You Can Close Your Eyes")

Mr. TAYLOR and Ms. KING: (Singing) I don't know no love songs, and I can't sing the blues anymore. Oh, but I can sing this song, and you can sing this song when I'm gone.

It won't be long before another day, 'til we go and have a good time. No one's gonna take that time away. You can stay as long as you like.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. KING and Mr. TAYLOR: (Singing) Close your eyes, you can close your eyes.

BLOCK: How did that song come about, James?

Mr. TAYLOR: I wrote it in a hotel room somewhere outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was filming "Two-Lane Blacktop." Joni Mitchell was out, traveling with me. It just, it's one of those things that came really fast. The song showed up and just came through the guitar, out of my mouth really quick. It just was a gift. I love it when that happens. Carole's nodding at me.

Ms. KING: I'm nodding because "You've got a Friend" was - came to me the same way, but I'm also I actually am learning for the first time the genesis of that song, if you can believe that. As long as we know each other, I didn't know that. And to hear you say that, it's like knowing where your brain must have been when you were out there, you know, sort of alone. You were trying to put yourself to sleep.

BLOCK: Does it feel - you've done a number of these shows now, not just this year, but going back - I guess this started in 2007 at the Troubadour, for the reunion. Do you get a sense of an end point - that, okay, we've done this and it was wonderful, and now we're done, and it's time to move on?

Ms. KING: Well, there is an end point. Our last show scheduled is July 20th in Anaheim and yeah, I mean, we knew that it had to be finite. I think a special thing stops being special when you go on doing it and doing it and doing it. It is going to be over.

Mr. TAYLOR: You know, Carole and I talked about it a few times, and Carole said to me something I'll never forget. She said, you know, not only do you not want to stay too long at the ball for the audience, but you want not only do you want to leave the audience wanting more, you want to leave yourself wanting more.

BLOCK: Well, Carole King and James Taylor, it's wonderful to talk to you, thanks.

Mr. TAYLOR: You bet, thank you.

Ms. KING: It's really, really been a pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TAYLOR: (Singing) And if this old word starts getting you down, there's room enough for two up on my roof.

BLOCK: Carole King and James Taylor, on tour and with a new CD and DVD titled "Live at the Troubadour."

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.