Thursday, July 13, 2017

Musical Memory

If you’re in your Third Third, Carole King’s Tapestry album was the soundtrack to your emotional life. Released in 1971, each song tracked with the phases of our lives. Maybe you’d met someone new and weren’t sure where the relationship was going, and then Carole King sang “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” so you learned the words and sang along.

Stop right now! Sing it! You know the words:
Tonight you’re mine, completely
You give your love so sweetly

Tonight the light of love is in your eyes

But will you love me tomorrow?
Confirmed in new love and positive no one else had ever felt like that before? Did you feel the earth move? Was that when you felt like “A Natural Woman”?

Yes, you know that one! Belt it out. Even just the chorus counts.

But then you had to head home for the summer from college and the love of your life was “So Far Away.” Heartbreak and the end of a relationship because “It’s Too Late”? And then, as we all consoled each other, it was “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Do you know the words? Do you picture where you were, how your heart was throbbing or breaking? Join the club.

I’ve just seen Carole King in a live concert in Hyde Park, London. Or rather, I saw it at the movies, but I was there. 65,000 other people (plus the ones in the theater) and me. As the cameras panned the audience, their lips were moving. They knew all the words, too (and many of them weren’t even born yet in 1971).

No, I take that back: I wasn’t there. I was back in 1971 with a first boyfriend, in 1972, in ’73, in ’74 with long-distance separations, break-ups (several), good friends (several), and new loves (a few). Listening to that concert touched all those old, sensitive places. All those places where Feelings were just so big and new and raw, and then later on, when the Feelings were familiar and recognizable and still big.

And on the stage was Carole King. She was beautiful and energetic and … radiant! Behind her, the very young Carole King was projected on a screen, and that Carole was so very, very young, with smooth, smooth skin. The camera pulled in for close-ups of Carole on stage, and she had wrinkles and a sagging chin and deep lines. Her hair was unruly, her stomach and sides came with flab and bulges, and her upper arms had a life of their own. She was so BEAUTIFUL! She said, “This is what 74 looks like.”

It was an epiphany moment for me: she was beautiful! I abandoned the painting I made; I can’t do justice to her. She shone and glowed and radiated brightness. I was so enthralled, I turned to my friend Robin and said, “Look at her. All you see is her life force. She has lines and aging, but all you see is her life force.”

And Robin said, “Don’t you know that’s what people see of you, too?”

Is that true? Yes, it’s what I see in everyone else. But here we are, looking at ourselves up real close in the mirror, noticing every new hair or spot or line; and no one else sees that! What a miracle!

I thought then that our life force is what makes us beautiful, and I felt … hopeful. Suddenly I could see a life past bad knees, sagging eyelids, flabby upper arms. I could see that I just had to hold on to my life force. Oh, that’s right; she told us that, too: “You’re beautiful as you feel.”

Carole’s daughter, Louise, came out and they sang “Where You Lead” together. Carole just beamed at her. I thought, No one gets to have an adult daughter and still look 25. She looks like a mother, and she loves being that mother, that singer, that 74-year-old.

I’d love to hear the song she writes about that.


  1. This is a beautiful, powerful piece. Thank you Barbara for sharing your life force.

  2. Very nicely written. Thank YOU!!!!!


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