Sitting at a piano in the Davenport College common room Thursday, songwriter and recording artist Carole King shared her thoughts on politics along with her music.
“I wish I could sing this for Congress,” King said as she played “You’ve Got a Friend,” her 1970s hit made popular by James Taylor.
King sang and discussed her environmental activism, career and family life for an audience of about 80 students and faculty members. Many audience members sang along with King as she played some of her songs, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” after the talk.
As she told the story of her career, King said she was fortunate to have a “window of opportunity” when she started out in the music business, but she also had challenges of her own to face.
“My priority has been to make sure that I have a life,” King said.
King said she balanced her family commitments with her music by spending time in the northern Rocky Mountains with her daughters, where she became interested in helping preserve the forests there.
Calling the forests “a cultural resource and a natural resource” for all Americans, King said she has worked with both parties in Congress to promote a bill called the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.
King also addressed more general life lessons and said human kindness in a world “dominated by fear and hatred” is very important to her.
“In this post-millennial, globalized world, it’s important to keep face-to-face contact,” she said. “It’s going to take each of us as individuals to keep this kindness ball rolling.”
King referred to the frequent questions she receives about songwriting at the beginning of her talk and finished with more details about the creative process.
King said collaboration, with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin and others, has been a valuable part of her songwriting.
“You go in there and you check your ego at the door,” she said.
King said when writing a song she sometimes starts with the lyrics, noting that the rhythm of the words is vital. She said in the past she has also begun composing songs, such as “Up on the Roof,” with music and then added the lyrics. Sometimes, she said, the music and the words come out together.
King also took questions from the audience on topics including environmentalism, her family and what she thinks of Eminem.
“When I first heard him, I was very turned off,” King said. “I really respect him now. I think he’s doing some very good work.”
After King performed her music, audience members responded with a standing ovation.
“I thought it was probably the best Master’s Tea I’ve been to,” Allison Waggener ’03 said. She said the atmosphere at the event was unusually “warm and generous” and that she especially appreciated King’s simple message of human kindness.