CAA’s Rob Light On The Authenticity Of Carole King

Show the world all the love in your heart:
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– Show the world all the love in your heart:
Carole King performs in London in 1972.

There’s a moment in the introduction to Carole King’s memoir where she describes starting shows on her 2004-05 “Living Room Tour” by turning on the lamp atop her piano before she sat down to play, a gesture she “created to set a welcoming tone and establish we’re in my living room.” 

That symbolism represents everything you need to know about King and how she welcomes fans into her world. Her songs, vocals and stage presence are pure light and give listeners the feeling that they’re at home. 

Her voice is so warm and comforting, you can’t help but sing along with her songs, which are so distinctively Carole King, honest and straightforward – yet also relatable. The universal tunes tell stories of falling in and out of love, as well as family, friendship, hope for humanity to overcome social issues and believing in oneself.  

King’s talent as a songwriter is undeniable. Having written or co-written 118 pop hits that have made the Billboard Top 100 charts between 1955-99, she’s been deemed the most successful female songwriter of the era. She and her writing partner and former husband Gerry Goffin were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 with the Ahmet Ertegun Award for songwriting. And now she’s being celebrated as a performer in her own right. As part of 2021’s Rock Hall class, she and Tina Turner will become the second and third female artists inducted twice.

Rob Light, head of music, partner and managing director at CAA, spoke to Pollstar about working with King and what her music means to him as a fan. Light explains that he started representing her seven or eight years ago but his friendship with King dates back “probably 30 years.” He first worked directly with King and her team when he helped put together the 2010 “Troubadour Reunion Tour” as James Taylor’s agent.     
Pollstar: Do you remember the first time you heard Carole King’s music?   
Rob Light: I was in high school when Tapestry came out. … If you were a child of the late ’60s and early ’70s, every one of her songs was being covered by somebody – Herman’s Hermits, The Monkees, The Shirelles. She had songs all over the radio – you just didn’t know they were Carole King songs. And then Tapestry comes out and everybody owned that record. Most of us heard it through a girlfriend or an older sister. If you’re a young woman, that was the soundtrack of your life. As a guy hearing it from all corners of the world, you just fell in love with it, the music was so great. The lyrics were so powerful that then, of course, you would buy the record. … When everybody heard Tapestry you knew she was incredibly special.
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– You
James Taylor and Carole King perform at the 2006 MusiCares Person of the Year ceremony. Their 2010 “Troubadour Reunion Tour” was one of the most successful of the year.
Why do you think people over the years have connected so much with her music?  
Because it is so honest and so authentic. 
There’s just an authenticity to the emotion in all those songs. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” was written before Tapestry. When that song came out, the intensity and honesty of that lyric – still today … for anybody who’s ever fallen in love or ever had a relationship, you know, you wake up the next morning going “Will you still [love me]?” I mean, it’s just eternal. 
When you hear a song like “So Far Away” you immediately understand what it means to be distant from someone you care about.  … “I Feel The Earth Move” – we all have felt that emotion when you first fall for somebody – your world moves every time you see [them]. All those lyrics are just so universally authentic, I don’t care where you’re from, who you are – you relate to it.  
Tell me about the “Troubadour Reunion Tour” with James Taylor.
By the time we started working together, she wasn’t a touring artist in the classic sense anymore. The “Troubadour Tour,” working with James and Carole and both their teams, was so exhilarating because you had two of the most iconic, incredible artists … whenever they’re on stage together, there’s just an electricity to it. The vision they had was how do we turn an arena into a nightclub? How do we make every arena feel like the Troubadour? They did it in the round and the entire floor was set up with cocktail tables, two- and four-seat tables with little lamps on them. And the stage wasn’t that high … it was meant to feel like a nightclub.  … They created an intimacy I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before or after, and it was all their vision. They weren’t trying to do this big, over-the-top production. They were trying to make it as intimate as possible and people flipped. … It was a remarkable moment of really understanding your audience. 
American Idols:
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images / Global Citizen
– American Idols:
Carole King and Kelly Clarkson perform during the 2019 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 28, 2019, in New York City.
What is Carole like as a performer?
Well, to me, that’s why she’s getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. … She is a great performer and it sometimes got overshadowed by the brilliance of her songwriting. What makes her songwriting great – that authentic honesty – is what makes her such a great performer. … She is incredibly charismatic on stage and gives all of herself. It is so transparent who she is … And that’s why artists adore her. She did Global Citizen a couple of years ago in Central Park … and in the dressing room area backstage … everybody’s coming up to her. Chris Martin can’t wait to meet her, Alicia Keys … they are bowing down to this queen of songwriting and performing. And she’s sort of overwhelmed (laughs), she’s so humble. But you know, if you’re a songwriter, you’re looking at this woman going, this is the best of the best.    
Carole King played Tapestry live for the first time at British Summer Time Festival in 2016. How did that come to be?
Gary Gersh, who helps book that festival for AEG, calls me out of the blue. Now understand, Carole had never really done more than 6,000 tickets in London, ever. That was her audience … she would play a few nights at Royal Albert Hall and it was fantastic. Gary Gersh calls me – and I want to give credit because it was his idea – and says, “I want Carole King to headline Hyde Park,” which is 65,000 seats. I go “What?!” He goes, “but I want her to do Tapestry start to finish. And then she can do whatever else she wants to do.” I went “Wow! What a great idea.” (laughs) And Carole wasn’t doing a lot of performances at that time. … I called Sherry, her manager, and Carole and we got on the phone and I run this idea by her and she goes, “Wow. No one’s ever asked me to do it. You really think we can sell the tickets?” I go, “This is going to be an epic moment.” (laughs) So she said “OK, yeah, let’s try it.” And to Gary’s credit, he tapped a vein, the thing exploded, sold out every seat. 
Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images
– Beautiful:
Carole King takes the stage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York during People Magazine’s 25th Anniversary Celebration “Carole King, Making Music With Friends” on Oct. 14, 1999.
People say, “What’s your favorite show?” I couldn’t pick one or even 10. But in my top 10 shows of all time, that’s there. When she walked out on that stage in front of 65,000 people and hit the first note, people were weeping. Women were weeping because that was the album that defined their life. … And it was one of the most magical nights ever – ever! She did the album, and she did a bunch of her other hits. And then she went home and said that’s it and never did it again. And no matter how much money I [could have] gotten her, it was a one-time [thing]. You had to be there.   
What can you share about Carole’s impact on culture? 
For great artists their music lives forever … You’ll [continue to] hear their music on the radio and not only will you hear it, but it will influence generations going forward. … You see it in Alicia Keys and you see it in Chris Martin and you see it in Ed Sheeran and Elton John … there’s nobody who’s a real songwriter who can’t look back and say, yeah I was influenced by Carole King. And I think 20 years from now, 50 years from now, people will look back and say, yeah, I was influenced by that music. 

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