Lawrence Toppman

Carole King has been ‘Beautiful’ for decades. Here’s why.

Jessie Mueller won a Tony Award playing the title character in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
Jessie Mueller won a Tony Award playing the title character in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Blumenthal Performing Arts

“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” comes to Belk Theater Tuesday on the PNC Broadway Lights tour. In honor of the great songwriter’s 50-year career, we present six reasons – one for every decade she’s been active – why that might mean something to you.

If you grew up in the 1950s: She represents the great lost tradition of the Brill Building, the iconic place for songwriters who’d hole up in offices along Broadway and plug their work – or write it to order – in hopes of getting a pop singer to pick it up. (She and husband Gerry Goffin actually labored across the street at Aldon Music.) Neil Sedaka’s pop hit “Oh Carol” paid tribute to the girl both he and Paul Simon hung out with in high school.

If you came of age in the 1960s: You heard her music everywhere, starting with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” (With it, The Shirelles became the first black female group to have a No. 1 hit.) “Loco-Motion” (Little Eva), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters), “Take Good Care of My Baby” (Bobby Vee), “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (The Monkees) and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin) were big successes for Goffin and King.

If you’re a product of the 1970s: “Tapestry,” which came out on Feb. 10, 1971, could be heard on every radio station, dorm room and record store. It topped the Billboard album chart for 15 consecutive weeks, a record that stood until Whitney Houston’s “The Bodyguard” soundtrack two decades later. King became the first solo female artist to win the Grammy for Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”) and Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”).

If you listened to music in the 1980s: This was her time to write movie soundtracks, such as “Murphy’s Romance” and “The Care Bears Movie,” and collaborate with other esteemed artists: Branford Marsalis, Eric Clapton, Slash. Her last big brush with Hollywood was the Grammy-nominated “Now and Forever,” a song used in 1992’s “A League of Their Own.”

If you joined the scene in the 1990s: She gathered elder stateswoman honors, from election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to collaborations with women she had influenced or turned into fans: Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan. “Grace of My Heart,” a movie whose main character was very loosely based on King, earned good reviews.

If you never heard of her until this millennium (or at all): She supported the Democratic Party, continued environmental activism, had a recurring role on TV’s “Gilmore Girls” and cut a 2010 album titled “Live at the Troubador” with James Taylor. (It went gold.) “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” opened on Broadway in 2014 and won Tony Awards for sound design and actress (Jessie Mueller). And next February, King will turn 75.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’

When: April 19-24 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.

Tickets: $29.50-$155.

Details: 704-372-1000; blumenthalarts.org.

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