Feature: A View from the Id

American Masters: Troubadours ‘70s Singer/Songwriters on PBS

Author: Bob Etier
Published: February 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

American Masters will present Troubadours: Carole King, James Taylor, and the Rise of the Singer-Songwriter on Wednesday, March 2, at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern; check local area listings). Directed by Morgan Neville, it will make its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. For those who can’t wait for the festival (or March 2), a 2-disc CD/DVD package featuring the entire 90-minute documentary, plus ten audio tracks of “choice 70s-era classics”, will be released March 1. Artists on the audio disc include many who appear in the documentary.

Troubadours: Carole King, James Taylor, and the Rise of the Singer-Songwriter recounts the rise of Taylor and King, as well as other performers from that era. Participating are Carole King, James Taylor, Cheech & Chong, Steve Martin, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Kris Kristofferson, JD Souther, Bonnie Raitt, and Elton John.

Also interviewed for the documentary are former Troubadour staff members (bartender, doorman, assistant to owner Doug Weston), musicians, managers, writers, producers, photographers, and songwriters. King, Taylor, Eagles, Steve Martin, Elton John, and Joni Mitchell are shown performing in archival clips, and there are scenes from the Taylor/King performances at the Troubadour in 2007 and 2010’s Troubadour Reunion Show.

Covering a pivotal time in music history, Troubadours: Carole King, James Taylor, and the Rise of the Singer-Songwriter also reminds us that the 1970s were not all glitz and “Do the Hustle.” King’s Tapestry and Taylor’s Sweet Baby James albums had an enormous impact when they were released, and still enjoy popularity on DVD.

Last October when I adopted a puppy, I complained when I couldn’t remember the date, “My memory is awful…but the other day I heard an album I hadn’t heard in more than thirty years and I knew all the lyrics,” and the volunteer (who was about my age) asked “Was it Carole King?” I was amazed—my answer was “Yes.” It seems there are a lot of us who still know all the words (although the album to which I referred wasn’t Tapestry, as she guessed). Tapestry and Sweet Baby James are still fresh to many of us; hearing some of their songs performed by the more mature (I won’t say “older”) original artists is a thrilling experience.

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Article Author: Bob Etier

Two words describe Bob Etier: "female" and "weird." Like many freelance writers, there's something about her that isn't quite right. Read her stuff and find out what.

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