Ode to Carole

This week, I saw Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. It was wonderful, charming and yes, beautiful. I had been dying to see it since it opened, but really got a fire lit under me once I knew Jessie Mueller would be leaving in March. She is perfect and I love her, but that is not the point of this post. I was sitting there in between my mom and a woman who was at least 75 (who had forgotten her hearing aids and kept asking what the characters had said), watching the story of Carole King’s life play out in front of me and I was struck by a feeling I have often. I was born in the wrong decade; I should have been alive in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Why, oh why, was I not alive for the Beatles or Woodstock or Audrey Hepburn and the reign of movie musicals or Jack Kerouac?

But then I thought about it more and realized that what I was really craving were timeless things. The reason I know about all of those things is because they’re still affecting the world I live in now, and because my parents made me be cultured by listening to disco on long car rides and watching old TV. The words that Carole King (and Gerry Goffin) wrote are the reason that every person in the room sighed when “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” started playing, and why everyone was silently tearing up at a heart-broken Carole singing “One Fine Day.” They were words written from a real place of real emotion, and that’s why girls who were ten in that theater and the lady who couldn’t hear next to me could relate to them.

It’s hard for me to listen to the radio these days and say that I will remember and tell my children about the music I hear. However, I feel great about saying that people like Adele, Carrie Underwood, Sam Smith, Kanye West and especially Taylor Swift will be our generations’ classics. People have a lot of criticisms about Taylor Swift, but one thing that can not be denied is that the reason people love her music so much is because they can put themselves into the story. There isn’t a high school girl who can’t relate to “Teardrops on My Guitar” or a 22-year-old who doesn’t know that Tay is spot on with “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.”

Words are timeless. They’re the reason I can read The Bell Jar and know that as humans we’re still experiencing the same issues 50 years later. Why we take Buzzfeed quizzes to determine which Mean Girls character we are. Words are why I can listen Carole King’s Tapestry and say, “Oh my gosh, she gets me.” We’ve all had that moment- the one where you wonder if someone has literally gone inside your brain and figured out how to say the exact thing you haven’t been able to put in the right order. So I guess this is a thank you note- to Carole, to Taylor, to Sylvia, to whoever decided we needed a language to communicate our feelings and ambitions and frustrations, and to everyone who has ever had the courage to put those private thoughts and words into the world so that I could come across them one day and know that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

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