January 20th, 2011
Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter
About the Film

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Carole King’s landmark album Tapestry and signature song “You’ve Got a Friend,” a Grammy®-winner for both King and James Taylor, whose friendship and performance legacy was cemented at Doug Weston’s famed West Hollywood club the Troubadour. American Masters continues its 25th anniversary season with Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter, a first-hand account of the genesis and blossoming of this 1970s music movement, centering on King and Taylor’s historic collaboration and the nightclub that nurtured a community of gifted young artists and budding critical and commercial sensations. The 90-minute documentary film, airing nationally Wednesday, March 2 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), is directed by Emmy®- and Grammy-nominated Morgan Neville and produced by Oscar-nominated Eddie Schmidt. The film has its world premiere in the U.S. Documentary competition at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in January.

Watch a preview:

“Evocative and original at the same time, this film is a joy to watch and listen to, reminding us of the deep relationships and collaborations that preceded our contemporary writer/performers,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters, a seven-time winner of the Emmy Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series.

The narrative begins in the ’60s, when Carole King and Gerry Goffin were writing their now-iconic songs at Manhattan’s 1650 Broadway hit factory, and James Taylor was emerging as a folksinger/songwriter. The location then shifts westward to L.A.’s Laurel Canyon, the breeding ground for the burgeoning singer-songwriter community, and to Doug Weston’s Troubadour, where the King/Taylor partnership begins to blossom and a close-knit crew of future legends — including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Eagles, and Elton John—performs on the small stage and holds court in the bar, the epicenter of the action.

The story is told through archival footage, much of it never before seen, which is intercut with the vivid recollections and incisive reflections of a wide cast of characters. Along with King and Taylor, contributors include David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Darrow, Kris Kristofferson, J.D. Souther, and Elton John; Taylor’s former manager and producer, music impresario Peter Asher; the one-time head of Ode Records and producer of King’s Tapestry, Lou Adler; musicians Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Craig Doerge and Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (Taylor’s childhood friend and King’s bandmate in The City); songwriters Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and (King collaborator) Toni Stern; rock critics Robert Hilburn (who covered the scene as Los Angeles Times’ pop music critic); Barney Hoskyns (author of the So Cal music histories Waiting for the Sun and Hotel California) and Robert Christgau; Troubadour denizens Cheech & Chong and Steve Martin; photographer/musician Henry Diltz; and King’s daughter Sherry Goffin Kondor.

King says early in the film, “When we sprang out of the box there was just all this generational turbulence, cultural turbulence, and there was a hunger for the intimacy, the personal thing that we did.” Browne provides a further explanation for the singer-songwriter phenomenon: “Maybe what it was is that people who wrote their own songs were in ascendance. The authenticity of somebody telling their own story was what people were interested in.”

Taylor and King’s first performance at the Troubadour was in November 1970. Thirty-seven years later, in November 2007, the two longtime friends, joined by members of their renowned original band – featuring guitarist Kortchmar, bassist Sklar and drummer Kunkel – returned for a three-night, six-show run to celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary. Those historic shows, documented in Hear Music/Concord Music Group’s RIAA gold-certified Live at the Troubadour and broadcast on PBS, serve as the connecting thread of Troubadours, which makes extensive use of the striking footage shot by Emmy-winning video director Martyn Atkins. Neville’s film beautifully captures the vital early days, the poignant homecoming and the subsequent “Troubadour Reunion” world tour, forming a comprehensive and unforgettable portrait of this golden age.

Encore presentations of Troubadours will air on PBS stations as part of special programming throughout March. During these broadcasts viewers who support their local PBS station with a donation can receive as a thank-you gift a special 2-Disc DVD/CD package featuring the documentary on DVD along with a 10-track bonus CD of choice ’70s-era classics such as King’s “It’s Too Late,” Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James,” John’s “Take Me To The Pilot,” Raitt’s “Love Has No Pride,” Ronstadt’s “Desperado,” Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” Tom Waits’s “Ol’ ‘55,” and Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” among others.

Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter is produced by Tremolo Productions for Starcon LLC in association with American Masters for WNET. The executive producers are Sam Feldman, Michael Gorfaine and Lorna Guess. Robert Smith is executive producer for Concord Music Group. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.

To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (pbs.org/americanmasters) offers interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes and other resources.American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Additional funding for Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter has been provided by Miriam and Sam Blatt.

  • Bob Zimels

    I saw “Troubadour” at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In your “tags” above, you left out Steve Martin and Cheech and Chong:)

  • Fred

    I also saw the film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival with a packed house. Excellent film, well received. Glad to see that PBS will be airing it soon.

  • Mike

    “The Troubadours” aired at 8:00 p.m. (CST) in Madison, Wisconsin, with song content, but WITHOUT commentary. That is, the interview segments with James Taylor, Carol King, etc, and voice-over commentary was muted! What gives?

    The Republicans?

  • Mugsy

    Just watched it on PBS. Very good! No politics, just music, the time and the songs.

  • Mary

    There is something radically wrong with this film. We see people being interviewed but not one word of what they’re saying, the music fades in and out, the same footage is repeated over and over, there is no narration! What’s going on? How unprofessional! Seriously, does anyone know what this farce is?

  • Valerie O’Meara

    I am watching the film and hear the music, but the talking is absent. Very frustrating!! Was the voice forgotten? I have to turn it off. I would like to hear what they have to say. Please fix it and show this program as it was intended, at another date.
    Thank you.

  • Eric

    Tremendous work by all concerned. This doc captures an era perfectly. James and Carole were the voices of their generation and continue to inspire singer-songwriters worldwide.

    American Masters has done it again.

  • Glen

    I saw it at the Santa Barbara Film Festival too. I am sofa king cool.

  • Tom Hardenbergh

    I’ll tell you how it was in the years before the advent of these singer/songwriters, who come in for some criticism because they weren’t rock ‘n roll.

    The Vietnam war and protests had been aflame for years. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been murdered. The Beatles were gone at the height of their power. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison had died; so, so talented and too young. The Weather Underground had turned to violence. Nixon’s promise to end the war was total bull. We’d graduated from college and now what.

    The songs and singing of James Taylor, Carol King, Jackson Browne, Elton John, John David Souther, CSN&Y, and all the rest were a much needed salve on the raw mental wounds many of us suffered in the preceding years. I am certain this is why I and so many of my contemporaries still identify with them and sing one of these songs to ourselves almost every day. Sweet Baby James is the one I sing to my 3 year-old granddaughter.

  • Susan

    This was the most enjoyable film I have seen in years. A true gem. It should win an emmy.A film on progressive rock would be as well received. Thanks so much, beautifully shot and edited.

  • Gerry Martin

    What a trip into my own past–the 60’s and 70’s–and 80’s too. Music, getting high, sex, love–that was a special era for me. I felt intimately connected to Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and all the troubadours of that time. I even tried to be one, strumming a guitar and learning so many of the songs. My son Jon is the real troubadour/songwriter of the family. My daughter Amy started a folksingers Singalong 16 years ago. Its still going on. The documentary is so meaningful!

  • johnny watson

    rember the “70’s pretty well highschool. great music along with ” good times – bad times ” i.e. Led Led Zepplin.

  • Jeff St. Clair

    I can’t believe one could produce a program on “singer-songwriters” and fail to even mention Paul Simon. Nevertheless, a great program.

  • Denise

    When do you think this will air in Audtralia. Saw their (King/Taylor) Troubadour tour a year ago in the Hunter Valley of NSW and would love to see this doco.

  • Brenda

    This was an Excellent Film. Now, do I still have my Tapestry album that I played a zillion times?

  • Kim

    Thank you people for bringing us this amazing documentary. Thank you PBS and thank you Miriam and Sam Blatt!

    …made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Jack Rudin, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Additional funding for Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter has been provided by Miriam and Sam Blatt.

  • Keith

    Great documentary. So many legends (KIng, Taylor, Mitchell, Sir Elton John, Browne, Raitt, Eagles, etc.) made their way through the Troubadour club.

  • ncollin

    Incredible. Two Giants in the music industry. Beautiful.

  • Nathan

    Watched it last night. Incredible. A walk down memory lane that never gets tired.

  • Jozef

    Does anyone know Doug Westons birthdate? I have looked all over the web with no luck. His obituary says he died at age 72 in 1999, but they leave out his birthdate. He was an a amazing dude. I am doing a paper on the Troubadour and I would love to include his birthdate in his bio. Thanks for a great flim, and thanks in advance for his birth data.

  • E.C.

    Thank you Doug Weston for opening the doors down the street from my college years to a musical paradise.

    Does anyone know where I can ask for the poster in this film that looks like a family tree with the names of the singer-songwriters growing from bottom to top?

    I wish that was a poster available in the bundle.

    Care and joy,
    E.C.
    now at 916.567.0423

  • craig br.

    Ain’t seen it yet.Topic of singers&songwriters:Randy Newman,Loudon Wainwright3rd,Townes Vanzant,Jimmy Dale Gilmore,Martin Mull,Joe Ely,Buffy St.Marie,Dave Von Ronk,Patrick Sky,Frank Zappa,Jerry Jeff Walker,David Bromberg,Lowell George,Emmy-lou Harris,Gil Scott Heron,Gram Parsons,Chuck Berry,Ry Cooder,George Jones,Charlie Pride,Ray Davies,Lou Reed,John Prine,Steve Goodman,Bonnie Koloc,i know there is ‘mo.My ass is get’n tired & my brain is numb(awh the computer)The one central thing that always amazes me is when i see these people-they always remember the words,the lyrics!how they do that?Me i just remember snipets.Oh yes,Dr.John,Leon Russell,Mississippi Fred McDowell(i do not play no rock-nroll)Miss.John Hurt,John Hartford,Kinky Friedman.10-4,i’m outta hair-later

  • Kim

    jackson browne, the eagles, j.d. souther, russ kunkel, CSN&Y, henry diltz, and not Dan Fogelberg???

    try looking up any of those people: you will see his name come up on their stuff as well.

    not to mention his what, 22 albums (most of them double platinum) spanning over 30 years.

    He was a fantastic songwriter and performer and a genius.

    talking about singer-songwriters and leaving out Dan Fogelberg is absurd.

  • Cathy

    The film was very emotional, but as in Joni’s song “Banquet,” many left the table still hungry from this slice American Masters showed. There is so much compressed into that very short, very important time in American music history and so many important words song followed by sweet melodies and the most incredible harmonies of all instruments. We were wounded from war, race and assassinations. These wounds so fresh and no one seemed to know how to begin to heal. And then these amazing humans put their souls out on the line and showed us that we did not have to use violence to tell the world that we were scared, and hurting. Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon, CSN, – and on.

    Troubadours caught that emotional level – but still left us needing more. More to remember. More to share with younger people who love the music as much today as we did, but do not always understand the deep meaning or the simple joy a song will bring.

    This should be a very good new campaign cause for PBS and American Masters!!!! Two or three or four more shows aside from the incredible individual pieces that you have done and we will have an incredible history showcase!

    Thank you for what you were able to do!

  • Dolly Clemente

    As said by Andreas, it is very easy to copy paste contents even if you disabled the right click feature. There are add-ons and other methods to do so.

  • http://www.liveleak.com/c/Monroadder1978 Sang

    SOOOOOOOOOO good!

Salinger

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