Couple who were just Brill at producing hits
She wrote her first number one hit at the age of 17 and went on to become arguably the most celebrated and successful female singer/songwriter of the Sixties and Seventies, if not of all time.
The remarkable early life of Carole King has inspired the musical, Beautiful, with its soundtrack of wall-to-wall hits like You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Take Good Care of my Baby, You’ve Got a Friend, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up on the Roof, and Locomotion.
Many of these were written with the man who became her husband, Gerry Goffin, but it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that Carole King finally managed to find her true voice.
“It’s hard to explain without giving away spoilers,” he continues. “He was her first husband and lover and what I realised was he really loved Carole and did so until he passed away in 2014.”
While King went on to become a singer in her own right, Goffin the lyricist was not a musician.
“The show is about how they wrote the songs and what influenced them and the environment at the time. It’s unbelievable the way they got things done. We see Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, their good friends in the Brill Building. The office was like something out of Wall Street. They had cubicles and you could hear everything through the walls. They would be told by Donnie Kirshner (Aldon Music boss) ‘I need a song for so and so’ and they’d go away and come up with something. And all they would get is $25. Carole called it the factory.
“He was a workaholic and his brain doesn’t shut off. He is passionate and never settles. He is never content with anything.”
Much of Kane’s career so far has been in musicals such as Carousel, Wicked, Sweeney Todd and Urinetown in the West End and The Light Princess at the National but in Beautiful his chatracter doesn’t get to sing much. And yet actor says he was familiar with the music.
“When I went to research the part and watched the show I realised I knew all the songs. I guess not too many of my age – I’m 28 – would do but it’s probably because of my family.”
From Rhyl in North Wales, he is the youngest of four. “We are all musical, my dad played the guitar for years. My sister was in the Junior Royal Ballet and is now a singer and my two brothers were in bands.”
Kane trained at Mountview in the same class as Bronté Barbé but they never worked together.
He was 21 by the time he got to drama school because he couldn’t afford the fees. “I worked backstage in theatre and as a builder for a bit which was what I was doing when I got a call to say I had won a scholarship. I think all that has made me more appreciative of what I am doing.
“I pass that on to the others and try and keep everyone happy. Gerry is quite a serious person so I have put forward my cheerful side off stage.”
The audience for Beautiful is predominantly older people nostalgic for the music, he says, but not entirely. “Young people do respond to it. I came across a group of young girls at stage door in Manchester who had found it an inspiring experience to see Carole grow from a girl who was as quiet as a church mouse into this woman who became a star.”
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is at the Lyceum from Tuesday to Saturday.