How a Brooklyn girl named Carol Klein bridged cultures in the ’60s and rewrote American popular song.
She took an unconventional route to superstardom, but it was a soulful road that Carole King traveled. Born Carol Klein in Brooklyn in 1942, she did not set out to become a performer. In “Beautiful,” the new musical about King that opens this Sunday on Broadway, King’s career as a budding songwriter comes to the fore. Starring Jessie Mueller (“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”) as King, the musical opens a window on a pivotal 1960s era in pop music in which a group of mostly Jewish composers and lyricists wrote for mostly black performers, changing the face of American culture in the process.
Directed by Marc Bruni (“Old Jews Telling Jokes”), the new show traces King’s trajectory from the first tunes that she wrote while attending James Madison High School in Brooklyn. At Queens College, she met her future husband, Gerry Goffin (Jake Epstein), who turned out to be a perfect lyricist for her melodies; their big break came in 1960 with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” recorded by The Shirelles, which was the first No. 1 hit by a black girl group, and which led to recordings of King’s songs by The Drifters, The Chiffons, and many others.
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