Tube Talk: King and Masters

By Paula Hendrickson

No matter your age, you’ve probably heard more of Carole King’s music than you might realize. She started out as a young songwriter in the early ’60s, penning hits like Will You Love Me Tomorrow for The Shirelles, Up on the Roof for The Drifters, and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman which was immortalized by Aretha Franklin.

If none of those songs ring a bell, you probably know King as the woman who wrote, and also performed – with her daughter – the theme song for Gilmore Girls, Where You Lead.

Forty-five years ago King had several hits of her own, thanks to her breakthrough album Tapestry, which included classic songs like You’ve Got a Friend, So Far Away, and It’s Too Late. The album earned her multiple Grammys. Then a couple years ago, Beautiful, a Broadway musical about King’s life – and centered on her music – broke box office records and garnered two Tony Awards. (If you’re interested in seeing it live, the national touring company of Beautiful is currently performing at Chicago’s Oriental Theater.)

King, who celebrated her 74th birthday last week, will be featured on the February 19 episode of American Masters on PBS. The program includes performance footage, home movies, and special interviews with King, her friends, plus fellow songwriters and performers. Tune in to learn how her early years shaped and inspired her artistry, and where her creativity has led her.

King isn’t the only one celebrating a big anniversary this year. American Masters is marking its 30th season in style with well-made documentaries about an A-list roster of great performers. Okay, so that’s nothing new for American Masters. Actually, it’s business as usual. Over the decades, American Masters has won 28 Emmys, 12 Peabody Awards, and even an Oscar. (Yes, an Oscar. That’s because some documentaries first debut at film festivals, they’re eligible for Academy Awards.)

The 30th season began last month with a documentary on the life of comedic genius-turned-director Mike Nichols (directed by his former comedy partner, Elaine May), and last week showcased the talents and life story of B.B. King. Upcoming subjects include Fats Domino, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, and the country super group, The Highwaymen.

With so many musical acts featured this season, not only will you be exposed to some amazing music, you’ll learn the backstories of how some classic songs came to be.

Programming Notes

American Masters airs on PBS, so times may vary depending on the PBS channel you watch. Upcoming episodes include Carole King on February 19, Fats Domino on February 26, and Loretta Lynn on March 4.

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