Two unlikely performer pairings and songs most people do not associate with Carole King stole the show at Friday night's MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring King. Miguel and Kacey Musgraves delivered a richly textured "Crying in the Rain," a song King wrote with Howard Greenfield for Everly Brothers, and Jakob Dylan blended gracefully with King's daughter Louise Goffin on "Goin' Back," a tune associated with Dusty Springfield and the Byrds.
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"I am first, last and always a songwriter," King told the seated crowd before delivering a six-song finale, the program having already delved deep into her many hits that precede the 1971 release of "Tapestry." That album, No. 1 for 15 weeks on the Billboard 200, GRAMMY winner for album of the year and an early benchmark for the singer-songwriter movement, was well represented as nine of its 12 tracks were performed.
Solo performers had a field day with "Tapestry": Pink delivered a graceful "So Far Away" and Alicia Keys passionately sang "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman." Gloria Estefan hewed to King's recorded version of "It's Too Late" and Lady Gaga, seated at the piano in an elegant white dress and distracting sunglasses, belted out "You've Got a Friend," preceding her performance with a good anecdote about playing her father's copy of "Tapestry" at full volume in her room.
"I really believed so much, Carole, that you were my friend," she said. "Thank you for inspiring us."
"Way Over Yonder" sounded heavenly coming from the "20 Feet From Stardom" singers Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill and Darlene Love. Jason Mraz and Zac Brown, who drove off in a new Acura he bought during the live auction for $70,000, joined Sara Bareilles and Raining Jane to perform "Beautiful" on a revolving stage in the middle of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
King thanked her former husband and writing partner, Gerry Goffin; music impresario Don Kirshner; Lou Adler, who signed her to Ode Records; and James Taylor, who worked with her in 1969 and '70. Taylor and King performed "Sweet Seasons" for her followup to "Tapestry," "Music," and "Hey Girl," the Goffin-King hit for Freddie Scott in 1963.
Saxophonist Tom Scott came out front to play the solo he recorded on "Jazzman" after King delivered a tender rendition of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," the Shirelles hit that also appeared on "Tapestry." The evening closed with the ensemble performing "I Feel the Earth Move."
Jimmy Kimmel was the host of the night, responsible for getting laughs from an audience that included Yoko Ono, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, Jackson Browne, Kristin Chenoweth, Paul Williams, Dan Wilson, film producer Brian Grazer and industry executives such as Sony/ATV's Marty Bandier, Big Machine's Scott Borchetta amd CAA's Rob Light.
The event raised more than $5.5 million for programs that help musicians in need. The lone negative about the event was the playing of videos from last year's ceremony honoring Bruce Springsteen. As the stage was being set up for each new performer, a video of an act such as Mumford and Sons would play. As the night wore on, it became distracting.
MusicCares' Person of the Year Carole King Gala Complete Set List:
LeAnn Rimes and Steven Tyler - "Hi-De-Ho"
Pink - "So Far Away"
Train - "I Feel the Earth Move"
Lady Gaga - "You've Got a Friend"
Gloria Estefan - "It's Too Late"
will.i.am and Leah McFall - "Love Makes the World"
Jason Mraz, Zac Brown, Sara Bareilles and the Raining Jane - "Beautiful"
Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill and Darlene Love - "Way Over Yonder"
Jesse & Joy - "Where You Lead"
Miguel and Kacey Musgraves - "Crying in the Rain"
Alicia Keys - "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman"
Jakob Dylan and Louise Goffin - "Goin' Back"
Amy Grant, Jennifer Nettles, Martina McBride and Miranda Lambert - Medley: "Been to Canaan"/"I'm into Something Good"/"It Might As Well Rain Until September"/"One Fine Day"
James Taylor - "Up on the Roof"
Carole King - "Home Again"
King and Taylor - "Sweet Seasons"/"Hey Girl"
Carole King - "Jazzman"
Ensemble - "I Feel the Earth Move"